A Robust Examination of Cheating on Unproctored Online Exams

Authors

  • Richard Fendler Department of Finance, Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University, USA https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8222-1215
  • David Beard Department of Finance, Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University, USA https://orcid.org/0009-0002-8679-1589
  • Jonathan Godbey Department of Finance, Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University, USA

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.34190/ejel.22.5.3173

Keywords:

Academic dishonesty, Cheating, Online education, Unproctored online exams, