UC Berkeley faculty tackles academic dishonesty during remote learning

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Campus faculty and instructors have created ways to tackle potential academic dishonesty during remote learning. Certain deterrents include scores below zero if caught cheating, multicamera video recordings during testing and an online exam proctoring software called Honorlock.

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Campus faculty and instructors have created ways to tackle and address academic dishonesty during remote learning in fall and spring 2020.

Rhea Sood, a campus sophomore who took Chemistry 1A during fall 2020, said students took advantage of the class’s end-of-lecture quizzes, which were graded for completion. Sood said some students uploaded blank pages or used answers from previous quizzes.

“With the whole virtual semester, it’s a lot easier for students to cheat on tests, especially when you’re taking them online,” Sood said.

An anonymous student who took Data 8 in spring 2021 was accused of academic dishonesty on the final exam. The student, who requested anonymity out of fear of retribution, said the course staff offered accused students a choice between a 10% penalty on their overall grades or an escalation. The student said their biggest issue with the accusation was that they were deemed “guilty until proven innocent.”

At the start of remote learning in spring 2020, the Academic Senate offered guidance regarding best practices for remote examinations, including proctoring suggestions and alternatives to traditional exams, such as take-home essays. They published the recommendations April 2.

As remote learning continued into summer and fall, a number of classes began proctoring exams via Zoom. Computer Science 161 had students join a Zoom meeting with cameras on using a secondary device during exams. If course staff noticed anything suspicious, the student would be given a subsequent “oral quiz” where the student explained their answers, according to CS 161 lecturer Nicholas Weaver.

“This allows us to both do a policy that’s low stress for the students and critically is able to handle exceptions without just going directly to ‘the student cheated,’ ” Weaver said. “Instead, we’re going to follow up and double-check things.”

CS 161 also developed a penalty policy. Weaver said if a student was caught cheating on a project worth 50 points, they would receive a score of 50 points below zero. This was because if the student received a zero, cheating would still be the “rational” option according to Weaver. They calculated rationality by multiplying the potential score received through cheating with the probability of being caught. Weaver added that CS 61C also followed the same policy.

Justin Pau, a campus junior who took CS 61C in the fall, said it seemed like more students were fine with being recorded compared to when he took CS 70 during the summer. Pau added that the course staff from CS 70 were “really stressing the students out” as they threatened to give students a zero on the exam if students “messed up” the recording.

“A lot of kids were not on board with it. They felt their privacy was violated,” Pau said. “Other students complained that they didn’t want to spend more money on tripods and stuff to hold the camera.”

Shobhana Stoyanov, a continuing lecturer in the department of statistics, changed her proctoring policies for Statistics 20 after students posted midterm questions to Chegg. For the final, Stoyanov said students had to record themselves. If the course staff suspected cheating, they would watch the student’s recording.

Stoyanov added that stress levels are very high on campus and that students may feel pressured to cheat. Stoyanov believes most students who do cheat feel bad about it afterward.

“People have pressures at Berkeley, I understand,” Stoyanov said. “But I go out of my way to catch (academic dishonesty) because it’s unfair to everyone else.”

Campus’s Haas School of Business implemented an online exam proctoring software called Honorlock that works in conjunction with bCourses quizzes, according to Fernando Corral, Senior Learning Technologies specialist at Haas. Corral said the program uses artificial intelligence detection software and online video proctoring while allowing instructors to customize security settings.

Haas began evaluating the program during fall 2020 and expanded its use through spring 2021, according to Corral. Haas plans to continue to use Honorlock on an “as-needed basis” as campus transitions back into in-person instruction.

“I think (academic dishonesty) has been greater (in the past year), but I fault the instructors for exam design,” Weaver said. “There were too many exams where the incentives were such that it would be irrational not to cheat.”

Contact Christopher Ying at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @ChrisYingg.