9 Ways to Prevent Cheating with WebAssign

prevent cheating
Peer Advice & Teaching Tips
Reading Time: 4 minutes

WebAssign is a flexible platform that allows you to customize the student experience to make cheating far more difficult than traditional paper and pen homework assignments.

In this article, we present a number of options to prevent students from comparing answers, using outside resources, and looking up answers. Plus: you can find helpful tips to check for signs of cheating in your course.

Keep reading for 9 ways to prevent cheating and encourage academic honesty in your course, using WebAssign.

Prevent Students from Comparing Answers

Assignment settings allow you to show your students all questions at once, or to only display questions one at a time. Showing all questions in the assignment at once gives students the opportunity to compare assignments with others by scrolling through all questions to search for matching or similar problems. If you change the display method to show only one question at a time, it is harder to make those comparisons.

Many questions in WebAssign include randomizations that show the same question with different values to each student. Although each student will receive a similar question, they’ll be working with different values and will not be able to share answers. You can enable question randomization within the assignment settings. If a problem does not include any randomizations, it is you’ll see a note under the question while adding it within the Question Browser.

Question pools introduce additional randomization beyond question values, by providing every student with a varied question set. You can create a larger subset of questions, and then set a fixed number of questions from that pool to be assigned to each student at random. Question pools are accessed from the Question Browser within the Assignment Editor.

Pro Tip: Make sure to pool questions of similar difficulty. Question difficulty is provided for each question including usage to show the percentage of students who got the question right on the first try.

WebAssign assignment settings allows you to randomize the order of questions or choose the order manually. To prevent cheating, the randomization option limits the ability for students to find another student with the same set of questions in the same order to copy from.

WebAssign Tip: Assign an Honor Code question at the beginning of the exam as a pledge of academic honesty. (Honor Code question ID: 4625294)

Limit Answer Lookup

To prevent students who have previously taken a course from sharing test questions or information with current students, you can take advantage of the huge volume of textbook questions available in the question browser and build an updated version of the exam.

Pro Tip: Save time and share questions and assignments with fellow instructors to further expand the variety of content you can pull from.

The question name is a string of characters that indicate its location in the textbook. Some students may use this information to check the textbook solutions for the answer (if available). Hiding the question name deters this practice, plus students will have limited opportunities to find the answer if you’ve randomized the question values as suggested in tip #2 above.

In randomized questions, values or words within the problem that differ from student-to-student are highlighted in red. You can turn off highlighting to make it harder for students to compare differences between questions with each other.

Prevent Use of Outside Resources

You have a number of options to establish a secure testing environment for students, including:

  • You can ensure that students work only from designated environments by adding location restrictions to assignments that allow or disallow specific IP addresses.
  • Password protect an assignment, and distribute the password at the beginning of the assignment. You can change the password after students have begun the assignment, to prevent students from leaving the testing environment and then accessing the questions from another location.

You can restrict the computer activities of your students while they are working on a test by requiring that the assignment be opened with LockDown Browser. While an assignment is open in LockDown Browser, students cannot use any other applications on their computer including the additional internet windows. However, this solution will not prevent students from accessing resources on their mobile devices, so a proctor may be necessary as additional security.

How To Check for Cheating

First, make sure your students are aware you’re putting measures in place to encourage academic honesty, which tends to curb cheating attempts. To follow up on your cheating prevention tactics, you can also utilize WebAssign’s log files that provide very specific information for instructors on how students have completed an assignment. Log files contain IP information to show from where an assignment was downloaded and submitted, and also timestamps each submission. This allows you to easily view how long each student took to complete an assignment and weed out who may be using dishonest practices.

Log files may be compared side-by-side for similarities across students. For additional information, you can compare responses data from students, to see if correct/incorrect responses match in patterns that resemble cheating students.

Key Takeaways

  • Deter your students from comparing answers by utilizing the variety of customizable options in your assignment settings to make each students’ assignment unique, while covering the same concepts.
  • Make it harder for your students to look up answers to your assignments by using new questions, hiding question names and randomizing question values so they don’t match the textbook solutions.
  • Add a layer of security to your assignments with location and password restrictions, or use the LockDown browser.
  • Identify cheating quickly by reviewing student activity and comparing student responses.


Looking for More Tips?

Transitioning to a virtual or hybrid course especially mid semester can be stressful – let us help! Keep in mind the following resources that are available to you.