February 3rd, 2009

Cheating on Online Quizzes


Do you use online quizzes? Have you thought about using them but are worried about academic integrity issues. Students do take the quizzes out of class and on their own time. Given rampant cheating in college courses already, why put students in such a tempting situation?

Use of online quizzes is growing, and various mechanisms in the software can prevent a lot of academic dishonesty. Besides that, some faculty members are testing empirically whether their students are cheating, and some of what they are finding is good news. For example, consider what a biology faculty member documented about the use of online quizzing in two large biology courses. Quizzes for these courses could be taken across a three-day period, leaving plenty of time for students who had not taken the quiz to consult with those who had. However, students who took the quizzes near the end of the access period actually scored 10 percent to 15 percent lower than students who took the quiz early during the access period.

In this online quiz setup, students had a limited amount of time to answer the questions—not enough time to look up all the answers—and the order of the answer choices were scrambled across the quizzes.

One other point of interest: those students who took the quizzes between midnight and 8 a.m. had significantly lower quiz scores. The faculty researcher doesn’t suggest what might be concluded from this finding. Might it be a case of night owls being less intellectually sharp than us early birds? Probably not. More likely, students with poor time management skills don’t have especially good study skills either.

Reference: Metz, A. M. (2008). The effect of access time on online quiz performance in large biology lecture courses. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 36 (3), 196-202.

—Maryellen Weimer

  • mark

    This is a problem for any class where you have to confirm that learning of core information has taken place. Pharmacology is a classic example. You need to be tested to ensure you know your core meds before going out to clinical sites. Quizzes are the most common knowledge-testing tool. I an online/distance class, how can this be accomplished? One of my first online/distance courses was a nutrition class. I had to come up with a proctor for tests. The proctor had to meet certain criteria and sign a release that they would provide proper oversight for tests. On-site proctors with scheduled test times can be provided for "local" students but true distance learners need to provide their own proctor.