Cheat From Home — Online Learning

Higher education has a new problem — how to administer and proctor tests in an online learning environment. How does online learning deal with cheat from home?

How does a professor ensure that her students are not cheating as they take those tests and final exams?

All of you engineers with your open book problem solving exams can just STFU with your superior attitudes and admonitions about how engineering is taught and tested. Yes, I’m an engineer and most of my exams were completely open book.

For others, this is not the case and thus comes the question once again: “How does a professor administer a test or an exam and ensure that the student is not cheating? Taking unauthorized liberties?”

As it turns out, this is not a novel problem and has been around for some time. There are, however, companies solving this problem.

How do they solve the cheat from home problem, Big Red Car?

The pivotal concept is what is called “digital proctoring” which uses a webcam, observation, Artificial Intelligence to “monitor” the student taking the test.

I think it’s funny that they use “artificial” intelligence to monitor the creation of real intelligence, but that may just be me.

So, who does it, Big Red Car?

Not a comprehensive list:

Proctorio (founded in 2013)

Examity (2013, raised $90MM in 2019, used by more than 500 colleges and private employers)

Honorlock (2014)

ProctorU (2008)

There are others, but here are some who are in the game right now. It is important to note that none of these companies has been at it for a long time because we haven’t really had this problem — the monitoring/proctoring of online learning tests and exams — for a long time.

Market size, Big Red Car?

Surprisingly, this is a substantial market — $4B in 2019 growing to an estimated $21B by 2023. That is hard to believe, but those are the same numbers I have found in several places.

Proctorio claims they administered 2,500,000 exams last month which they say is a 900% increase in work flow. Wow!

This is BEFORE the onslaught of finals, so it is particularly impressive.

How does it work, Big Red Car?

As a general proposition, these approaches use a webcam, gaze detection software, perhaps a human observer, key stroke monitoring, checking for the presence of phones or laptops, Artificial Intelligence and lock down the opportunity to use the same computer to use other applications while the test is live.

These programs incorporate features found on such apps as LockDown Browser that prevents the use of other programs as noted above; and, Turnitin which is an anti-plagiarism app.

Huge problems?

Yes, indeed, there are huge problems:

No educator thinks for a second they can eliminate online cheating, any more than they think they can eliminate cheating in the bricks and mortar world.

There are understandably privacy issues. When you signed up to study English at Yale, did you sign up to have some proctor’s eyes studying you in your PJs as you took a test?

Students will use the same ingenuity to cheat online as they used offline. They are going to move the arena, but they are not going to change the game.

Some students just don’t like online learning — it may legitimately not be their learning style — preferring to go to a classroom and listen to a lecture and interface with real people. [If I may diverge for a second, the whole “college experience” is going to change dramatically, far more than using a software product — Blackboard, Canvas, Adobe Connect — to bring the classroom into your home.]

In this brave new world of online learning, there will be changes wrought by the experience. Colleges may like the efficiency of not having to operate classrooms and buildings. Students may like the idea of going to school in their surfing shorts from the beach or in their ski togs from Steamboat Springs when the mountain reopens. A lot of stuff is going to change.

What is not going to change is students trying to cheat and professors trying to prevent them. Now, you know.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be good and don’t cheat. No cheat from