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Ask Slashdot: How To Allow Test Takers Internet Access, But Minimize Cheating? 330

Posted by timothy
from the great-paradox dept.
New submitter linjaaho writes "I work as lecturer in a polytechnic. I think traditional exams are not measuring the problem-solving skills of engineering students, because in normal job you can access the internet and literature when solving problems. And it is frustrating to make equation collections and things like that. It would be much easier and more practical to just let the students use the internet to find information for solving problems. The problem: how can I let the students access the internet and at same time make sure that it is hard enough to cheat, e.g. ask for ready solution for a problem from a site like Openstudy, or help via IRC or similar tool from another student taking the exam? Of course, it is impossible to make it impossible to cheat, but how to make cheating as hard as in traditional exams?"
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Ask Slashdot: How To Allow Test Takers Internet Access, But Minimize Cheating?

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  • by h2oliu (38090) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:03PM (#38999391)

    I remember being allowed to bring notes with me to class. Would just making this open book/open notes accomplish the same thing?

    • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@gmail. c o m> on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:09PM (#38999501) Homepage

      Some of the toughest exams I've ever taken have been open book. Mostly because they require you to understand not only the theory, but the application of the theory and law to the problem. This usually shows that both the instructor, and the student understands the course material. And that it was being taught, and understood correctly.

      • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:27PM (#38999785) Journal

        Some of the toughest exams I've ever taken have been open book.

        Same here. My observation was that if the test was "open-book", the books would not be much help.

        • by jmerlin (1010641)
          These are usually the best kinds of tests. Primarily because "closed book" tests tend to be partially or mostly factual regurgitation. For one, that's one of the least effective methods of testing understanding. For two, not everyone memorizes every little tiny fact (and indeed, this is rarely useful). And finally, in the real world, nobody tries solving hard problems without having plentiful references to check their facts and gain insight.

          I don't care if a network engineer knows off the top of his
          • Closed book probably was quite valuable in the past. When looking something up meant a physical trip to a library, or even waiting weeks for an interlibrary loan, having facts available for recall was very valuable. Now that you can connect to vast databases and get facts instantly, it isn't. I skim-read a lot of papers because I don't have to actually understand them enough to be able to reproduce them, I just need to know who is doing important work in which bits of the field so that if I have to do an
      • by confused one (671304) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:37PM (#38999949)
        That's my experience. If it was open book, expect the worst. It was assured you wouldn't have time to look up how to solve the problems. The problems were structured such that you really had to know the material inside and out. It also meant you had no excuse if the solution required one of the more arcane differential equation or integrals solutions from the tables in the back of the book.
      • Our class used to bug teachers for open-book tests, thinking it would make things easier. And for a few classes, it did.

        Then we ran into the teacher whose thought process was "If you want to use the book during the exam, then I'm going to make it so hard that you *NEED* to use the book during the exam". :( And a lot of the questions had answers in the appendices, the footnotes, the sidebars, etc, places you wouldn't normally think to look while flipping through the text.

        Most people didn't finish that exam

      • Let the students tell you where they're going for answers.

        Tests are suppose to show that the students are learning, right? Then monitor the internet traffic and see where they're going for answers, that will show you if they've really learned how to find answers to questions or not. And give real life type word questions, not just "1+1 = ?", stuff like "If you have one apple and someone gives you another apple, how many apples do you have?"

        If they're going to sites like Openstudy to just ask someone
      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        Maybe the most important part of knowledge is knowing where you can look up stuff.

        And indeed without properly understanding the matter and as such having no idea what exact formula to look for and where to find it and then to apply it you're still at a total loss.

    • by John Bresnahan (638668) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:20PM (#38999669)
      When I had "open-book" tests, I would always forget to bring my book

      When I had "take-home" tests, I would always forget where I lived.

    • by sirwired (27582) on Friday February 10, 2012 @06:01PM (#39000243)

      Many of my engineering classes allowed "formula sheets" or a "formula card", usually a single sheet of paper or a 4x6 index card, that the student was responsible for formulating themselves.

      I used this to completely ace the exam in several of my EE classes where I otherwise would have had great difficulty. (Analog just wasn't my thing while becoming a CompE; I rocked my digital and computer classes.)

