One Way to Prevent Student Cheating

image of a student looking at another student's test paper
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Cheating on exams has been around as long as there have been exams. Yet with the use of technology cheating today has become much more rampant. Not only do students sneak in their smartphones to look up answers, they likewise post test questions and answers online for other students to use, often while the test is taking place.

How can you prevent this type of student cheating using smartphone technology? The nation of Algeria has one answer–but it may not be something we like.

Algeria for several years has faced an epidemic of cheating among the more than 700,000 students who take Algeria‚Äôs baccalaureate (four-year bachelor’s degree) exit exam. Exam questions and answers start to appear on social media sites immediately after the start of each exam by students who use their smartphones to post the information. Students taking the exam could share answers, and those latecomers (of which obviously there is a very large number) could see the questions before entering one of Algeria’s 2,100 exam centers.

The problem became so widespread in 2016 that the Algerian Education Ministry declared several exams void and required over 500,000 students to retake the exam with new question. And 31 people were arrested, including several education ministry employees.

In 2017 the Ministry installed mobile phone jammers and also blocked access to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And any students who arrived late were banned from taking the exam but had attend an alternative test center at a later date.

How About Turning Off the Internet?

It still did not completely work. So, in 2018 all centers had metal detectors installed to prevent smartphones from being smuggled in. And all teachers and test proctors had to surrender their phones, tablets, and electronic devices. Devices that could be used for jamming wireless signals and video surveillance cameras cameras were also installed.

But that was nothing compared to what else Algeria did: it turned off the Internet.

That’s right: it shut down all access to the Internet. And not just to students, and not just around testing centers. The Internet was turned off all across the entire country. By order of the Algerian government, the public telephone operator that provides much of the Internet access along with private internet service providers (ISPs) turned off the Internet for up to three hours per day during the week of testing. There were three one-hour blackouts on Wednesday, and two each on Thursday through Monday. Every kind of connection–WiFi, mobile, 3G, whatever–was down for every student at every exam center, and for every employee at every enterprise, and every user at every home or public location. Nobody could access the Internet.

And Algeria is not alone. The nations of Syria, Iraq, Mauritania, Uzbekistan and several Indian states also block access to the Internet during testing. And Ethiopia shuts down access to social media.

Well, turning off the Internet for the entire country is one way to prevent cheating by students with their smartphones. And it’s a great way to reduce cybercrime, too.


But maybe there’s a better way. We just need to keep looking.