This Is How Students Cheat in MOOCs (CHE)

August 25, 2015

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Researchers at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have identified a way students are cheating to earn credit in MOOCs. The method is the subject of a working paper, “Detecting and Preventing ‘Multiple-Account’ Cheating in Massive Open Online Courses,” published online on Monday.

According to the researchers, some students are creating at least two accounts in a MOOC — one or more with which to purposely fail assignments in order to discover the correct answers, which they use to ace the assignments in their primary account. The researchers analyzed data from nearly two million course participants in 115 MOOCs offered by MITx and Harvardx, and found that more than 1 percent of the certificates earned appeared to result from this kind of cheating. And among those students who have earned 20 or more certificates, 25 percent had used this strategy to cheat.

To combat the cheating, the researchers recommend that solutions not be given out until an assignment is past due and that questions be randomized so they’re not identical among all students.

About Ryan C. Fowler

Ryan is a curricular fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington D.C. He also teaches at Franklin and Marshall College and Lancaster Theological Seminary.
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