      My tactic: Virtually all professors provide sets of review problems, and the answers to the review problems (along with all homework questions and mid-terms) were on file with the library. I'd go the library and make copies of those materials. I would then go back to my room and pass-through every single homework assignment, mid-term, and review question, and solve every problem to the point where the remainder of the solution was "busy-work." If, after much staring, I simply could not figure out how the professor got from point A to point B, I simply copied the entire solution to that problem (writing very small with a very sharp pencil if I was confined to a card, or just about 3 rounds of reducing on the copy machine if I wasn't) onto my formula sheet/card.

      90% of the time, the problems where I had to copy the solutions wholesale onto the card ended up on the exam (with some trivial parts changed), and I was invariably one of the few people in the class to get it right, despite the fact that I had utterly no idea how the solution worked.

  • Whitelist it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:03PM (#38999401) Homepage Journal
    They don't need the whole internet; only a handful of sites. Set up a proxy that permits only GET requests to a few domains like Wikipedia, disable Javascript for good measure, and you're done.
    • Re:Whitelist it. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Korin43 (881732) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:33PM (#38999897) Homepage

      I was going to write something about how you'd end up blacklisting sites that have good answers just because they have the ability to post questions (like Stack Overflow). Then I realized that using a site like that would be considered cheating in just about any class I've ever taken, even if they did let you look up reference material.

      Apparently, my entire job involves "cheating" non-stop.

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      Sounds overcomplicated and probably more work than preparing an equation sheet.

      Personally I think the best answer is monitoring. Record the screen throughout the test.. review it when you review the completed test. Shouldn't be too hard to see cheating just by skimming through. Even if you just randomly select a few and thoughoutly go through them I think it would work..

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If in a lab situation, use software that records sites visited, or is capable of viewing the student's screens. Make it known that this software is being used.

    • Either way, you could force the students to install VNC in their machines, then get a package like VNCplay to record all the test taking sessions. http://suif.stanford.edu/vncplay/freenix05-html/ [stanford.edu] Advise the students that all the screen sessions are being recorded, and enjoy watching them cheat with their smartphones instead.

      Or you could have the students work on their computers to solve the test, and walk around the room. Anyone you dislike is excused and gets to (re)take the same test on the next class p

  • by Gr33nJ3ll0 (1367543) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:04PM (#38999413)
    Make sure the questions are unique, change them between each exam, and carefully watch from the back of the room. You could also ask for a log of all the traffic through the WiFi point, and search for know chat domains.
    • by Lando (9348) <.lando2+slash. .at. .gmail.com.> on Friday February 10, 2012 @07:50PM (#39001573) Homepage Journal

      In my tests, I typically draw up questions based on information that we have covered in class using hypothetical situations. For many subjects, such as mathematics this doesn't work too well since they can just look up a formula generator and pull the information from there. Therefore questions basically need to be new for each test and cover application of theory rather than basic formula. Another thing that helps is making sure that there are enough questions that if they have to look up information for each question they will not be able to finish the test before time runs out. Preferable to plain answers of course are essay questions, but those will add to the time that it takes to grade the papers. I generally run my finals as take home tests, but they are considerably harder to answer than the typical tests. Being that the courses I teach are college level I find this works well, but requires one to two hours to grade each test which means that I have an upper limit of around 60 tests I can grade between turn in deadline and when scores have to be entered into the system. Since I make each test up per class every semester I can gauge the complexity of the tests depending on class size and competence of TA's.

      If you do limit the test to in class tests remember, unless the classroom supplies computer systems to access the web, the students with laptops have an unfair advantage over those that do not or have slow computers.

  • by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:05PM (#38999435)

    In "real life" students will have access to all those things. Perhaps it isn't cheating but rather utilizing tools that they would have access to in "real life".

    Assume they'll use every tool at their disposal- and write the tests in such a way that they can't copy the question into a search bar and google the answer.

    • by MacTO (1161105)

      I think the point is to give access to the tools that they could use in real life while ensuring that they can still work independently. After all, it would be far too easy for them to look up prior solutions (most courses use similar sets of questions on examinations because the students don't have enough experience to solve novel problems). Even if you could come up with unique questions, you still have a situation where they could hire someone else to answer the questions for you.

      My suggestions: only l

      • by Obfuscant (592200) on Friday February 10, 2012 @07:50PM (#39001581)

        I think the point is to give access to the tools that they could use in real life while ensuring that they can still work independently.

        Well, in real life, people collaborate on work. So, if you are demanding they do all the work without collaborating, you are already putting artificial limits on the process.

