Exam Misconduct Rises In Canadian Universities With Online Learning

A management accounting class at the University of British Colombia’s Sauder School of Business has been notified that they will have to retake a midterm exam after some students were found to have cheated during their online examination. The February 10th exam was administered via online testing platform Wiley due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was worth 30% of the students’ final grade.

According to the email sent out by a senior associate dean, there were indications of collaboration amongst some students and the use of online resources like Chegg.com. Chegg.com is a paid study website that provides detailed textbook solutions.

This announcement has prompted numerous complaints from students on various social media platforms. Many students claim to have not cheated and feel they are suffering an extreme punishment while those that cheated are getting a slap on the wrist.

Much of the problem has been attributed to the fact that students were improperly advised that online resources were allowed. The class professor, Kyla Gunderson, notified students two weeks before the exam that it was “open book” and that they were free to “use their textbooks, notes, Google, anything”. She however added that the use of external websites to solicit answers and collaboration between students would result in disciplinary measures.

For some students, the use of Google was open to interpretation. A few anonymously stated that the use of Google could easily lead to different external sites as it is a search engine. Days after the exam, Gunderson clarified that the use of Google was to help lookup terms, definitions, and formulas. Not for copying and pasting questions from the exam directly into the search engine to find an exact answer. She stated that students were expected to exercise reasonable judgement and that the behaviour was clearly academic misconduct.

According to associate dean, Kin Lo, the university deemed a rewrite as the best solution. He however reminded professors to provide clear instructions and rules before any exam process. Gunderson did apologise to students for the unclear instructions. She has however received some backlash from some students in the form of death threats sent to her anonymous inbox.

Increased incidents of misconduct have also been noted at the University of Manitoba, with fraud, cheating, duplicate submissions, and inappropriate collaborations being noted. A report indicated that there were 1,137 cases between September 2019 to August 2020. Up from 706 allegations over the same period before.

The University of Alberta is also grappling with exam cheating as students call for an end to online monitoring services like Exam Lock and Smart Exam Monitoring. These programs monitor and record students while doing online tests and seek to identify suspicious activity that could be cheating.

Some students, like the Student Union vice-president, David Draper, have however complained that this monitoring helps to induce fear, making assessments less effective. He noted such actions as simply reading out questions aloud and having people moving in the background as being flagged.