You May Be Surprised by What's Actually in England's New Anti-Cheating Law
Plus, a web panel of experts discusses online exam proctoring. Plus, students in Vietnam "invent" online exam proctoring.
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Panel: Remote Proctoring of Exams Deters Cheating and Other Important Insights
At the end of April, an organization called The Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR), hosted a web panel titled, “Online and automated exam proctoring: the arguments and the evidence.”
The panel included Phillip Dawson of Deakin University (AUS) who’s a researcher and knowledgeable source on academic integrity, Jarrod Morgan, founder and executive of remote proctoring provider ProctorU, Jeannie Paterson of University of Melbourne, and Lesley Sefcik of Curtin University (AUS), who created an in-house remote proctoring program at her university. The panel was hosted by Simon Buckingham Shum of the University of Technology Sydney.
The video is nearly an hour long but it’s fascinating.
The host was clearly anti-proctoring and the panel was more than likely designed to be that way as well. But the panelists themselves were circumspect and rather fair and, as a result, seemed at times to make a compelling case for remote exam proctoring.
Dawson, who described himself as neither for nor against proctoring, at about the 11:35 mark of the video said,
To have an online exam that’s got no proctoring or supervision, I would just say don’t do an online exam because the evidence seems to be that people are likely to cheat in a completely unproctored online exam.
And that’s pretty much the entire game, isn’t it?
Whatever someone thinks about remote proctoring, examinees are likely to cheat if an online exam is not proctored. That makes the choice pretty simple. If an online exam is necessary, you can have proctoring or you can have cheating. It’s possible, of course, to have both proctoring and cheating. But you’ll definitely have less cheating with proctoring. And the inverse - no proctoring and no cheating - is implausible.
At about 19:20 in the video, Paterson offers a very good, clear definition and overview of what proctoring is and what it does. It’s too long to transcribe but it’s comprehensive and accurate and well worth the two and half minutes, up to about 21:40.
Shum, the host, did have this great line at about 30:55 regarding proctoring systems that require faculty to review suspicious test conduct or suspected cheating,
As we look back with the blinding wisdom of hindsight, who in their right mind would have thought that academics, with all that spare time they had during Covid, were going to sit through hundreds of hours of video? Or watching flagged video clips? It’s complete nuts.
The comment is part of an important discussion about the burden that reviewing AI-generated cheating “flags” shifts to faculty - with a specific note that less than 10% of flagged video test sessions are watched even once.
At about 40 minutes exactly, Sefcik shares that the biggest key to easing student anxiety or resistance to online proctoring is familiarity, that the more students use it, the more information they have about it, the more comfortable they are.
And you may want to read this quote from Sefick twice. At about 41:55 she says,
[there were situations where] staff were saying, well, ok, we’re going to make this exam a take-home exam without invigilation [remote proctoring] and we found that in those situations, cheating by programs such as Chegg, where they can contact the website and get real time help just skyrocketed. We saw the cheating through Chegg just go up immensely. But we found that the staff members that used invigilation, there was no cheating using Chegg, because they couldn’t, because the session was invigilated …
Again, take-home exams are not a cure for cheating. They are an invitation to it and when no one is watching, cheating goes up.
Moments later, Dawson adds,
I can point to about a dozen published studies that to me show that [remote proctoring] is a deterrent … I am willing to buy the idea that there probably is a deterrent affect against cheating [by remote proctoring].
This summary is already too long. Even so, I suggest dropping into the video for Sefick’s comments at about 50:50 - about how their proctors do catch people cheating, even while being proctored. She says,
[students are] blatant about it and they’re just assuming that no one is going to be looking at the videos or … they are just forgetting that they are being invigilated.
Now it’s way too long. But given the over-heated controversy around remote exam proctoring, the topic remains important. Good for SoLAR for hosting it and thanks to the participants.
A Slightly Deeper Look at England’s New Anti-Cheating Law
The U.K. recently passed a law banning the sale and advertising of contract cheating services in England and part of Wales (see Issue 114).
As noted there, the law will be a significant weapon in the battle to curb cheating but it remains unclear why the government has, so far, self-limited the scope of the ban from “contract cheating” to simply “essay mills.”
To see if I could understand it, I went and looked at the bill’s language and want to share an interesting point or two.
