Online Exams and Cheating – Should I Care?
February 18, 2009 1 Comment
I’ve been assessing students with online exams for several years and one issue that has plagued me has been whether I should be concerned with “cheating”. Using un-proctored exams in distance education courses leaves open the possibility of students using notes and textbook resources to answer questions, in effect creating “open book” tests. I’m not sure that this is a problem, especially for introductory general education courses. I teach a 5-credit, 15 week long physical geography course which can be a daunting experience for many non-science students. After 22 years of teaching the course, most of the time in a face-to-face setting, I’ve wondered why I continue to use proctored closed note/closed book exams. My course will likely be the only formal exposure to physical geography for 90% of these students, why make it such an anxiety ridden experience using this type of assessment? Besides, they are likely to toss-off much of what they have been required to “learn” within a short period of time after they leave the course.
We are increasingly faced with large amounts of information that require skills to sift and evaluate it. Instead closed note/book exams, why not allow them the flexibility to use any resource they have available to answer questions? Doing so encourages them to hone their skills at information retrieval to solve problems. In addition, putting the exam online also gives them the flexibility to take the exam when they feel prepared to do so.
Giving students the ability to learn more about what they experience on their own is valuable. Most students relate to the content of my course through experiences with natural phenomena, usually from their travels, recreational pursuits (e.g., hiking,) or extreme events like storms. The next time they are planning a trip, they’ll have a better understanding of how to find information about the environment they are to visit. Using open resource assessments to make exams less stressful while honing their ability to find and use information may give them a better appreciation for the subject of study and skills to make their life experiences more fulfilling. And I can stop worrying about “cheating” …..
(Image courtesy StudentHacks)