Big increase in exam cheating

During 2020, the pandemic year, the number of students found guilty of cheating almost doubled – from 149 in 2019 to 292 in 2020.

Distance studies Ida Sörensen

“We’ve seen an increase in cheating since 2016, but after introducing remote examination as a result of the pandemic, unfortunately we’re seeing increasing numbers of students taking shortcuts and using prohibited aids”, says Margareta Bachrack Lindström, deputy vice-chancellor and chair of LiU’s disciplinary board.
Other universities are seeing the same trend.
“During 2020, the most common type of cheating was prohibited collaboration. In total, 141 students were found guilty. In 2019 we had only ten cases where students were found guilty of prohibited collaboration.”

Almost a quarter were cleared

Not everyone reported for cheating is found guilty: 20 to 25 per cent are cleared. In 2019, 190 LiU students were reported, and 149 were found guilty. In 2020, of the 383 reported, 292 were found guilty.
In the past year, LiU has tightened its procedures in order to address the issue of cheating. Teachers and other staff are urged to report the smallest suspicion, even if they are not at all certain that cheating has occurred. It is then the disciplinary board’s job to assess the reports that have been submitted.

The students’ responsibility

“We’ve tried to support the teachers as much as possible in the switch from campus-based to remote exams, and we’ve worked actively to ensure the regulations for remote exams are clear to the students, so they aren’t misunderstood. After that it’s the students’ responsibility to keep track of the regulations and to follow them. They must take care, and find out the examination regulations, so they don’t inadvertently do anything prohibited.”

At least four weeks’ suspension

Punishment has also been increased. For instance the shortest suspension from studies has been extended to four weeks. During that time, the students are not permitted to attend classes or receive their student loan.
“We’ve adjusted our punishment to be more in line with other universities. A year ago LiU was ‘softer’.”

Camera surveillance being assessed

But despite the stronger measures, the cheating continues to increase, not least prohibited collaboration, both at LiU and nationally.
For this reason there are proposals for holding exams in distance mode with some sort of monitoring of the students. This could consist of system support for following technical activities at the student’s home during the exam, corresponding to the monitoring that occurs in exam halls. Some universities have also put forth proposals for camera surveillance of home-based exams.
This idea has also been raised at LiU, but no decisions have been made.
“We’re investigating it, for instance if camera surveillance is permissible under GDPR legislation. The investigation will be finished this spring.”

Students fooling themselves, and others

At the same time, Margareta Bachrack Lindström takes care to point out that most students do the right thing.
“They’re taking responsibility, informing themselves of the rules that apply for examinations, and following them. But of course we hope that the trend of increased cheating will be reversed. Students who cheat aren’t gaining the knowledge they are expected to have when they enter working life. They’re fooling themselves, and others.”
The Swedish Higher Education Authority is keeping an eye on the situation with cheating at the various universities, and what is done about it. And a national working group for digital examination has been created at the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions.

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