One caveat, I am no lawyer or scholar of British parliamentary law or procedure. It’s possible therefore that I have this completely wrong. If I am off, and you can correct me, I welcome it.
Of note is that the amended section on cheating does, to me, clearly have a far broader application than simply essay mills. On page 10, the bill/law defines the banned practice as:
a service of completing all or part of an assignment on behalf of a student where the assignment completed in that way could not reasonably be considered to have been completed personally by the student.
References to completing all or part of an assignment on behalf of a student include references to providing material to the student in connection with the assignment where— (a) the student could use the material in completing the assignment or part, and (b) the material— (i) is prepared in connection with the assignment, or (ii) has not been published generally.
That seems like a direct description of what companies such as Chegg and Course Hero do. And they’re not alone. A ton of big companies sell “a service of completing all or part of an assignment on behalf of a student.” See Issue 97 for just one example.
It’s also worth noting that the bill also specifically disallows cheating companies to defend themselves by use of a standard, “this is not intended to be used to cheat” boilerplate contract disclaimer. The new law says:
A statement in the form of a written standard term of the contract or arrangement under which the relevant service was provided or arranged— (a) that the student would not use any material provided as a result of the relevant service in completing all or part of the assignment, (b) that the student was not required to complete the assignment personally, or (c) that the relevant service was permitted assistance, is not, of itself, to be taken as sufficient evidence [of the defense that a seller of information did not know or could not have known it would be used to cheat]
I added the italics and bold to “not.”
I feel like that’s big. These companies always claim that they advise students not to cheat, while selling test answers or written work. They have “honor codes.” Good for the bill-writers for brushing such self-serving dishonesty aside.
Two other quick notes from my reading of the language.
One is that, in banning advertising of cheating services, the bill may hold the advertising platforms, as well as the cheating companies, accountable for the ads:
A person who advertises a relevant service to students commits an offence
I’m just not seeing a distinction between ad buyer and ad publisher in the term, “a person who advertises.” If it does include ad sellers, that’s colossal and will likely force cheating companies out of advertising to English students because, while the cheating sellers may be beyond legal reach, the ad platforms are not.
Significantly, the ad ban includes activities in which a cheating service:
is described or presented as available or competent
In other words, simply making students aware that cheating provisions are available is banned. That’s something to keep in mind as cheating companies are hiring “campus reps” and sponsoring student athletes (see Issue 103 and Issue 111).
In other words, I know this ban is for England/Wales only, but I do wonder if a “campus rep” in Missouri who tells students that Course Hero is “available and competent” would be breaking the law in England if their social media posts are seen or shared there. Maybe, right?
The final bit is that the new law also seems to hold not just cheating companies but their directors and managers personally accountable:
If an offence under this Chapter committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to neglect on the part of— (a) a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate, or (b) a person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, that person (as well as the body corporate) is guilty of that offence and liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.
Given what actually seems to be in this new law, if I worked for a cheating company - excuse me, I mean a totally legitimate “tutoring” or “education assistance” company - I’d be worried.
If I am reading it right, England now says:
Providing “a service of completing all or part of an assignment on behalf of a student” is illegal
That the standard “don’t use this to cheat” messages in the fine print won’t help you
That simply making it known that such services are “available” is illegal and
That officers, managers and others at cheating companies can be personally responsible, even through “neglect”
Wow. That’s great.
Let’s really hope regulators and prosecutors in England use their new powers.
Students in Vietnam “Invent” Remote Proctoring
This Issue of “The Cheat Sheet” is already too long so I’m making this story brief - according to press coverage in Vietnam, a group of students has “invented” anti-cheating software for online exams.
The story says:
a group of young alumni of the Posts and Telecommunications Institute of Technology invented a piece of software which can detect cheating in up to 80 per cent of cases.
In reading what their invention does, it seems they’ve invented online exam proctoring.
Not to throw water on their initiative, the more people we have trying to solve the cheating problem the better. But I am just not sure this, from one of the inventors, is true,
Currently, there is no software that fully supports an online exam. Our project is to create a professional online exam environment with typical functions such as creating exam rooms, assigning registration numbers, monitoring exams, and preventing cheating
Anyway, more is better I guess.