Junior Arikta Trivedi takes a test with her camera pointed at her table. (Photo illustration by Arijit Trivedi

Online learning adds risks of cheating

That search bar is a click away. And that cell phone is just waiting for a text to come in. It’s just so easy for students to cheat during remote or hybrid learning.

With finals coming up in five weeks, that exact problem is a looming concern among teachers.

Biology teacher Kellie Whited has multiple ways to prevent students from cheating. She always creates different versions of the same test, and she makes the questions hard to search up by requiring students to do more than just define a term.

“Those are things that you can’t fake because it shows understanding of the concepts, not just ability to memorize, which has always been how I test,” she said.

When Whited’s students are taking a test on Zoom with Whited, cameras and mics have to be turned on.

Whited said the rustling of paper or the buzz from a text message coming in on a student’s phone are red flags.

“Students can be very creative with the methods that they use to cheat, so as a teacher, you just have to do the best you can to save students from themselves,” she said.

The majority of Country Day students are academically driven and want their assessments to reflect their hard work, Whited said. 

“It’s a lot of trusting. I hope that they show the same respect and trust that I show them. If you treat a student like an adult, they will act like one.”

In biology, there are so many different types of questions — essays, short answers and math — so every way of testing really gets applied in this subject, she added.

Whited said her methods are working. She hasn’t seen anything indicating cheating in any of her classes, which is reassuring to her.

History teacher Chris Kuipers is most worried about students collaborating during a test.

“I have students stay on Zoom when taking the multiple-choice version of the test, but nothing stops those kids then from sending texts to their friends,” he said. 

Kuipers begins to suspect cheating when multiple students get the same multiple-choice problems wrong. For questions that require written answers, he suspects plagiarism if the answers don’t seem like a  high schooler wrote it. 

“At some point,” he said, “you have to have faith in the students that they want to do right and be honest.”

Kuipers said there’s a concern with assessments being taken online and students doing their authentic work.

“The challenges of remote learning or hybrid learning is just that as a teacher, I’m losing that connection. It’s not even a suspicion of students necessarily, but it’s harder to gauge and measure online,” he said.

Kuipers said he’s restructured his tests to focus more on what exactly an assessment is. He has developed assessments that can be untimed and open resource, so answers are not just one simple answer that’s easy to look up. 

Kuipers proctors the multiple-choice questions on the test over Zoom for students to get used to the timing for the AP exam. However, unlike Whited, he prefers to not proctor the majority of the test, free-response questions, because of the limited class time. He would rather use that time to build skills and cover material.

“It’s not about memorizing the factual content, which is not authentic and the easiest to cheat on. If it’s more open-ended, students can be tested on their writing, critical thinking and/or analysis skills. I’m trying to encourage my students to make an argument based on their ability to interpret the information provided,” he said.

“There’s no way a student could cheat on an untimed and open-resource test other than completely handing in someone else’s work, which is easy to notice. It could be easier to do this for history than other subjects, but I’m focusing on the design of the assessment.”

Finals are now spread over four days, Jan. 19-22, and split by cohorts.

Cohort A takes their finals for the first three periods on the first day, and Cohort B follows the same the next day. On the third day of finals, Cohort A takes the finals for their last three periods, and Cohort B ends finals week by doing exactly that the following day.

Whited plans to give her finals in a similar fashion to how she is doing now.

On the other hand, Kuipers said he’s not sure what he will do, but he would find a way to give an authentic version of a previous AP exam.

Setting time limits on a test and making them open-note could help prevent cheating because students wouldn’t have time to look up the answers, said junior Sicily Schroeder.

“If subjects like math can’t do that policy, then making everyone print the test and point the camera on Zoom at their workspace the entire time would eliminate any way of cheating.”

Kuipers said some colleges are using  eye movement software to alert teachers about suspicious behavior.

“That’s too extreme and not the type of environment I want to have in my classroom. I believe that all of the Country Day students are here to learn, and I’m not interested in spending my time being both a police person and a teacher,” Kuipers said.

Schroeder said there are problems with that type of software.

“If your pet comes into your room and you look at them, it will flag you for cheating when you’re really not. It’s too hyperactive,” she said.

Freshman Imani Cochran said downloading a lockdown browser on CavNet so that students can’t open other tabs during tests could prevent cheating.

“I’m confident that teachers are doing the best they can to make tests as fair as possible,” Cochran said.

Whited said she appreciates how Country Day trusts teachers to teach their class in their own way, and it’s up to each teacher to mitigate that risk of cheating as best they can.

“It’s not the school’s job, it’s the students’ job. It’s their job to have enough respect for their own education and their teachers and have the integrity to take the score that they earn,” she said.

“We’re all trying to prepare you for college. Country Day students always come back and say that they learned how to study, learned how to apply concepts, or learned to take a risk. Our goal is to help raise the next generation of academics.”

— By Sanjana Anand

Originally published in the Dec. 15 edition of the Octagon.

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