        If you are going to put one artificial limit on them, why not two? They don't get to look things up. But that's not fair, is it?

        So don't ask questions where they have to look things up. If you have to look up the concepts behind the work you are doing, then you haven't really learned anything, now have you? I'll point out that there is a difference between forgetting the name for some concept (e.g., "Boyle's Law" or "Charles' Law") and what that concept is ("pressure vs. volume of a gas" etc.) If you want to teach the concepts, you'll accept a demonstration of the concept without demanding it be named properly.

        Even if you could come up with unique questions, you still have a situation where they could hire someone else to answer the questions for you.

        That exists in real life, too. They're called consultants. If you are going to test in "real life" mode, do it. You have to allow consultants.

        My suggestions: only let http through and use a white-list for acceptable websites.

        You don't get to install anything on my phone, tablet, or latptop. Ain't gonna happen. And if you do, I'll simply use root to get around it. Real life sucks, huh?

        It is only a taste of real life, but it should be enough to prepare them.

        Real life rarely sets 100 people down in a room and hands them a list of questions to answer. Tests aren't supposed to simulate real life. Write the test to test what you need to test, not test whether they could figure out a way around an artificial limit that isn't going to be there in real life.

        • That exists in real life, too. They're called consultants. If you are going to test in "real life" mode, do it. You have to allow consultants.

          Consultants are what, $150 an hour?

          Rich student: Just $150 to pass this test without studying? Sure!
          Poor student: $150? That's half of what I have to live on this month! No way!

    • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:15PM (#38999591) Homepage Journal
      Perhaps the professor's goal is to avoid creating—please excuse the harsh wording—parasites? I've heard a lot of horror stories about students who were able to ride on the success of others. At a certain point, you might as well expect everyone to just use the Internet and their social networks to answer everything for them, and never bother instructing them in the first place.
      • by gbjbaanb (229885)

        Not just that, but to prevent cut+paste answers.

        You have a hard question, instead of finding the necessary pieces to make an answer, you go to answers.com, ask, wait for someone else to provide you with a ready-made answer and paste it in as your own.

        Its a bit like using just Wikipedia for research.

        The solution is really just to google for the answers that are given. If you find an exact match, strike the answer as plagiarist. If you find a similar but nowhere like copied answer, give the student points for

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          Wikipedia provides database dumps. Just use a transparent proxy to serve from your own private wikipedia - instead of irritating everyone else who might be looking at that information legitimately!

      • by StikyPad (445176) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:53PM (#39000141) Homepage

        I've heard a lot of horror stories about students who were able to ride on the success of others.

        Ah yes, the parasite. In high school I had a classmate in my CS class who couldn't program a VCR. I, being naive, socially awkward, and wanting to have friends, allowed him to look over my shoulder every week to get the correct answers. He went on to graduate with honors, was selected as the valedictorian, got a full ride to an ivy league university where he undoubtedly continued his shenanigans, and now he's a vice president at Visa Inc. So let that be a lesson to all you would-be cheaters, I guess.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:06PM (#38999453)

    Teaching means showing the way to solve problems. Nobody cares about correct solutions to school problems. It's all about the process of solving the problem, a scheme of thinking.

  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:06PM (#38999459)

    Block all traffic except port 80 http. (They don't need https, do they? They aren't checking bills online or using email, or some other security oriented task...)

    Block all udp connections.

    Dns filter a blacklist of known cheating sites.

    Block bullshit sites like facebook, myspace and pals too. That's just good sense.

    • by jcreus (2547928)
      Well, there's a thing called proxy... And there are plenty of them.
      • by wierd_w (1375923)

        Not a whole lot you can do about proxies without resorting to breaking the internet in seriously fundamental ways. Whole oppressive regimes have millions of dollars invested in trying to lock things down like that, and it still doesn't work.

        Eventually you just have to be practical. There is only so much that can be locked down, and the savvy will know how the locks work. Rather than getting stingy about it, accept that it will happen, and impose a "proxy use gets your test torn up" rule, and log IPs.

        A quick

    • Many bug systems, often the best place to find answers to tricky problems, are HTTPS only.

      It's not particularly tough to set up a logging MITM proxy that captures HTTPS as well though. Log every byte of traffic, do some basic searches on the whole data set to find traffic that indicates possible cheating to inspect further and combine that with your own hunches about possible cheating, then investigate the "interesting" traffic.

