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Will They Cheat?

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How can you help your students decide not to cheat?

According to studies of cheating, the best prevention is low-tech and old-fashioned: help your students love the process of learning. Students are honest when the emphasis of the course is on learning rather than competition, when they feel the course is set up to help them learn. Teach students how to learn, to rise to challenges, and to accept struggle and failure as part of learning, and, studies say, your students will tend not to cheat.

The best learning environments address students’ fears: that they will be judged rather than taught; that grades will determine their entire future; that they will have to make their entire way through the course alone.

As far as you can, even in online courses, know your students and be sensitive to any special circumstances. As Neil Rowe of the US Naval Postgraduate School says, “Understand what students face,” from special educational needs to special family and work circumstances.

Regular communication with instructors and fellow students helps students feel they’re in control. Use social media. Consider allowing extra collaboration and cooperation in online courses; studies have shown that students who collaborate help each other learn and discover more sophisticated problem-solving strategies than any single student would discover alone. Group and team projects also show the lowest incidence of cheating. (It can be argued that some forms of cheating, such as collaboration when the course doesn’t permit it, are students’ way of helping themselves learn more effectively. In a famous example at MIT in the 1990s, student programmers who weren’t allowed to collaborate did so anyway—and became much more effective programmers. Collaboration is now the norm at MIT.)

Flip your courses, especially online courses. Have students read the material and hear a video lecture beforehand. Use class time for critical thinking.

Both students and instructors can foster a culture of honesty. Instructors should be clear with students about why they consider certain behaviors unacceptable. If you can’t explain why it’s unacceptable, consider letting your students do it. For example, a UCLA Controlling Cheating in Online Courses: A Primer 2 professor of games theory decided to let his students cheat on the midterm, and gave

them a week to decide how to cheat. The students all used games theory—and learned. Who does cheat?

It’s not clear whether students cheat more in online classes than in blended or traditional ones. Some studies indicate that the level of student cheating hasn’t changed much since the 1920s. It is clear, though, that the Internet makes cheating easier, because all forms of information discovery and reuse are now easier.

Some “cheating” is the result of simple confusion. It’s common, especially for international students, to have different ideas of what’s allowed. Make your rules clear to everyone.

Different rules often hold for tutorial assignments, assessments, and exams. Make clear why that is.

Signing an honor code may or may not make a difference; knowing what the code is does.

How do students cheat?

Most cheating is fairly low-tech.

  • Students look up answers online by searching on the text of the question (Anonymizing the title of the item doesn’t help much.)
  • They share answers, especially with their friends, through Google Hangouts, Google Docs, chat, Skype, emailed screenshots, or other means.
  • One student buys two access codes, uses the “phantom student” to fish for answers, then submits the correct answer as himself.
  • Students form a group. Each student works his way through some of the questions and shares the answers with friends.
  • To get extra time or undeserved credit, a student says that he has already submitted the assignment but “the computer lost it.”
  • Students hire other students to take either an entire course or, more often, only the quizzes and exams. Companies such as are built on this business.
  • Students steal the logins/passwords of other students, or use the accounts of students who have left a public computer but failed to log out explicitly. What can you do to discourage students who are contemplating cheating? The most effective way to discourage potential cheaters is to make it unprofitable. Comparative studies have shown that the most secure exams are human-proctored exams with a paper and pencil. When that’s not feasible, proctor as strictly as possible. The following may work if you know that the students’ hardware supports them:
  • Make final exams available for a relatively short period of time.
  • Ask students to scan and email the rough calculations that they made as they took the exam.
  • Password exams.
  • Include at least one critical-thinking essay question.
  • Use other security features such as requiring students to submit a picture of their face via Webcam as they begin the exam.

    Can I use my own material?

    Especially on final exams, consider giving your students new material that you have developed yourself. Mastering lets you create your own content, in all of the question types that it supports, using the same system as our own authors use.

This material was adapted from a post that written by Sarah Smith with help from the MyLabs and Mastering Group and with material from Prof. Bernard Bull’s course on online cheating.

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Remote Proctoring May Be Even Better Than Live!

