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How to Reduce Cheating for Online Assessments

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

You spend four hours putting together a new-for-2020 test for Chapter 3. You carefully choose questions that assess all of the content and skills for the chapter, including some actual AP questions. Then you spend six hours grading them all (grading online still takes longer!) and you are thrilled to get a class average of 91%. What is your next move?

1. Jump for joy (students are finally watching the asynchronous videos!)

2. Rack your brain trying to figure out how they cheated.

If you are like us, option #2 seems to always be lingering in the back of our minds. There is no doubt that students have a plethora of resources that they can access during an online assessment. So, how do we prevent them from cheating?

Start with a Good Assessment

In this blog post, we discussed three principles for assessing online. All of these strategies help minimize the opportunities for students to cheat:

  1. Assume the assessment is open notes.

  2. Place time constraints on the assessment.

  3. Use multiple versions when possible.

While all of these strategies reduce the opportunity to cheat, none of them are getting at the real solution: reducing our student's desire to cheat. In order to reduce their desire to cheat, we need to help students to see the long term consequences of such behavior.

Class Discussion About Cheating - An Activity

We start by having every student fill out the Google Form: Is this considered cheating? The survey is anonymous and we encourage students to give their honest answers. In the survey, students are presented with a variety of common student scenarios and then asked if it should be considered cheating (yes/no/uncertain). Here are some examples:

  • Copying homework answers out of the back of the book.

  • Texting a picture of your homework solution to a friend.

  • A student from 1st hour takes a test and tells a student from 3rd hour that the test was super hard.

  • A student from 1st hour takes a test and tells a student from 3rd hour to study the interpretation of the standard deviation of the residual.

  • During an online assessment - Google searching for a topic.

  • During an online assessment - Copy/paste an assessment question into Google.

  • During an online assessment - Looking at an example problem in the textbook.

Many of these scenarios do not have a clear cut answer, which make them great discussion starters.

We share the results with the class and then start a discussion with some of the more interesting scenarios:

  • For this scenario, why did you think it was cheating?

  • For this scenario, why didn't you think it was cheating?

We spend extra time discussing these two questions:

The most important part of this discussion is getting students to start thinking about how their decisions impact their learning. This sets up the final question.

The Final Question

As a final reflection, we have students review all the scenarios and consider the discussion we had around each. Then we pose the final question:

What guidelines should we use to decide if something should be considered cheating?

In the end, we want students to understand that a scenario should be considered cheating if it is cheating them out of their learning. A good assessment provides valuable formative feedback to students to help them along in their development of deeper understanding. Any behaviors that they participate in that reduce the authenticity of this feedback is hurting their learning (and should be considered cheating!)

We hope that helping students to be reflective about these scenarios will reduce their desire to cheat.

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