      Merely informing the students that their every move is logged will discourage a

  • Suck It Up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dcollins (135727) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:07PM (#38999465) Homepage

    "And it is frustrating to make equation collections and things like that."

    (A) Suck it up and do the work once.
    (B) Use a textbook that comes with a premade formula card for use on tests.
    (C) Find a premade formula card online and distribute that for tests.

    Personally, I use option (B) for my math classes. Trying to make the internet non-communicable is like making water not wet.

    • Re:Suck It Up (Score:4, Insightful)

      by goodmanj (234846) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:20PM (#38999673)

      "Trying to make the internet non-communicable is like making water not wet."

      Exactly what I came here to say. Use a closed-off intranet, physical media (formula sheets, textbooks, etc), or allow students to prepare their own short "cheat sheet" before class. Don't even bother trying to lock down or whitelist the public Internet: the public Internet is the opposite of what you want to do.

    • by mttlg (174815)
      Just about all of my engineering exams used option (D): let the students make their own. Teach them the material, tell them that they can bring a sheet of notes (or more), and let them figure out how to go from point a to point b. If they can't handle that, then what are their chances of figuring it out during the limited time of an exam? They have people, books, and the internet available to them well in advance of the need date, just like they would in a real job. At some point, they will be stuck in
  • by roeguard (1113267) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:07PM (#38999467)

    When I was in grad school, in many classes we were allowed to use the internet on tests, as well as our notes, any spreadsheets/programs/scripts we had pre-made, etc. The caveat was that the tests were structured in a way that if you didn't already know what to do, you wouldn't have enough time to look it up and still finish the test. Googling things takes time. And the test really only provided enough time to actually do what you already knew.

    You can also use random variables for each test, or groupings of tests, to prevent direct copying of answers. With a time limit, cheaters would have to wait for someone else taking the test to find the correct answer, send it out, and then modify it to match their own variables. If they can do all of that in a crunch, chances are they understand it pretty well on their own, even if they are lazy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What has also seemed to work decently is oversight. The one class I've taken where we were allowed to use the computers on our exams, the teacher made a point of showing us her setup: she was simultaneously viewing approximately a quarter of the class's screens at any one time, could throw it up on the overhead, or even lock them out, record it, etc (and of course the screens would randomly switch to a different set every so often).

      And she showed us. It was funny when she pointed out by name a couple peo

  • Wikipedia on Disk (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Give them access to a copy of wikipedia on disk. If they can't find the information there, they will be unlikely to find it elsewhere on the internet, but there should not be explicit answers to test questions.

    http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_on_CD/DVD

  • My school wouldn't even proctor the exam, they'd just expel you if you were ever caught cheating (no ifs ands or buts) , so getting an A instead of a gentleman's C by cheating didn't seem worth it. It did happen of course, and roughly 0.1% to 0.2% of the student base would get booted every year.

    • It's funny how "honour code" and "honour system" mean the exact opposite...

      That being said, I sincerely doubt your school was able to catch all of the cheaters with such a mild approach, especially in mathematics and the sciences. There are a lot of problems where even 'show your work' isn't a guarantee you'll get more than a little bit of variation in how students answer each question. High-level analytics on multiple-choice questions (e.g. "did these students get the same ones wrong every time?") isn't ev

  • i don't buy it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by callmebill (1917294) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:09PM (#38999503)
    So what happens when all the "original content" makers die off? If we just search the web, we'll only get old information. Let people figure out how to create their own OC by searching within and solving/exploring on their own, so that the future internet will have new information. In the meantime, grade on the curve just to keep the education process moving.
    • by Korin43 (881732)

      So what happens when all the "original content" makers die off? If we just search the web, we'll only get old information. Let people figure out how to create their own OC by searching within and solving/exploring on their own, so that the future internet will have new information.

      You may find it surprising that very few people come up with brilliant ideas entirely in isolation -- they build on the successes of others. The internet is just a way to find other people's successes faster.

  • by robot256 (1635039) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:11PM (#38999537)
    If you're going to allow them unlimited research, then why not let them collaborate too? Give the whole class a set of problems big enough that they need to organize and split them up to get them all done in time. And if they can find the solution already completed elsewhere, so be it, that's what a good engineer is supposed to do. The whole point of working in the real world is that your performance depends on those around you, so the only way to measure the performance of students individually is to put them in an artificial problem solving situation like a traditional exam. That's why we still have paper, closed-book exams in theory classes, and why there are an increasing number of "project classes" where the entire class grade depends on the success of a hands-on group project.
    • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:20PM (#38999657)

      So does the whole group get an A, if they have some rock star who knows the material cold while 4 of the other students contribute absolutely nothing, and should have normally failed the exam?

