Technology gives students new ways to “share” answers
Trust technology-savvy students to find ingenious new ways to cheat.
Case in point: Scan a candy bar wrapper into a computer, change its ingredient and nutrition lists into test answers, re-wrap the bar and take it into the exam. Presto — a helpful snack, kept in plain view. True story.
Or this one: With some students allowed to listen to music during tests, scofflaws among them have taken to recording lectures, notes and test answers onto iPods to play back during exams.
But crafty as young cheats are, post-secondary schools are just as clever: They’re onto all those tricks.
As millions of Canadian college and university students get ready to head into gyms and classrooms for final exams, schools say they’ve honed their skills to foil the deceitful.
Technology has made it easier for cheats, but it’s also made it easier to root them out.
Take Fanshawe College.
At Fanshawe, for example, with campuses across Southwestern Ontario, students using laptops for exams find them locked down so they can’t navigate away from a designated test site to look for answers.
At Western University, monitors run multiple-choice tests through anti-cheating software.
The brilliant twist?
Instead of looking for correct answers, they zero in on wrong responses from students who sat near each other.
The logic might astound some students.
“You could imagine where there are two very bright students who have studied very well, they might get many right answers. But it would be more in the pattern of wrong answers where the question (of cheating) might arise,” said John Doerksen, Western’s registrar and academic vice-provost.
Forget old-fashioned copying out answers on body parts. With the digital revolution, schools know cheating is an advancing science they have to stay on top of.
“We know going forward that this issue isn’t going away,” said Rob Kardas, executive director of student services at Lambton College in Sarnia. “Smartphones, in particular, are a popular means to commit academic dishonesty because of the portability of such vasts amount of knowledge.”
Fanshawe’s Mary Pierce said only about 10% of all detected cheating at the London-based college last year — 38 incidents — took place during tests. That includes at Fanshawe’s St. Thomas, Woodstock and other campuses.
The rest came from cases such as students copying assignments.
“It’s very difficult to commit an academic offence at an exam because it’s so controlled,” said Pierce, who chairs Fanshawe’s Lawrence Kinlin School of Business.
She said a “couple” of students in recent years have tried to photograph study notes on their phones and sneak them in by hiding them up their sleeves. “But it’s really hard to conceal that . . . It’s kind of obvious.”
Don’t count on cheating ending any time soon.
“Students have stayed a step ahead,” said Donald McCabe,of Rutgers University in New Jersey.
The management professor conducted a Canadian study, published in 2006, that surveyed 16,000 students at 11 schools and found one in five admitted cheating on a test.
That ratio is likely even higher, he said, because many students think of obvious cheating — working together on assignments when they’re supposed to do them alone, for example — as no big deal.
“It’s the culture — everybody shares everything,” he said.
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- Using smartphones to take pictures of notes or test answers.
- Having a friend text a student test answers.
- Stashing notes in a bathroom, to be read during a test break.
- Old-fashioned peeking at others’ answers.
Have you ever cheated on a test?