Can Moodle Detect Cheating?


One problem with online learning is that it is very easy for students to cheat in their quizzes, tests, and assignments. Academic dishonesty on distance education platforms, like Moodle, is prevalent. A survey amongst 635 graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in online courses found that 33% of students admitted to cheating in their online classes.

Moodle provides features that enable teachers to reduce students’ ability to cheat, but it cannot detect cheating. Teachers try to prevent cheating by setting time limits for quizzes, creating question banks for tests, and using software plugins for Moodle to promote academic integrity.

Teachers cannot check if students have notes or learning resources open in front of them while taking a quiz at home. While Moodle can track student activity and course participation, it cannot track which web pages or tabs students have open. Teachers have to embrace an open-book approach to assessment on Moodle, but there are a few methods teachers have to curb cheating in their online courses.

Types of Cheating

Academic cheating generally happens in one of three ways:

  1. Students look at notes under examination conditions.
  2. They pay another person to take a test or write an assignment on their behalf.
  3. Students plagiarize from web and academic sources.
  4. Students share test questions and answers amongst themselves.

Moodle on its own cannot detect any of these types of academic cheating. However, Moodle does provide features and settings that teachers can use to make it more difficult for students to cheat on assessments.

It is up to each student to take responsibility for their learning and act with integrity. Unfortunately, there are always some students that will cheat, whether online or in traditional classes.

How Does Moodle Prevent Cheating?

Let us start by establishing what Moodle cannot do:

  • Access your webcam, microphone or personal screen to monitor or record you.
  • See other tabs you have open in your browser.
  • Access your browsing history.
  • Track your IP address or location.

So, what features does Moodle have to encourage integrity amongst online learners?

When students sign up to Moodle, they agree to its privacy policy and permit it to collect and store certain data about students’ activity on the site. Teachers can review students progress with their online course, see what learning resources were accessed and for how long.

Other features that prevent cheating are the following:

  • Teachers can set a time limit for a quiz, and they can see how much time it takes a student to answer each question.
  • The default setting for Moodle quizzes is that a single question is asked at a time. This makes it harder for students to screenshot and share questions or answers amongst themselves.
  • Teachers can create a question bank for a quiz.

Because Moodle does not detect direct cheating by students, it is primarily up to teachers to learn to use Moodle in a way that makes it more difficult for students to cheat.

Online quizzes are essentially open-book and open-note tests. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Teachers can adapt their assessment style to the new open-book format, testing students’ critical thinking skills rather than just their ability to memorize.

How to Prevent Cheating on a Moodle Quiz

In many ways, Moodle makes it easier for teachers to prevent cheating by providing useful settings and tools. Moodle is an open-source platform, and there are many software plugins available that are aimed to promote academic integrity.

The Moodle interface is designed to be very user-friendly so that even the least tech-savvy teachers can move their lessons online. However, many teachers need guidance on how to use the software in a way that deters cheating.

Time Limits for Quiz Activities

The easiest way teachers can discourage cheating is by setting time limits for quizzes. If students only have a short amount of time to answer a set of questions, they will not be able to study their notes, textbook, or search Google for the answer to every single question.

Teachers can also view students’ activity reports and see how long it takes them to answer each question. If a student takes abnormally long to answer a few questions, it indicates cheating.

Consider the subject and the type of question when setting a time limit for an assessment. It may require some experimentation and adjustment.

It is simple to set a time limit – when setting up the Moodle Quiz, click the Time Limit checkbox, and set the amount of time.

Set a Question Bank for a Quiz

Teachers must set a far greater number of questions than in the quiz to create a question bank. They do not have to write all the questions, as many textbook publishers provide massive sets of questions that one can import into Moodle directly.

Moodle allows teachers to organize their question bank and create categories and subcategories for different subjects, topics, and easy, medium and challenging questions.

Teachers can then easily create a challenging, balanced quiz by generating a randomized set of questions. Each student gets a unique set of questions to not compare answers or share test scripts.

Hide Review Quiz Summary

To prevent students from reviewing answers and feedback, teachers should set the review options for the Moodle quiz activity so that the full quiz review summary is hidden until after the test period has ended.  Students can share questions and answers with classmates who have not yet done the quiz.

Turnitin

Students often cheat by writing their answers straight from web sources or even academic sources without even paraphrasing. A Turnitin software plugin available for Moodle enables teachers to automatically scan students’ submitted work for plagiarism.

Turnitin has been used by tertiary institutions for a long time and has a very reliable reputation. Students can scan their work through Turnitin before submitting it to check the authenticity of their work and prevent any plagiarism. Teachers can access an originality report for each assignment that gives a similarity score as a percentage.

One downside of Turnitin is that one needs to pay for the service. This may not be a problem for lecturers or teachers at schools and universities as the cost is usually covered by the institution. But it can get expensive for independent teachers.

Proctoring

A software plugin is available for Moodle that enables proctoring during the period a student attempts a quiz. Proctoring is a form of digital invigilation to deter students from cheating during tests.

Before starting a quiz, the student must grant permission for the software to use their web camera. Students cannot access an examination if they do not grant permission. A picture is captured every 30 seconds, and teachers can easily check for any suspicious movements or activities during the test.

Third-party proctoring software, like Examity, collects and stores students biometric keystroke data, detects eye movements, can access students’ computer screens and webcams. These programs must be independently downloaded by students and used in conjunction with Moodle.

Cheaters Will Cheat

Unfortunately, some students will always find creative new ways to crib and cheat the system. With all its academic integrity features and even some of the higher-end proctoring software, Moodle can only deter cheaters, not stop them. There is no way for software to detect if students cheat directly by using notes.

Often students are faced with enormous volumes of course content to take in, and the pressure to perform is high because of competition for a place in the workforce. Students will often do anything it takes to succeed, including cheating.

Teachers Should Set More Difficult Questions

Teachers can embrace the new open-book assessment modality and set test questions differently. An end to easy-to-cheat quizzes that rely of students’ rote memorization may not be such a bad thing.

By asking more complex questions that test students critical thinking skills rather than just recalling facts, teachers should allow students to use notes and resources during their quizzes and assessment activities.

One could even encourage collaboration amongst students, allowing them to communicate and discuss questions as a class. This will help them develop a summative understanding of the coursework.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the onus is on students participating in their online course assessment with integrity. There are only preventative measures that teachers can take to curb cribbing.

Thankfully, the open-source learning management platform, Moodle, has features and plugins that teachers can use to prevent cheating during quizzes. These include setting time limits for quizzes, only allowing students to answer one question at a time, and only letting students view the quiz review summary at the end of the assessment period.

Moodle also enables teachers to create a question bank with many more questions than in the quiz. Moodle then randomizes the questions (ensuring a good mixture of easy, moderate, and difficult questions) and gives each student a unique test.

Plagiarism detection plugins, like Turnitin, are available for Moodle so that teachers can automatically scan students’ submissions for originality.

On its own, Moodle cannot access students’ browser history, tabs, personal screen, microphone, or webcam. There are third-party apps that can be used in conjunction with Moodle for proctoring during assessments.

References:
https://www.masterteachingonline.com/does-moodle-check-for-plagiarism/
https://www.masterteachingonline.com/can-professors-see-what-you-access-on-moodle/
https://moodle.org/plugins/quizaccess_proctoring

Glen Brown

I am a Technical Trainer and Manager with over 20 years experience in IT, Education and Business. I have multiple qualifications on each topic including post graduate qualifications. I have a passion for sharing knowledge and using technology to do this. If you would like to know more about me please see the about page of the website.

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