Preventing Cheating in MOOC's

In an article in Campus Technology, Dian Schaffnauser published information on students cheating in MOOCs that MIT discovered through some rather fancy algorithms.

Researchers from MIT and Harvard University have uncovered a new cheating scheme specific to MOOCs. As they explain in a working paper freely available online, some students are taking advantage of design features that allow for the creation of multiple accounts for a MOOC platform. They use some of the accounts to ferret out the right and wrong answers to quizzes; then they use one remaining account to submit only the correct answers.

Most of the cheaters seem to be in other countries, but the article serves as a good reminder that you can help to prevent cheating with some good best practices.

Preventing CAMEO (the name they have given this form of cheating) may be as simple as mixing up the questions from one test-taker to the next or withholding answers until after all assignments are due, according to the report. But content providers will have to consider the trade-offs. For example, the report said, “If instructors withhold the ‘show answer’ option until after the problems are graded, this would constrain generally desirable asynchronous MOOC usage, and students will not have the rapid feedback touted as a pedagogical benefit of online learning environments.” Also, randomizing questions are easier in some types of courses than others.

These, quite frankly, are just simple online best practices for course designers. So, we thought we’d show you how to employ them, just in case.

Mixing up the questions form one test-taker to the next. Click here to view example.

This is done by using the “Random block of ___ questions” setting. To set this up for use, create or import your questions into your repository folders, creating a question bank. Then, when creating the test, select the many questions from the question bank you’d like the test to cover. In the test settings, select “Random block of ___ questions” setting and enter the number of questions you want on each test-taker’s test. (You can later select question you want on EACH test, no matter what the rest of the questions are, just FYI. This is especially good for the essay questions.) An example would be to have 100 possible questions in the question bank, then set the number of randomized questions to say, 40. Each test-taker will see 40 questions but each person’s test will be so randomized as to WHEN the question appears and WHICH 40 of the 100 appear, that it makes cheating much more difficult. See screenshot.

Lastly, the article suggests: The researchers are ultimately hoping that course content creators will put some of the prevention strategies in place. “One of the most interesting lessons from the paper is that there are ways to mitigate cheating that are straightforward and implementable by the teams creating online course content,” Chuang said. “We also expect platform improvements, such as virtual proctoring, to help reduce cheating.” Edvance360 LMS does contain a test proctoring module, should one of our clients desire to use it. For more information on this or the above features, please contact Training at