Best Ways to Prevent Cheating in Online Courses

Don McCabe's in-depth study revealed that over 64% of surveyed learners admitted to cheating, 95% said they plagiarised, and 95% indicated they had participated in cheating on exams, plagiarism, or copying homework. Unfortunately, cheating rates among undergraduate and postgraduate students have only increased since the introduction of online courses. Research by ProctorU reveals that one in fourteen students broke the rules, accounting for 14 times greater misconduct rate.

As the popularity of online courses shows no sign of slowing down, it's time for teachers and school administration to rethink how they conduct online exams and distribute homework. Fortunately, today, academic institutes and teachers are dealing with cheating and misconduct by using digital proctoring tools and innovative teaching strategies. In this blog post, we'll share the top techniques you can employ to combat the rise in misconduct and cheating during online exams. This will empower students to unlock their inner greatness and gain degrees by a fair means:

How Do Online Students Cheat?

With nine out of ten college candidates admitting to cheating, it's fair to say their methods continue to evolve. Since there's no denying that candidates cheat during an online test, you must learn how they go about it to prevent it:


Undoubtedly a popular cheating technique, plagiarism, is when learners submit content not written or created by them. The students then hide the original work by not referencing it, paraphrasing it, or failing to mention it.

Conspire with Others to Receive Information in Advance

Another method learners use to cheat during an online test or exam is by gaining access to test banks or answers. This way, they know what to prepare for. Moreover, they copy-paste the answers into a word document and open it when solving their exam paper.

Have Someone Else Do it For Them

A popularly used cheating trick by students, a candidate's chances of asking someone else to impersonate and take their exam are higher during an online exam. They ask a high-achieving student to impersonate and sit for an exam.

Look Things Up While Taking an Exam

Students find it hard to sneak in smartphones or other high-tech equipment in offline exams. But during online exams, it's pretty easy to grab your mobile, search, and get all the answers correct.
Some candidates also use Bluetooth-powered devices and AR glasses to cheat on a test.

Unauthorized Collaboration

Invigilating during an online exam is comparatively tricky, mainly because students can easily share their screens during their tests. As a result, a friend or a third party provides assistance or answers. In some cases, students have a friend or family member in the same room who writes the answers in blockchain or whispers them to them.

Tips for Preventing Cheating

According to research, 73.8% of surveyed students believe it's easier to cheat during an online examination. As cheating rates continue to rise, teachers must do their part to stop it. Here we discuss ways your educational institution can combat cheating and misconduct in online courses:

Introduce Varied Questions/Answers

Replace multiple choice (MCQs) and true and false questions with open-ended questions. Since these questions require in-depth explanations, students cannot copy their friends’ responses.
Moreover, students must write their answers with specific details in narratives that speak volumes about their subject understanding of the concepts.

Add Questions that Correspond to a Higher Order Thinking

Dotch the MCQs you've used on your past hundred tests with synthesis, analysis, and evaluation. By adding such questions, you'll encourage candidates to work harder.

Use Question Pools

Avoid using a fixed number of questions for your test or assessment. Instead, choose a question pool where you group items depending on the topic, subject matter, question's difficulty, or question type.

Authenticate Identities of Test-Takers

Ensure students don't request a friend or 3rd party to take their exam by verifying their true identity.
An excellent method of determining the test taker's real identity is employing a proctoring software to compare the student's ID to their biometric profile.

Reiterate Academic Policies to Deter Students

Before starting an online exam, curate a video or a document discussing the test guidelines.
Remember to review the academic integrity policy of your institution and repercussions. Hearing the integrity policy before the assessment can discourage students from cheating.

Ask Students to Sign an Electronic Contract

Once students have watched your academic integrity policy video, request them to sign am electronic contract that discusses what the educational institution considers cheating and its repercussions.

Distribute Multiple Versions of Your Test

An excellent tactic to combat cheating is by creating multiple versions of a test. Thus, if students take the test together in the same physical place, they won't have similar questions.

Display Questions One-at-a-Time

Avoid adding the "All at Once" viewing option for exams with over five questions.
Enabling students to display all questions simultaneously, they may take a screen capture or click an image and circulate it within their friend group. Viewing fewer questions discourages students from doing this as it requires more effort and time.

Set a Timer

If your institution is not using proctoring software during an online test, enabling the "Set Timer" option is wise. As a result, students who prepare for the test can complete it on time, while those who rely on books and notes may lose time and risk not finishing on time.

Create a Plan to Solve Technical Issues

Run several mock online exams before conducting the real one to allow candidates to familiarize themselves with the intricacies of taking an online test. Moreover, switch test settings to close automatically when students disconnect or exit.

Randomize Question/Problems

Educational institutions can combat cheating in an online exam by randomizing the selection questions and their order. Consequently, it's unlikely candidates will receive similar problems in one particular sequence. As a result, it makes it challenging for candidates to copy answers.

Eliminate the Ability to Backtrack

Remove the backtracking feature from your online examination. By doing so, you require students to solve the paper according to what they've learned.

Protect the Answers to Test Question

Here's the thing: test banks and homework-help sites make it super easy for learners to find and share questions. Thus, your goal should be taking charge and hiding your test questions. You may use proctoring software or tools that gains data from all over the internet to find any leaked questions.

Set a Different Time for Score Availability

Instead of allowing students to view test scores instantly, set it for sometime later. As a result, candidates who finish their paper early can't go around advising other students still finishing it.

What Different Ways are Colleges Working Towards Eliminating Cheating?

Today, colleges worldwide are introducing various techniques and tactics to overcome cheating in online courses.

Here are a few top ways educational institutions are achieving their goal:

  • Colleges and universities ask candidates to report to campus for proctored exams which check their ID and stay alert in case suspicious activity arises;

  • Leverage a keystroke verification software that helps identify a candidate's typing speed, rhythm, and various additional characteristics to prevent cheating;

  • Faculties use various testing methods to ensure students don't gain questions or receive leaked answers;

  • Reading and signing an honor code is an effective way of deterring students from cheating.


What are the reasons students cheat?

Most students cheat due to the following three reasons:

  • Pressure. The dire need to attain an excellent GPA for a scholarship and avoid academic probation forces students to work full-time.

  • Competitiveness. Students are taught at a young age that winning is everything. It fosters a competitive mindset which causes them to turn to questionable tactics to achieve the perfect score.

  • Lack of Preparation. Some students may be unable to put in the effort due to extracurricular activities, family trauma, anxiety, etc. which tempts them to cheat.

How does cheating affect the teacher?

Cheating can cause emotional distress to faculty members who consider it a violation
of trust, a shortcoming on their part, and inability to deliver knowledge. Moreover, it can cause underproduction of knowledge.

What can I as a teacher do after catching a candidate cheat?

After catching a student cheat, ensure you're acting reasonably. Remember to note down the description of cheating incidents and reprecrussions to ensure you take appropriate steps. Consider talking to the candidate privately, avoid expressing anger, and don't embarrass them.