      That's no different than one person doing their homework and letting their friends copy it.

      • by robot256 (1635039) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:55PM (#39000167)
        It's also no different from a lot of office environments where a few people do most of the work and the rest get coffee and look over their shoulders. Not saying it's good, but it's reality. If you want to test individuals, on the other hand, you have to set up artificial boundaries and won't necessarily be able to measure their "real-world" performance.
    • by spopepro (1302967)
      It matters who the students are collaborating with. Collaboration with peers is good (I think), even if they aren't in the class. "Collaboration" using paid help (sites exist all over the place in pay for homework type arrangements) is extremely harmful. I had it easy as a HS math teacher. My rule for take-home portions was "Use any resource you wish to. Only rule is no consulting someone who get's paid to do these types of problems". At the HS level professional help, whether it be tutors or relative
    • That defeats the purpose of individual education. What's the point of a degree, if it doesn't distinguish if you were the quarterback or the waterboy?

      There's plenty of time for teamwork in later life. In fact, companies usually prefer to hire team members that are good enough to deliver on their own.

    • by Digicrat (973598)

      I recall taking one or two CS classes with a similar methodology.

      Basically, the class was broken up into teams of 3-5 students and given a problem to solve. The final grade was a combination of the groups final answer, and individual write-ups by each student explaining the solution. Those write-ups may include a description of what you agree/disagree with in the overall group answer, and a description of what parts you specifically contributed to.

      This, particularly with larger classes and randomly-chosen

  • Why are you measuring problem solving skills of your engineering students? Are you teaching problem solving? Or are you teaching a subject? All of them passed your schools entrance requirements. You should be able to assume they have some minimum IQ. If you have a dumb student that has mastered the material are you not going to pass the student?
  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:12PM (#38999555) Homepage

    Simple answer. Allow them to do whatever and then review what they visited. If there is any sign of going somewhere that might be questionable, call for a review.

  • by forkfail (228161) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:14PM (#38999569)

    Practical exercises another.

    I'd say keep the exams closed book/no net, and the practicums open (you can't help but have them open). But then take 3-5 minutes per student and make sure that the practicum is at least fully understood by the student with an oral exam (TA's can handle that if too much workload).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Ultimately, the cheater only hurts themselves. It shouldn't be your concern as to whether they are cheating. The only thing a lock does is keep an honest person honest. The cheaters will find a way, no matter what you do to restrict them, so the better solution is to make them take responsibility for their cheating by trusting them not to cheat.

    My alma mater has an honor code, that is essentially this, on every assignment for credit, whether paper, exam, etc... you had to write a statement saying you upheld

  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:17PM (#38999625)
    Cheating on the internet takes time. You have to look for the problem keywords and read the questions that people are asking, and the answers. There may also be variable changes etc.

    If you allocate a *tight* amount of time for each problem, then students will find that it takes too long to cheat by googling. The downside is that you'll get complaints about your exam being too hard. In particular, students won't have time to make mistakes and correct them - they have to either know the material cold, or fail the question and move on.

    Also, remember to change the questions every year.

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:19PM (#38999647) Homepage

    Suppose it costs $20/hour to hire a student to help proctor a test.

    Suppose students take four classes per semester, two semesters per year, four exams per class, two hours per exam. That's 64 exam hours per year per student.

    Hire one proctor for each of ten students. So each group of ten students will have to pay for $20 * 64 proctor hours. That's $1280 per ten students, or $128 per student per year for exam proctoring.

    Now, let them use the Internet as much as they want, and have one student-proctor monitoring each group of ten students for inappropriate behavior. That costs $128 per student per year.

    Now, hire an additional set of proctor-proctors for another $128 to manage and oversee the first set of proctors. Hire students from the business school and give them half a credit of management.

    With twice the estimated required number of proctors, that's still only $256 per student year to closely monitor the tests. That is not a large portion of college tuition.

    This sounds like a very solvable problem -- if the institution is flexible enough to come up with interesting solutions. Seems like being able to come up with that kind of solution would also be a pretty good way of judging the quality of a university -- good PR opportunity.

