How Can We Stop Cheating In Online Courses?

This is an excerpt from a longer article in the October issue of Edudemic Magazine for iPad. Be sure to download the free app here and grab the latest issue. It’s packed with plenty of other great stories too!

For as long as classes have been in session, there have been students trying to figure out how to get out of class, or at least how to get away with doing the least amount of work possible for said class. While clearly not every student is trying hard to take the slacker route, it’s worth noting that picking out the students trying to take this route gets a little more complicated when you move from taking classes in person to taking classes online.

When I was teaching at a large, public university a few years back (ok, this was really more like 5-7 years ago, but I figure I can still say ‘a few’ if I’m also convincing myself that I’m still in my twenties, right?), many of the students took the opportunity to take a couple of their classes online.

At the time, it was a relatively new concept for a large, pretty traditional university to do this, and many of the students LOVED it. They would tell me all about how all they needed to do to in order to be ‘present’ for the class was sign into the online system and leave their computer running – the instructor would see that they signed in and ‘stayed’ for the duration of the class.

The testing for the courses that I heard of was online, so the students were pretty psyched that they could try to use the internet to figure out whatever they didn’t know the answers to.

Obviously, online learning has come a long way since then, especially with newer video and online interaction capabilities, it seems as though it must be a bit easier to make sure that students are actually ‘taking’ the class, right?

Recently, a handful of sites have cropped up offering somewhat more than the traditional paper writing services that send many educators (and admissions staff) into soapbox land – they offer to take your online classes for you. Sites like,,  or are trying to appeal to students who feel too busy to take their online class, or are perhaps concerned about a particular class that they know they’ll struggle with. The sites claim they take care of assignments, quizzes, and tests, and most promise at least a B in the course.

I can’t lie: I judge these sites pretty harshly. But I think you’ll agree – it might be unwise to pay someone who promises to “Ace Your Online Class With An A” or assures you that “We will do your homework’s for you” (sic).

Some Common Precautions for Online Honesty

Since keeping everyone honest online can get a bit hairy, knowing a few of the common precautions online education sources use can be helpful.  Institutions often require one or more of the following:

- Identity verification when signing up for the class, often two factor authentication
- IP address verification
- Identity verification when ‘attending’ the class or taking a test, submitting homework, etc. Methods of verification sometimes include questions about a person’s history that only they should know (several websites offer these types of services)
- Pedagogical methods (such as using video interactions between instructors and students, or asking certain types of questions in tests and assignments that make it more difficult for students to cheat as opposed to say, multiple choice questions).

So What Next?

Be sure to download the October issue of Edudemic Magazine to read the full article. 

1 Comment

  1. Douglas W. Green, EdD

    December 4, 2012 at 9:33 am

    In the real world, it’s all about getting something done and done well. As most people work to this end, they employ help from others and search for resources online, which is considered cheating in school. Does that mean that efforts to stop cheating are also efforts to prevent students from engaging in real world activities? Are there ways we can allow students to get help from others and search for information as part of what is expected? Perhaps we need to rethink the nature of the tests/assignments themselves. Readers might be interested in the book “Preventing Plagiarism: Tips and Techniques” by Laura DeSena. Start with my summary at then buy the book. Keep up the good work.