Distance Education: Cheating

Students are given many different assignments and tests during an online course, and as such the methods of cheating vary from task to task. For as many honest students who genuinely care to learn the material and get the most out of a course, there will be twice as many who are after marks and find some way around the prevention methods.

Assignments are a fairly safe region (in that they are hard to cheat on) as they involve actual work that must be completed and cannot usually be copied. Many institutions use web sites like www.Turnitin.com to test for replicated material. They automatically match any similarly structured sentences to massive databases of websites, other assignments and scholarly material and look for replication or plagiarism.

Using the known methods of prevention is usually enough to halt cheating for online courses. There are many holes in the defenses however and in future institutions will have to crack down on students or risk damaging their reputations. Tests are hard to regulate especially for distance education. Firstly the student usually gets to pick the invigilator who is trusted with overseeing the exam. There is a chance that this trusted person will administer the test according to protocol, but there is also a chance they are in cahoots with the student and will allow them to use the text book as an aid, or let them cheat in whatever way suits them best. The exam software is easily out-maneuvered using two different computers one with the exam software and exam and the other with all relevant information, chat programs to consult other students, and prepared questions and answers. In-classroom testing is much safer and cuts down on cheating tenfold. It does not eliminate it though, there will always be wandering eyes and notes written on watchbands.

Although harder to identify and prove, cheating in an online course is still a punishable offense. Varying by University or college punishment is usually based on a court-like system wherein the Professor will submit the evidence and the student will be subject to trial and what can only be referred to as sentence. Most if not all Universities support a zero tolerance procedure and punishment is unquestionably expulsion.