Cheating on tests is nothing new – it has always been done and there will always be students trying to cheat no matter how hard obstacles teachers might put in their way. In the era before mobile phones cheating techniques were what we can call ‘low technology’: they were written summaries on skin or on clothes, hidden in pencil cases and, for the more adventurous, there was always the possibility of swapping papers with classmates or casting a glance at your neighbour’s exam paper.
With the arrival of new technologies, everything changed. First, the most technologically advanced ones bought scientific calculators with a memory, in which they could store all the topics. Teachers soon noticed this cheat and forbid calculators on tests where they were not necessary.
How Do Students Cheat Today?
Nowadays the opportunities to cheat have increased exponentially due to the wide range of possibilities that mobile phones and internet offer. One of the most complex issues to deal with is that 12 or 13 year-old students usually have their own mobile phone that they bring into class and they start using it to copy from an early age. The problem is evident –according to a McAfee’s study 48% of teens admitted they’ve looked up answers to a test or assignment online, 14.1% of teens admitted to looking up how to cheat on a test online, whereas 22% of teens said they cheated specifically on a test via online or mobile phone. And meanwhile only 5% of parents believed their children are capable of cheating.
In another study results are similar but in more detail. In it, 35% of teens with cell phones admit to cheating at least once with them, and 65 % of teens say their classmates regularly use their mobile phones to cheat. Moreover, 52% of teens admitted to some form of cheating involving the internet and 38% of teens admit to having copied text from websites and turned it in as their own work.
Although there are always very creative people with a great capacity for misdirecting their creative talent, the most common cheating methods are:
- Storing notes on a cell phone or calculator.
- Sending text messages with questions or answers of the test.
- Looking up answers on the internet.
- Using a cell phone camera to take pictures of the test.
And when it comes to online browsing, the most common internet cheating methods are:
- Downloading a paper or report from the internet to turn in as their own work.
- Copying text from websites to turn in as their own work.
- Searching the internet to find a teacher’s manual or publication with answers.
But what’s more surprising is that many teens have a distorted view of what cheating is, having grown up in the Information Society where everything is at hand on the internet. 23% of teens said they didn’t think storing notes on a cell phone was cheating and 20% of teens said there was nothing wrong with texting friends about answers during a test. These results show that teens are not very aware of the ethical issues related to communication and technology.
There are always solutions for a problem of such magnitude. Some of them allow teachers to have absolute control of what students do in their computers in class. Softwares like Impero or Aruba Networks limit access to websites or services depending on the age of the students by controlling internet and WiFi connections. They also monitor online behaviour of students by allowing teachers to see what’s running on their computers.
For students using their own mobile phones, there are other solutions like Pocket Hound a cell phone band detector that vibrates when a mobile phone is used –although it cannot detect accessing to saved data in airplane mode.
Another solution is ZENworks Mobile Management, an application that once installed on students mobile phones it is able to control how they use their smartphones in university environments to the point of being able to disconnect the camera, block specific applications, locate position of students within the campus to control class attendance or have access to the log history or even students messages. Since this is an application that students need to voluntarily install, it is common that some universities require this for accessing the intranet and online campus services.
For tablets there is Tab Alive, a software that allows teachers to manage students tablets and their permissions, massively install or remove applications, know what each student is doing with their tablet at any time or even locate the position where those are.
Luckily enough there are solutions beyond frequency inhibitors (which could also be a solution, although a more drastic one), suited for the age and needs of each type of student. With them it is harder to cheat and, above all, they enable device management by teachers. At the end of the day the goal of education is learning and training, and should not only be passing exams.