Enhancing the Integrity of Online Examination

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While remote, unsupervised exams are inherently difficult to supervise, there are approaches that can reduce the risk of integrity issues in an online environment. This article explores approaches for enhancing the entirety of remote examinations.

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Approaches to enhance overall examination integrity

  • Reducing students likelihood of engaging in cheating
  • Increasing the difficulty associated with cheating
  • Adjusting grading approaches towards activities that are harder to cheat on

Reducing students likelihood of engaging in cheating

Asserting agreement to the honor code

One of the easiest ways of ensuring compliance with an academic honor code may be to have students type their name to affirm acknowledgment, rather than simply displaying the message or a checkmark acknowledgment. Just as it is very easy to acknowledge the terms and conditions on websites without reading them, it can be very easy for students to check the box on an honor code without actually reading the material. Forcing their name to be typed, more in-line with a formal contract, can reduce the likelihood of simply checking the box without thought. 

Confirmation to individual components of the honor code

An extension of declaring agreement to an honor code is to individually affirm to individual components of the code. This again reduces the likelihood of students agreeing to the specific components without actually reading them. Moreover, highlight the key points, in addition, or in place of a long document, can help that the specific points are read. Examine components could include:

  • That they will not save or share answers
  • That they will not use answers or resources from others
  • That they will not use notes or any resources (if not an open book exam)

Use of webcam during examinations

One possibility of administering the exam is to have users call into the class with their webcams turned on. While this does not remove the possibility of some issues (they may still be viewing or sharing material), having a video camera monitoring them may nevertheless be a constant reminder that this is an exam and be the deterrence required to avoid cheating.

Increasing the difficulty associated with cheating

Concurrent examinations

Concurrent examination can be one way of increasing the difficulty that answers for exams can be shared between students; if the exam is available to be completed at a time of the students choosing, then one student is able to complete the entire exam, with the potential of discussing it with other students prior to them taking it. 

Randomization and question pools

While randomizing question and answer order in classes can be useful to avoid students purposefully or accidentally seeing the answers over the shoulders of other students, in the context of online examining, this helps avoid students being able to save and easily share the entire exam in a format that can easily be read by others. Similarly, using questions pools, and only showing a subset of the questions to each student can help avoid one student being able to share questions and answers with all others. 

Avoiding making answers available until after the exam has ended for all students

While it may appear beneficial for students to receive the answers and marks for multiple-choice exams (ie., that can be automatically graded) directly following the exam, if these students are able to take the exam at a timing of their choosing, this can make it particularly easy for students to save the answers and share among the students. Thus, maybe especially if students are able to take the exam in their own time, then it may be best to delay the release of answers until after all students have completed the activity. 

Adjusting grading approaches towards activities that are harder to cheat on

Written examination over multiple choice

One of the ways of ensuring that it is difficult to cheat is by avoiding multiple-choice questions where there are unambiguous correct answers. While not immune from cheating shorter or long-form questions are harder to cheat on, given that it is no one right answer and it is possible to identify directly copied answers.

Increased usage of assignments and group work

Another approach for avoiding cheating is to reduce the weighting placed upon formal examinations, with a greater emphasis placed on individual or group assignments. This approach avoids concerns including the questions leaking out and students accessing resources in a closed book exam. 

Summary

While remotely examinations do pose additional integrity challenges, the impact can be minimized by systematically considering approaches for i) reducing the likelihood that students will be prone to cheat, ii) increasing the difficulty of doing so, potentially through iii) adjusting the form of assessment.

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