Monday, June 04, 2012

Careful: Test Cheaters are SMART!

A colleague of mine directed my attention to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that describes a high-tech method where students can cheat on some multiple-choice exams in online courses. It’s a great read really.

Overall, I think that the way the students exploited the weakness in the course’s testing method is truly ingenious. They deserve a bit of credit for detecting, and then so intelligently exploiting, the flaws in this course. (Note: not enough credit to absolved them of their academic dishonesty though!) They honed in on two-specific facts: 1) that students could take the tests twice and get an average of the two scores, and 2) that the correct answers where given to the students immediately upon answering a question. These two facts brought to light a weakness in the course that could be exploited by an elegant collaborative turn-taking method of sharing correct answers using Google Docs among a small group of students.

Although it is not discussed in the article, I imagine that this course did not have a final exam, or if it did, it followed a similar format (multiple-choice, with the answers given immediately) and naturally was un-proctored. Therein lies one problem. If the final exam is not proctored then what incentives do the student have to learning anything during the semester? However, this point is moot if there was no final exam in the course.

In the case where there is no final exam and the weekly tests are essentially summative evaluations, more design features need to be put into place to give incentives to students to learn. Does the feature of being able to take a multiple choice test twice help students learn? In a summative evaluation, does the feature of giving students the answer to a given question immediately after answering help them learn?

What do you think would be a better design for this course? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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