‘No silver bullet’ for cheating in online exams | Rare Techy
Despite having the same reservations about cheating as their honest peers, some students flout the rules governing online exams even after friends are punished for misbehavior.
An Australian study made intuitive findings about the complex motivations underlying educational misconduct. A survey of 8,000 test-takers at a Victorian university found that those who not only cheated with acquaintances but were caught were statistically more likely to cheat.
The study was published in the journal Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, investigated self-reported cheating rates in recent online exams. During the university’s 2021 mid-term exam period, when most tests were conducted online due to Covid lockdowns, the online survey was accessible for several weeks.
Students were encouraged to complete the survey as soon as possible after their exams, with the experience fresh in their minds. While an unusually low 2.8 percent of respondents admitted to cheating — and 4.2 percent “preferred not to say” — reports also hid a cheating “epidemic” that prompted some universities to withdraw online exams. The primary objective was not to measure fraud rates. “Our original aim was to explore their motivations,” said lead researcher Michael Henderson, a professor in the Faculty of Education at Monash University.
The study found that cheaters and honest students cited similar motivations for cheating: their self-image as honest people, the possibility of feeling guilty, and the possibility of punishment. “Students who cheat do not do so without conflict,” the paper says.
“This supports the idea that institutions and teachers need to help strengthen the range of students’ motivation to not cheat, rather than assuming that one particular factor is at the heart of the problem. It is important not to oversimplify their motivations. Focusing on any one variable is unlikely to eliminate or significantly reduce fraud.
Professor Henderson said teachers tend to “fall into the trap” of assuming cheaters have no second thoughts or tolerance. “We can’t stop thinking about assessment safety, and we can’t stop thinking about how to foster a culture of integrity.”
The survey found that students report cheating after four exams, rather than just one or two. Cheating was more common when students were given a “window” of 12 or 24 hours to complete their tests.