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MILLIONS of students worldwide have signed up in the last year for MOOCs, short for massive open onlne courses — those free, Web-based classes available to one and all and taught by professors at Harvard, Duke, M.I.T. and other universities.

News from the technology industry, including start-ups, the Internet, enterprise and gadgets.

But when those students take the final exam in calculus or genetics, how will their professors know that the test-takers on their distant laptops are doing their own work, and not asking Mr. Google for help?

The issue of online cheating concerns many educators, particularly as more students take MOOCs for college credit, and not just for personal enrichment. Already, five classes from Coursera, a major MOOC provider, offer the possibility of credit, and many more are expected.

One option is for students to travel to regional testing centers at exam time. But reaching such centers is next to impossible for many students, whether working adults who can’t take time off to travel, or others in far-flung places who can’t afford the trip.

But now eavesdropping technologies worthy of the C.I.A. can remotely track every mouse click and keystroke of test-taking students. Squads of eagle-eyed humans at computers can monitor faraway students via webcams, screen sharing and high-speed Internet connections, checking out their photo IDs, signatures and even their typing styles to be sure the test-taker is the student who registered for the class.

The developing technology for remote proctoring may end up being as good — or even better — than the live proctoring at bricks-and-mortar universities, said Douglas H. Fisher, a computer science and computer engineering professor at Vanderbilt University who was co-chairman of a recent workshop that included MOOC-related topics. “Having a camera watch you, and software keep track of your mouse clicks, that does smack of Big Brother,” he said. “But it doesn’t seem any worse than an instructor at the front constantly looking at you, and it may even be more efficient.”

By ANNE EISENBERG – NYTimes Published March 2, 2013

Published: March 2, 2013

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Password Breaches – “It’s become a type of nightmare.”

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From an article by John Fontant for Identity Matters published May 29, 2014

eBay, Spotify, Avast, Adobe, Yahoo, Target, Twitter, Zappos, Gawker, Sony, Apple (twice), Fox, CBS, Warner Bros.,, LinkedIn, eHarmony,, Neiman Marcus Group Ltd., and Michaels Stores Inc.

All hacked.

I know I’ve missed many, but there likely will be more to add in a few weeks or even days.

From a corporate perspective, the reputation backlash and financial hit from a password or data breach has become so stifling that Spotify reacted this week to the theft of a single user’s data by asking nearly 40 million other customers to change their passwords.

Target’s breach bill could eventually top $1 billion — 2.8 percent of its market cap. The CIO and the CEO have resigned. The company’s year-over-year 2013 fourth-quarter profits were down 46 percent.

“Would you rather call a 1-800 number to end the carnage or change a password on each of the 25-30 sites where it was re-used and then wait for the next stealth attack or breach?”

The end-user carnage? Unknown because losing your personal data can easily turn into 20-miles of uncharted broken glass. Password breaches torture end-users more so than the company, merchant or service. Stolen passwords are sold on the black market and new hacks come at users from unexpected and unusual angles, and with the original hacked company too obscured by the trail of tears to be tagged with liability.

Access control in tatters. And many companies are proving they’re not secure or savvy enough to protect personal data – or don’t have a care to do so.

Last year, Deloitte Canada’s research organization said 90 percent of user-generated passwords would be relevant for mere seconds under pressure from hackers.

What’s a big next step toward repair?

Consumers must finally see the value of their personal data and demand protections when it’s shared with providers. The argument is the same for IT and enterprise user populations let loose in a world where cloud apps and services are as much a part of the network as a Cisco router.

A recent Ponemon Institute report says 110 million American adults had their personal data exposed by hackers in the past 12 months alone, which totals some 432 million accounts. And that number can grow exponentially if the passwords to those millions of accounts were re-used on other accounts.

Corporations are first buddying up to protect themselves.

When you build your business in a flood plain, you pay extra to insure against disaster. And passwords are in the saturated throes of a 100-year event.

Even the inventor of the password, 87-year-old Fernando Corbató, said last week, “unfortunately, it’s become kind of a nightmare.”

Yes, it is a nightmare. For end-users, especially. They trust their stored personal data will be protected via current standards; they suffer when their data is stolen, and they can’t write the consequences off on their balance sheets.

What additional steps do you think are needed to address or limit the password problem?