Research shows remote exam monitoring reduces cheating

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In response to the rapid, possibly unprecedented, increase in academic cheating during distance learning, online monitoring companies – companies that record or review or monitor exams and homework live online – have very well done. Some reports show that their customer base and service needs have grown five, seven, and even nine times over the past year. It makes sense. The more courses and tests there are online, the more it is necessary to ensure that these tests are delivered and completed in a fair and equitable manner.

Until recently, the link between cheating prevention and monitoring simply made sense – that the more likely students are to be caught, the less likely they are to cheat. Surprisingly, and despite this obvious logic, there has been some debate as to whether watching people take exams online deters cheating.

Now, however, in what is expected to be a breakthrough in managing distance learning and promoting academic integrity, research is confirming the link between distance exam monitoring and cheating reduction.

Seife Dendir, professor in the Department of Economics at Radford University and R. Stockton Maxwell, Department of Geospatial Sciences, also in Radford, published an article in December titled “Cheating in Online Courses: Evidence of Surveillance online”.

It’s as clear as the research allows.

Their research revealed that cheating occurs in unsupervised online courses. In these situations, cheating was both common and very rewarding. When a remote monitoring tool was used to watch the exam, cheating would decrease. They wrote quite directly that “some form of direct monitoring is perhaps the most effective way to mitigate cheating in high-stakes online reviews.”

No kidding.

Still, the magnitude of the impact has become news, even to researchers.

“Switching from an unmonitored environment to a monitored environment has to have some effect, so the results weren’t entirely surprising. The magnitude of the drop in grades with webcam monitoring was somewhat surprising and indicates educators may have more work to do in guiding online education, ”Dendir said.

In their test, the Radford team compared identical asynchronous online classes in different disciplines – one set with monitoring and one without. The system they used was Respondus Monitor, a recording and review tool that allows professors or other principals to review suspicious or unusual activity after a testing session – essentially, a test session. security camera approach for exam integrity.

“These results are in line with what professors have told us for years: When they introduce Respondus Monitor into their online courses, the average exam score drops by about a letter. However, this is the first time that we have seen the research conducted in a scholarly manner, ”said Jodi Feeney, COO at Respondus.

Of the debates around surveillance and integrity preservation during online classes, Feeney added, “While most of the news articles focus on students who don’t like remote surveillance, there are a large number of students who favor it because it levels the playing field. Good students get frustrated when other students make their way to a good grade – and that forces good students to cheat, too. “

This mirrors other research from last year showing that when professors or colleges don’t watch their exams, failure to do so can invite cheating – not just by pressuring students to follow. the pace of cheaters, but sending a message that the test is not important. enough to protect.

Failure to monitor online work can also, by default, send the message to students that online courses are not as valuable or as serious as their in-person counterparts. This is a distinction that can be found in the “debate” about the safety of online assessments.

“These technologies are not meant to be prohibitive or punitive, rather they aim to create a liability similar to the classroom in person,” said Dendir, Radford’s professor. “Again, at the end of the day, online monitoring is just one more step towards creating a level of equivalence between traditional / face-to-face lessons – where in-person monitoring is the key. standard – and online courses, ”he said.

Making online courses “similar” or “at a level of equivalence” to face-to-face courses should be reason enough to monitor exams. But in case that isn’t the case, there are two other big results in this search.

The first is that monitoring exams remotely in online courses helps reduce cheating. While it should be obvious, whatever debate is on this point, it should help put an end to it.

The second is that the professors and schools that teach online now – that is, just about all of them – should weigh heavily the messages they send by not investing in improved forms of course integrity. . There is no such thing as an excessive investment in integrity. In their research, Dendir and Maxwell used “a series of mitigation measures” even before resorting to monitoring. These included “the use of a special browser, a restricted testing period, random questions and choices, and a strict stopwatch” and the students always cheated. In other words, whatever a school does to limit cheating, it’s probably not enough.

“We will definitely continue to use online proctoring for high-stakes exams in our courses,” Dendir said.

It certainly looks like it should, others too. This is good news for surveillance companies, even better news for those who don’t want students to cheat to gain access to grades and diplomas.

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