Online testing loopholes need to be addressed

When you read the syllabus for any class, it clearly says that any act of plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students in violation receive a failing grade and may also face serious consequences.

To prevent cheating during in-class exams, teachers may seat students apart, ban hats or any electronic devices, check students’ IDs or give clear instructions to look only in the direction of the ceiling when relaxing eye muscles.

Though some classes do require in-class exams, many do not.

In many online classes, a student is expected to take his or her exam online, anytime before the deadline, without the watchful eye of a teacher. In this case, plagiarism could very well go undetected, and several students can take an exam together and score a high grade without any consequences.

Steps must be taken to address this.

One may argue that providing different questions on different test might change the scenario, but this may not be possible in a class attended by 200 students. One option could be to have students take the exam at different times, but this, too, has a catch. Students may help one student take the test and then print it out for others.

One might also argue that online classes are a good resource for students who work and are not available for an in-class exam. However, ways must be thought of to avoid this seemingly open opportunity for plagiarism.

In the example of working students, one exam with two sets of different questions could be scheduled at two different times suiting the needs of students who work night or day shifts.

Allowing students to cheat is unfair to those who work for their A grade, but are viewed, on paper, at the same level as students who didn’t.

Though it might hurt the latter at some point in their college career – because one cannot cheat standardized tests or other graduate school exams – they might graduate with an outstanding GPA, which is unfair to hardworking students and the integrity of the University system.

Again, online classes are an excellent resource for many students who are unable to make it to class due to extenuating circumstances. But care must be taken to ensure that this system is not exploited.

It is up to any educational system to ensure their degree reflects the potential of the student. Let’s just hope the first exam coming up for many students this semester is fair for all and not just the in-class takers.

Zahira Babwani is a senior majoring in biomedical sciences.