Online testing reduces cheating

By Erika Strebel

At least one aspect of Farhanah Faruque’s life has become tougher because of technology. Most of her gripes come from online quizzes.

“It’s a hassle,” Faruque, senior in LAS, said. “You have to make time to take the quiz and if you forget about it, you’re penalized. It takes a lot of self-discipline.”

Faruque said she thinks online quizzes, also known as electronic testing, increase cheating because students are not supervised and can take quizzes together.

But researchers at the Villanova School of Business in Pennsylvania suggested the opposite of Faruque’s statement regarding electronic testing. The study showed that electronic testing can discourage cheating and also save professors and instructors time spent on grading and in the classroom.

Of the students who took part in the study, 45 percent reported that the electronic testing system reduced the likelihood of their cheating during the course. Professors who also participated in the study reported saving an average of 80 hours by using electronic assessments.

“That’s pretty fantastic,” Dawn Bohn, professor of food science and human nutrition, said. “Especially if it can save professors that many hours.”

In the study, the software gave students questions in a random order, created a narrow time limit, monitored the time it took students to finish the assessment and did not allow students to backtrack.

“(Illinois Compass) can do all of those things,” said Doug Mills, senior computer assisted instructional specialist for Campus Information Technology Education Services (CITES).

Bohn said she mainly uses Illinois Compass to assess and communicate with her students. Other instructors may use other programs, but Compass is specifically maintained by CITES.

Researchers at Villanova used WebCT Vista, a similar program to Blackboard Vista 4, which the University uses to power Illinois Compass.

But the upgrade does not affect the security features Compass gives to instructors, Mills said. Illinois Compass allows instructors to access a log of students’ activity on the course’s Compass Web site. Leslie Hammersmith, director of CITES, said this is the main way issues with Compass get resolved.

“The logs from Illinois Compass have been accurate to date,” Hammersmith said. “It’s a reliable way to verify problems or cheating. We’ve had really good results ferreting out whether it was an incident of cheating, a mistake on the instructor’s or the student’s part or a system problem.”

Illinois Compass also offers instructors other secure ways to ensure that students do not cheat. Instructors can limit the IP addresses, or computers, that students can use to access electronic assessments, Mills said. They can also create a proctor password, which requires students to provide a password in order to access a quiz or test.

However, Mills said instructors rarely take advantage of these methods.