Research on authenticity of student work

Online faculty (and the public at large) frequently have questions about how to maintain academic integrity in online classes. While research shows that people assume more cheating is happening online, there is no conclusive evidence that there is any difference in the amount of cheating that actually occurs...I thought this was an interesting paper on the subject: Assessment Design and Cheating Risk in Online Instruction (
--Dan Feinberg

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Comment by Janet Peck on November 3, 2010 at 7:50am
The inevitable question; Are Virtual Classrooms Designed for Academic Cheating? You would think so. There are plenty of reasons why it seems intuitively probable that students in online classrooms would cheat more.
These include:

A weaker rapport between students and teachers
If a student really likes a teacher, he or she will be less likely to cheat on tests and assignments—right? If your professor is an email message that shows up in your inbox from time to time, it’s less likely that the student will feel that bond—and possibly more likely that you’d be inclined to cheat.

Less on-site supervision
As an online student, you do almost all of your assignments—and sometimes your tests—unmonitored. Who’s to say it’s really you sitting down to take that test?

More online savvy
It’s possible to argue that online students are even more at home in the virtual environment than traditional students—and that they know exactly where to find materials to plagiarize.
Online Cheating: Not as Common as you would think

Friends University ran a 2009 study to test the question of whether students actually do cheat more in online than in traditional classrooms, and the results were surprising.

According to their findings, both students and teachers perceived that cheating was more frequent in virtual classrooms. But self-reported instances of actual cheating were significantly higher among traditional students than they were among online students. This is despite the fact that the number of online students interviewed for the study was almost three times as many as the number of traditional students.

The study’s scope didn’t include reasons for these findings—but the researchers speculated several possible causes:

Online students are older
Online learning typically attracts older nontraditional students, who may be more mature and thus less likely to cheat.

Online students get more preparation time
The researchers speculated that many traditional students engaged in “panic” cheating—in other words, they decide to cheat on the spur of the moment rather than planning it out. Online students [may cheat less because they have more time to prepare.

Online faculty is perceived as more savvy (ok, so maybe we know something!)
There is a perception that online cheating is more prevalent—so perhaps online students are dissuaded from cheating because they believe their professor is more likely to be on to them. In addition, professors may design assignments and tests that are tougher to cheat on because they believe their students are more likely to try.

(I really like this one) Online students are more motivated
Non-traditional students, for a variety of reasons, are seen as more motivated than traditional students. Perhaps that motivation and increased engagement in the learning process cuts down on cheating.
In 2006 a small test was conducted by Friends University, comparing online and FTF Student Academic Dishonesty

138 respondents attending online only classes – 14 (10%) responded they “committed academic dishonesty”
87 respondents attending FTF only classes – 39 (44.8%) responded they “committed academic dishonesty”
students in this sample were more likely to cheat in traditional classroom settings and less likely to cheat in online courses.

Donna Stuber-McEwen
Friends University

Phillip Wiseley
Friends University

Susan Hoggatt
Friends University
(sorry I don’t have her email)

I used this material at a conference recently and based on the above, made the following recommendations for online assessments in the maritime industry’s approach to online learning:

• Human-proctored traditional paper-and-pencil tests with traditional security procedures should be used for major assessments in distance learning.
• If manual grading is too burdensome, human-proctored tests taken at a computer are a second-best choice provided that the computer's software and networking capabilities are tightly restricted as described above.
• If students take the same assessment at different times, it is critical to draw questions randomly from a large pool and reorder them.
• We should automatically and routinely compare answers given by students on assessments. When similarities beyond those due to chance are observed, especially for incorrect answers, it is usually best to just ask students to take a different assessment covering the same material since it is hard to prove guilt. Retaking should be done in a more secure manner than the original test, as for instance with essay questions instead of multiple-choice.
Comment by Robert Piorkowski on October 6, 2010 at 10:16am
Here is an interesting piece on one teacher's experiment with "Essay Mills":


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Created by Alexandra M. Pickett Aug 19, 2010 at 11:52am. Last updated by Alexandra M. Pickett May 20, 2020.


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