Online exam cheating rates have hit an all-time high, according to monitoring data that shows one in 14 students was caught breaking the rules last year.
A global analysis of data on three million tests using the ProctorU monitoring platform found that ‘confirmed breaches’ of testing regulations – incidents where there was clear evidence of misconduct – were recorded in 6 .6% of all cases.
That’s nearly 14 times higher than the 0.5% misconduct rate detected in the 15 months before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which sparked the widespread adoption of online reviews and, with that , an increase in the use of online monitoring services such as ProctorU.
But that’s also a big increase from 2020, when violations were confirmed in 3.9% of tests, indicating the problem is getting worse as students become more accustomed to online testing.
The data is based on tests carried out in around 1,000 centers around the world, mainly in the United States, Great Britain and Australia. The confirmed failure rate for higher education assessments alone, excluding professional exams, was even higher than the overall average, at 7.2%.
ProctorU founder Jarrod Morgan, who is now chief strategy officer at Alabama-based parent company Meazure Learning, said he was worried the rate of cheating was so high even though students knew they were being watched.
Confirmed violations included candidates looking at papers or books they shouldn’t have had, others in the room during an assessment, or a student attempting to take a test on behalf of a classmate. classroom.
Morgan said cheating rates would likely be even higher at universities that didn’t use online proctoring, and he expressed concern that such high levels of rule violations could devalue students’ qualifications. students.
“It doesn’t take long before everything starts to fall apart; the value of a degree or a grade comes from the fact that society agrees that if you get it from such a place, it means something,” he said.
“If we start to think it doesn’t mean as much because we know people have cheated in classes, everything starts to get shaky.”
A ProctorU report also details misconduct that did not constitute a definitive violation of the rules. Nearly two-thirds of higher education students (64.4%) arrived at exams last year with “unauthorized resources” such as textbooks or mobile phones, while exam supervisors had to intervene to clarify or enforce the rules in order to avoid possible cheating in nearly one out of five cases. (19.1 percent).
Thomas Lancaster, senior researcher and academic integrity expert at Imperial College London, said while it has been well documented that misconduct has increased during the pandemic, it was surprising to see such an increase among students being monitored. online through a process that has been criticized as “more invasive than face-to-face monitoring”.
“It suggests to me that the students feel so pressured that they’ve had to resort to unfair means in this situation,” Lancaster said.
Some researchers have expressed concern about the lack of independent evidence supporting the idea that online monitoring can reduce cheating, while students have criticized the invasion of privacy that accompanies a monitor’s access to their screen and to their webcam.
Cath Ellis, associate dean (education) at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said the results should prompt “educators to reassess whether tests and exams are really the best way to measure and ensure student learning”.
She added that while there will likely always be a need for some proctored exams, there are at least some circumstances where there are almost certainly better ways to get students to demonstrate their learning outcomes.