Understanding Cheating in Online Courses

So, there's a course on how to cheat online. But with the purpose of preventing cheating online. This course is a massive open online course titled “Understanding Cheating in Online Courses,” which is currently in progress on the Canvas (MOOC) Network platform.

Having taught a course in Canvas, I know that their offerings are more "big" than "massive" compared to ones from Coursera and others. Canvas courses are more in the 500 - 2000 range, where we know that other platforms often run courses closer to the 100K registration rate. This particular course had a cap of 1000 and quickly filled.

Bernard Bull, Assistant Vice President of Academics and Associate Professor of Educational Design & Technology at Concordia University Wisconsin, will ask participants in his new course to cheat and then ask them to disclose to the rest of the class exactly how they cheated. Being assigned to cheat is like being assigned to hack a computer system. You're not really cheating or hacking.

Having just done workshops last week for faculty that included some discussion of online cheating and plagiarism, I know that this is a topic of great interest to online (and offline) instructors. I am of the belief that practically all the cheating online has an offline equivalent and that online teaching actually offers some safeguards that surpass what is available for face to face classes.

The course runs 8 weeks and covers the vocabulary, psychology, and mechanics of what Professor Bull calls “successful cheating” in online learning.

Cyberethics is a legitimate concern. I think it is also important to put most of your efforts as a teacher into designing assignments to discourage cheating and on prevention rather than focusing on catching students after they have done it.

Bernard Bull believes, after years of studying the topic, that some courses seemed designed in a way for which cheating seemed the best option. Don McCabe of Rutgers University has said much the same thing for a decade.

I have come to believe that universities hiring online proctoring companies monitor students through webcams as an alternative to having students take examinations at a physical testing site is a waste of time and money.

I'm also on board with Bull, McCabe and others who find that the most common cheating tactics are old, tried and true and not particularly high tech. Students are more likely to share papers, work together on assignments, have friends do assignments, copy and paste or buy a paper than to use some elaborate online technique.


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