Online exam cheating claims: University of Auckland markers warned to be extra vigilant

reportedly been shared in group chats, that function is not being used

Exam markers at the University of Auckland are being told to look carefully for “any evidence of collusion” following claims of widespread cheating in online exams.

The university is investigating claims cheating is “prolific” in the exams, which are being held online to provide consistency in case of future Covid-19 lockdowns.

Answers have reportedly been shared in group chats and it’s been claimed some students are taking tests in the same room.

The university’s spokeswoman said staff were aware and were “looking carefully for any evidence of collusion, and plagiarism”.

A student had contacted a staff member with concerns about “planned academic misconduct during a recent online exam”, she said.

The original complaint was related to an online science exam. The spokeswoman said such exams would contain multi-choice questions as well as short answers and extended short essay sections.

A first-year Commerce student has since contacted the Herald to say he had heard of cheating in other subjects, with students gathering in accommodation halls, sharing answers and doing each other’s tests.

He said while it was easier to cheat on exams with multi-choice answers, cheating was still possible with longer written answers, particularly if people were in the same room.

Some of the exams were open-book, which could make people feel it wasn’t so bad to ask classmates for help.

“As an individual who has studied very hard I feel robbed and that my hard work has gone to waste,” he said.

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But another first-year student said she had seen no evidence of cheating – just students supporting each other in online groups before the tests began.

All group chats and discord servers she used were closed or locked before exams started, she said.

Online exams had been hugely helpful for students who suffered from anxiety – and their mental health could be jeopardised by others cheating, she said.

“We all understand that online exams won’t last forever, but especially for us first-years it’s given us a chance to ease into our tertiary education without worrying ourselves sick.”

She and her peers would be “absolutely furious” if their exams were moved offline.

University: No invigilation but we have “mechanisms to detect cheating”

reportedly been shared in group chats, that function is not being used

Exam tutors will be looking closely for evidence of collusion or plagiarism, the university says. Photo / Getty Images

A spokeswoman told the Herald a student had contacted a staff member with concerns about “planned academic misconduct during a recent online exam”.

“Consequently, tutors were warned to be extra vigilant regarding academic misconduct in light of these allegations.

“The university has mechanisms to detect cheating and will follow up and penalise where there is evidence of breaches.”

Covid-19 had brought exams largely online, she said.

“We have continued with this practice in some programmes to provide students with certainty about the assessment process in light of potential changes in Covid alert levels.

“We will continue to investigate ways to ensure that the highest standards of academic integrity are maintained and the small number of students failing to uphold these do not adversely impact on others.”

The exams are held on a platform called Inspera. It has a monitoring function called Safe Exam Browser which is meant to prevent cheating, but that function is not being used, according to the university website.

The spokeswoman confirmed the exams were not being invigilated.

However, “the university does have plagiarism detection software integrated in Inspera that does detect collusion and cheating. Incidences of this have already been detected and students will be appropriately penalised and reported,” she said.

A reminder about the academic integrity process had been sent to all course directors and tutors who had exams this semester.

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