Current research indicates that 6% of Australian university students have cheated on some form of assessment. Online quizzes provide fertile ground for those tempted to cheat or, alternatively, those who make it their business to help them. So how can we reduce cheating on online quizzes?

Why can it be easier to cheat on online quizzes?

Cheating on online quizzes is relatively easy when compared to cheating on exams. Cheating on online quizzes is easier when:

  • there is overuse of multiple choice questions. Answers to multiple choice questions can easily be shared on social media, especially if the order of the questions and answers has not been randomised
  • the sole source of questions is a publisher’s test bank. Contract cheating services may have access to publisher test banks
  • there is recycling of questions from previous years. Students from previous years may share the correct answers with current students

It’s also hard to verify the identity of the student taking quizzes outside of classroom or exam conditions.

The aim should therefore be to make cheating on online quizzes as hard as possible. This in turn will reduce the payoff of cheating. Why bother to cheat if it is easier to just do the work yourself?

How can I reduce cheating on online quizzes?

Randomisation can make it much harder to cheat on online quizzes. The more variation there is in a quiz the harder it will be to cheat. There are two main variables that can be randomised in UTSOnline quizzes: content and order.

Recommendations for randomizing quiz content include:

  • Don’t use the same quiz questions year after year. Rotate questions in and out of your quizzes if possible. Introduce new questions when possible
  • Avoid using questions from publisher test banks or, if necessary, use them in combination with your own questions
  • Use question pools instead of fixed sets of questions. Include a random set of the questions from a pool (e.g. 10/20) for each student
  • Use a range of question types. Matching, ordering and calculated formula questions are often ignored
  • Use a calculated formula question instead of a calculated numeric question when numerical answers are required. Calculated formula questions allow you to use sets of variables instead of fixed values, thus increasing the variability of the questions and answers

Recommendations for randomizing quiz order include:

  • Randomise the order of questions in each test. It’s harder to swap the answer to question five if question five isn’t the same for everyone
  • Randomise the order of answers in questions type that support it – e.g. multiple choice questions, multiple answer questions, matching questions. It’s harder to cheat if the correct answer to a question is listed as A for one student and D for another.
This brain teaser uses subtle randomisation to trick the viewer into miscounting. Use similar randomisation to reduce cheating.
This brain teaser uses subtle changes to trick the viewer into miscounting. Randomising variables in a similar way may help reduce cheating on online quizzes. Source: Facebook

What else can I do?

Excess time on online quizzes may provide an opportunity to obtain answers from a third party, so carefully consider how long students have to complete their quiz. The amount of time required will vary depending on the type of questions and their complexity. Quizzes with multiple choice questions may take less time as the answers are generally information based – you either know them or you don’t. Questions that require calculations etc. will take longer for students to complete. Take these things into account when setting the time allowed for the quiz.

What won’t this do?

Randomisation won’t stop students from getting another person to take their quizzes for them, though it will make it harder if the person taking the quiz isn’t a student in the current version of the subject. Only online proctoring can help to reduce this kind of cheating.

This sounds hard. Can I get some help to reduce cheating on my quizzes?

The main pain points with this approach are:

  • Using question pools requires additional questions. For example, a 20 question quiz may need a pool of 40 questions
  • Setting up quizzes to randomise can be hard the first time, though it does get easier with experience

Your IML Learning Technologist can train you to set up quizzes in UTSOnline. You can also learn more about them in the course on Blackboard.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Maryanne. It’s been a while since I wrote this!

      Presenting questions one at a time is always a good idea – it helps if a connection or computer mishap occurs during the test. You can sometimes lose everything if this happens when all the questions are on one page.

      Preventing backtracking has its pros and cons. It can help in situations where a following question would give away the answer to the question the person is currently attempting. However it can also penalise the person who legitimately recalls a correct answer and wants to go back and change their response, which they would be able to do in a paper exam. It also hinders those students whose (legitimate) strategy is to answer the questions they know the answers to and then return to the harder ones later.

      Like many things it’s probably a matter of balancing competing needs and priorities.

  • […] book exam using an online quiz, it’s a good idea to keep using anti-plagiarism techniques like randomising question order, using question pools and calculated formula questions. These methods reduce the payoff of cheating – regardless of whether your quiz is open […]

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