    Having grades align well with academic proficiency seems like a high-value line item for universities. Spending less than 10% of tuition to make exams more accurately test for subtle skills seems like a worthwhile investment to me.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:20PM (#38999661) Homepage Journal

    Really. actually even pre 19th century - times in which where knowledge was more theory than practice.

    Now, it should be practice. tests should be abolished. people should be given continuous assignments, projects and workshops, and instead learn things while doing them, as it should be - instead of memorizing stuff from a textbook and courses and to write them down when prompted.

    • by forkfail (228161)

      Maybe for some fields. Not for all - or even most, where one needs both theory and practice.

      • by unity100 (970058)

        nay. even for theory-heavy, you can just give projects, assignments, workshops and have them actually practice what they are going to learn and learn by practice. even in theoretical physics.

    • by PPH (736903)

      One problem with (homework) assignments is that the instructor is never really sure who it is that's doing the work. The dumb, rich kids will pay the smart, entrepreneurial ones to do the work for them.

      Come test time, you have to have a way to keep the test taker from simply forwarding each question to their help and then copy the completed answer down.

  • I don't want to do the work to create unique tests, so how can I keep them from getting outside information?
    Oh, I also want to allow them to get outside information.

    Look, there training to be engineers, you can not prevent them from access 'part' of the internet.

    Don't let them access the internet at all.
    THEY are there to learn that subject. As such they should figure it out. ANY engineer that has to look up everything its a crappy engineer.

  • If you're at all worried about this, don't allow internet access. Either allow it or don't, but don't half-ass allow it. If you let them open any electronic device, you have to assume they have access to the full, unfiltered internet. Welcome to the 21st century, where we have cell phones with wireless tethering and all manner of wireless access dongles like 4G modems which are completely out of your control. I suppose if the classroom was surrounded by a Faraday cage and only wired internet to their de

  • You can setup which websites are allowed and block all others right in the Browser Options/Content. It's called Content Advisor, I've done this for me kids, works very well, and it can be password protected. Takes 5 min. to setup.
  • by sunking2 (521698) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:27PM (#38999797)
    Tell us what school you teach at so I'm certain my daughter doesn't apply.
  • Or it will train them not to think when wikipedia goes down...

    Some of the best instructors I had taught the concepts and not the "units", and all the notes and cribsheets in the world were useless if you didn't understand the concept. Not every instructor can be one of the top-10, so maybe we do need to handicap those profs with internet access. /s

  • Only allow them to use Google cache to be sure they don't use some chat site.

  • by robi2106 (464558) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:35PM (#38999937) Homepage Journal
    You could just allow blanket access, require everyone using a connection to get MAC address filtered access (so you know every device requesting access) and then log everything. Then provide stipulations that any live chat or forum use is forbidden. Anything except reputable / academic sources is forbidden. To make it extra fun, tail the log of the access point live (projector?) and grep it through a few good regex to weed out junk and find any terms associated with IRC, forums, etc etc. Allow them to ask for white listing sources, or provide your own (allow wikipedia, but not the discussions on each page which can be used to carry out conversations, etc). Or just allow all net access but restrict access to just the sites you think are of use (wikipedia, specific journals, publisher's reference information, google for unit converting on the search bar, etc).
  • by Millennium (2451) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:37PM (#38999947) Homepage

    You're never going to be able to make cheating as hard as it is on non-open tests as it is on open tests. That's an inherent problem in allowing access to outside information, particularly when you're dealing with worldwide communications.

    What you can do is minimize the impact of cheating by working with the test itself: in particular, by setting a time limit based on its length. The idea here is to make it so that someone who constantly looks up outside information is highly likely to run out of time to finish the test. There's a delicate balance to be struck here, because you've said that some amount of going outside for information is not only to be expected but completely appropriate. But at the same time, you expect at least some knowledge to be "in-brain" (for lack of a better term), and so by using in-brain knowledge when it's there, a passing student will be able to finish the test quickly enough to beat the time limit. The trick is calibrating things, and I'm afraid I don't know a good solution for that.

  • by ErichTheRed (39327) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:40PM (#38999981)

    The problem with a traditional teach-learn-test-forget-teach cycle is that students have to stuff as much of the lecture material into their brains as they can fit, pour it all out on the test and repeat the cycle. In my opinion, having tests that actually check for understanding rather than memorization capability would promote actual understanding of material instead of the repeated stuffing.

