Ensuring Academic Integrity Without Webcam Software

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GradingOnline Learning
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Morgan Rockett, CPA is a Professor of Accounting at Moberly Area Community College


The mass shift to remote and virtual learning environments increased the need to administer exams online. As we offer more exams virtually, it is imperative that we ensure academic integrity and discourage online cheating.

Discouraging students from cheating during exams is not a new concept for instructors; we have always had policies in place. Now we must think of the exam process in a new way. While it is nearly impossible to guarantee students are not cheating in any environment—in person or online—there are things we can do as instructors to help prevent online cheating.

Some institutions have started using webcam software to try and combat cheating. While webcams can provide some level of confidence in the testing process, it may not be the best option for your institution or discipline. Instead, here are five ways to increase confidence in academic integrity without the use of webcam software.

1. Restrict Exam Availability

Students in a traditional classroom environment have always been required to take an exam at a designated time. Follow the same process online. Set designated testing windows and require all students to start around the same time. If you prefer to provide multiple testing windows, you can offer different versions of the same exam as an additional measure to curb cheating.

2. Opt for Open-Ended Questions

When it comes to creating your online exams, consider using open-ended questions that require higher order thinking. Multiple choice questions tend to be easier for students to “look up” during an exam, whereas short answers, problems and essays require students to apply what they learned in order to answer correctly. Open-ended questions also make it more difficult for students to trade answers because they are required to use specific details and supporting evidence to explain themselves.

3. Use the Exam Setting Options Within Your Digital Learning Platform

Make sure you are using the exam settings offered within your digital learning platform when administering online exams. Whether using a learning management system (LMS) or publisher’s online learning platform, you have different exam settings to play around with. Here are a few helpful options:

Set Time Constraints

Restrict the total time allowed on the exam so students don’t have time to use other resources. Since an online exam isn’t proctored, it will become open book by default. So, it’s important to provide just enough time that students who know the material can complete the exam. Advise students the exam will be time-restricted, so it’s important to prepare as if they were taking the exam in-seat.

Change Question Sequence

Shuffling questions allows you to change the order of questions in the exam for each student. Pooled questions will ensure students get a certain number of questions about a topic, but the actual set of questions will vary. Changing the question sequence ensures students taking the exam in the same location, at the same time, will not see questions in the same order, making it harder to share answers.

Create Your Own Questions or Alter Test Bank Questions

Some test bank questions are easily found by doing a web search. To help circumvent this you can create your own questions or alter the test bank questions. Test bank questions can be altered by changing names, numbers or wording.

Protect Exam Integrity

You can use the following LMS settings to help protect exam integrity:

  • Allow only one take per student
  • Restrict printing of exam
  • Show one question at a time
  • Restrict what and when feedback is allowed on exams

4. Use Alternate Assessment Methods

Online cheating happens when stakes are high and students feel extra pressure. Setting up your class to place less emphasis on exams can take some of the stress off your students. Consider using more frequent quizzes, comprehensive problems or presentations to replace some of your exams. Remember the main purpose of an exam is to assess what the students have learned—and this can be done by alternate methods.

5. Let Students Know Your Expectations

Make sure students know your institution’s academic integrity policies and that you will enforce them. It seems simple, but openly discussing cheating with your students lets them know you take it seriously and are committed to curbing the behavior.

For more peer tips and strategies on promoting and maintaining academic integrity in your course, explore our cheating prevention blogs.