Apr 7, 2014

There's No Room for Cheating...or Is There?

cheatingI had a colleague ask a great question recently about moving to a paperless classroom and employing the use of online assessment tools.  The question surrounded preventing students from "Googling" their answers while taking an online assessment and, short of policing each student's screen, was there a way to make that happen.  The short answer is "no"...unfortunately  students will continue to try to cheat on assessments as they have throughout history and the reality is that some will actually be successful.  Bottom line...there is no readily available tool that replaces good, old-fashioned policing on behalf of the teacher.

That being said, there are some tactics teachers can exercise that would help reduce the incidence of cheating or possibly even prevent it completely.  There are numerous tools available to teachers that allow for the creation of online assessment; some are free, but each one has strengths and weaknesses that should be investigated thoroughly before deciding to invest time and energy in creating an assessment.  Here are some things to look for when selecting an online assessment tool.

  • Randomize question order - a tactic that could help reduce the incidence of cheating because no two students are on the same question at the same time...or at least it is highly unlikely.  Some online tools will do this automatically for you and others may need to be done manually by creating separate assessments.

  • Randomize answer order - another method that could be highly effective in preventing wandering eyes.  Again, hopefully the tool does this automatically, but it could also be done manually.

  • Question pooling - a tactic that requires the teacher to create a pool of questions greater than the number of questions each student is expected to complete.  The idea is to give students the opportunity to prove their understanding through similar but different questions, hopefully preventing students from looking at each other's screens.

  • Ask for application - write your questions in a way that require students to apply what they have learned in the classroom.  There is really no way they can "Google" this type of answer.

  • Add a time limit - with the wave of online standardized testing going toward un-timed settings it may be hard to justify this method, but you are certainly within your rights as a teacher to justify this method if the situation fits.  The constraint of time places a sense of urgency on the student which in theory reduces their urge to waste time searching for an answer.

  • Mixed question format - provide students with a mixed question format (objective and subjective) that keeps them on their toes and reduces the wandering eyes.  It may be more difficult for a student to copy from another student when the answer is in a typed paragraph.  It may also even reduce their urge to stray to a search engine when they know they have to type a lengthy answer, one that may not be readily available from their Internet search.

  • Display questions one at a time - this tactic is much more realistic with a short assessment, but can be effective in preventing students from sharing questions with others who are behind them in the sequence.  This method also allows you the opportunity to control the environment.  It may be quite obvious that a student is straying from the quiz if he/she is the only one still typing when all others are done.


With the rapid development of online assessment tools comes the responsibility of the teacher to vet them and select the most appropriate for their situation and skill level.  Here are just a few tools that other teachers are using for online assessment.

  1. Google Forms (free) - great for districts that are Google Apps for Education subscribers...allows for embedding pictures and video and the creation of tiered questioning.  Many of the aforementioned tactics would need to be employed manually.  Can easily be scored with an Add-on such as Flubaroo.

  2. Socrative (free) - a recently overhauled online assessment tool that is device neutral, easily scored and managed, and can employ (automatically) many of the tactics mentioned above.

  3. ProProfs (free/paid) - an intriguing online assessment tool that seems to have it all...for a price, though.

  4. PollEverywhere (free/paid) - a rapidly improving online quiz/poll tool that is device neutral and provides a lot of control.

  5. QuizStar (free) - simple tool that allows creation, deployment, and grading all through the online interface.


21 more online assessment tools...check them out!