    I've been out of school for a while, but I have recent anecdotal evidence -- vendor certification exams. Specifically, I took the VMWare exam recently. I passed, but it was quite difficult because I work with the product on an infrequent basis -- that is, I don't have the entire GUI memorized. More than half the questions would be easy to answer if you had the GUI in front of you and could just check the available options; the rest tested your knowledge of product architecture, limits and quite frankly trivia items. I've never done well on exams like these, because I'm just not a memorizer.

    When I was in school a million years ago, with the Internet just becoming a viable research tool, some of my upper-division chemistry professors wouldn't give standard exams - we'd get "take home exams" which were actually mini-research projects that you could do pretty well if you were paying attention in class. The questions were just right in most cases...challenging enough to be a major pain to brute-force your way through, but made easier if you knew where to start looking (by knowing the material that was presented.) I'm not sure you can do this with a class of hundreds in freshman chemistry lectures, but when you have 20 or 30 students taking the class, and most are motivated to do well anyway, these are easier to do.

    So the question isn't "how do I block Internet access for the test?" but more along the lines of "How do I make a challenging-enough test that can be finished in a finite amount of time, and doesn't just test student's lookup skills?"

  • by lightknight (213164) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:41PM (#38999997) Homepage

    Ask them questions that require an application of working knowledge / theory, as opposed to vocab / rote memorization style questions.

    A little less "What does HTTP stand for?" a little more "I need to do some task using HTTP, show me how to make it do what I want it to do." That'll nuke using Google for an easy look up (for an answer), and potentially make anyone who copies off of another (via texting, emailing, cellphone, whatever) liable to fail the class (plagiarism ho!). See, by making it a non-trivial answer, you destroy the use of search engines for an easy answer, and by requiring some creativity (or even a fair amount), you can more accurately gauge a student's understanding, while also ensuring (via creativity) that no two student's answers should be identical. Of course, there are potential problems here, but it does, with a little tweaking, should help you identify the group-thinkers or no-thinkers with some ease. Plus, job security, as a teacher / professor, as you get to grade everyone's exams manually (the techs know you fear the machines, you need not be shy about it); just be sure to announce at the beginning of class that your style is that of the Athenians (Greek philosophers, focusing on thinking, etc.), or something to that effect.

    The key here, to berate the point, is to ensure each answer is unique. Since simple answers cannot be unique, it's impossible to ensure that cheating has not occurred. Whereas with the greater increase in complexity (but not necessarily difficulty, mind you) of the answer, the more unlikely it is that two answers can be the same without one person copying another. When complexity increases enough, you have the effect of the Mona Lisa, where if 5 people turn the same or similar enough picture in, you have an extremely good idea that they were in communication with one another. It's not mathematically impossible, of course, that they should all create the same Mona Lisa, only hideously unlikely. Hell, if the solutions are unique enough, you might even learn something from them.

  • As you say, when they get into the workplace, if they need to know something, they're going to Google it. By limiting the resources they can use when answering exam questions, you are increasing the distance between education and the workplace - who does that help?

    So set them realistic problems and let your students solve them by hook or by crook, just they way they'll solve them when they're on a payroll.

    At least that way, the students who do well on the test will be the ones who will do well in indu
  • Ask questions that require the student to demonstrate synthesis of the various things you've wanted them to learn. They might be able to google individual steps to solve the larger problem, but they wouldn't be able to google the end result - they'd have to know what they're doing. Put a time limit on it.

    For example, in an introductory programming class (a CS 100 level course at my university), the final for the class consisted of this:

    "Take a sound file (speech.wav) consisting of several dozen words with b

  • by s0litaire (1205168) on Friday February 10, 2012 @09:45PM (#39002347)

    Their are 2 way you could go about this.

    1) Authoritarian route : State before the Exam starts that Key-logging and screen recording software has been installed on all machines, and no cell phones allowed.
    With an automatic fail if key-loggger or screen capture software is disabled or caught using a cell phone (with a supervised resit later the same day with an automatic 1/3 drop in maximum score.)

    2) Sneaky B'stard approach : Make the question so hard or badly worded that their is NO definitively correct answer, or that no 1 answer makes sense. Then it would be harder for "little Jimmy goggler" to find a correct answer on cheating sites, unless he's been taking notes and paying attention in class.

    Either approach probably won't work but it's my suggestion ^_^

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