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Universities and coronavirus - online exams: how do you prevent cheating?

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Many students these days are writing their exams at home - online. But cheating is more difficult than you think.

Author: Peter Buchmann and Méline Sieber, SRF Digital

Many universities and colleges are running online exams for the first time these days. Instead of sitting in the lecture hall, the students sit in front of the computer at home and take an exam there.

I believe in the personal responsibility and honesty of the students.
Author: Petra BarthelmessMember of the Head of Teaching ZHAW

Trust is good, but ...

Taking an exam at home - isn't it cheating and cheating? “I believe in the personal responsibility and honesty of the students,” says Petra Barthelmess, member of the teaching team at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences ZHAW. “The students have prepared themselves seriously, after all they study for themselves”, agrees Etna Krakenberger, who is responsible for e-learning at the University of Bern.

Nevertheless, one is not naive at universities: "We tried to imagine how one could bypass the rules," says Petra Barthelmess.

Aids allowed

In many written exams, students are allowed to use documents, including the Internet. However, the tasks are set in such a way that the answer cannot be easily looked up. Instead of reproducing numbers and terms learned by heart, prospective managers at the ZHAW, for example, have to analyze a business scenario.

In order to prevent copying as much as possible, the University of Bern uses plagiarism software for written exams, a special program that checks whether someone has copied text passages.

Video surveillance

A big problem remains: the students could exchange ideas via chat apps and thus help each other. Certain universities therefore rely on video surveillance. A laptop or smartphone camera must be connected to the Internet at all times during the test. A supervisor checks whether there is a second person in the room or whether someone is chatting.

A student who has passed several such supervised exams is convinced that you can still cheat because the camera never sees everything.

Chance and time constraint

Many universities rely on simpler measures. You put the exam together from a large collection of questions, so that hardly two students get the same tasks. And if you only have two or three minutes for each question, there is no time to chat. It becomes even more difficult when you are forced to answer the questions sequentially and cannot jump back and forth between the tasks. However, this puts students under great pressure.

We welcome online learning such as lectures as video podcasts - but exams with presence, please.
Author: Isaias MoserCo-President Student Union University of Zurich

Many students therefore want the exams on site to be returned. Isaias Moser is Co-President of the Student Union of the University of Zurich and confirms: "We welcome online learning such as lectures as video podcasts - but exams with presence please."

On site - the same conditions for everyone

Because online exams ultimately lead to very different examination conditions: some have a construction site in front of their house, others a poor internet connection or simply technical problems. In addition: In online exams, it is never quite clear what the rest of the fellow students are up to and perhaps secretly pecking after all. If everyone is sitting in the same room, it is clear how everyone will write the exam.

Nonetheless, it is clear to all of the associations we asked: This semester was exceptional. Many universities have therefore also adapted the examination regulations. Failed exams do not count, for example, or lectures or projects are expected instead of exams.

Espresso. 06/12/20, 8:13 am

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  • Comment from Daniel Stutz (ElMathador)
    I have been working as a math teacher at HF ​​(and FH) for 25 years and when Barthelmess says "I believe in the personal responsibility and honesty of the students", then that's just naive. As a teacher, I have to teach the students math AND check what is stuck. If I give the students the opportunity to shit, there are ALWAYS those who take advantage of it! The honest / hard-working are then those who rightly feel crappy and that shouldn't be. Never ever!
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
  • Comment from Val 98 (Signorelli)
    At the University of Bern, the open book situation is consistently followed. You may need all the documents, but the time is pretty tight. In addition, the stress level in such exams is higher than in the face-to-face exams.
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
    1. answer from Laura Brunner (bougiebear)
      That's not entirely true, with the exception of the budding physicians, who have to take the exams in the Bern Exhibition Center with face masks and gloves, and there is no open book variant with psychologists.
      Agree agree to the comment
    2. Show answers
  • Comment from Jens Stadel (jena)
    My colleague just told me how they wrote different university exams in groups. You have come up with simple tricks: differ. Backgrounds, shared writing sheets, projector ... the funny thing, everything teacher in further education: D yes yes I also believe in honesty
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
    1. answer from Alberto Salazar (Dorotheus)
      PH is not a university.
      Agree agree to the comment
    2. answer from Jens Stadel (jena)
      Thanks for this info! You can attend lectures at the University of ZH as part of additional training. They have all already completed the PH and work as teachers.
      Agree agree to the comment
    3. Show answers

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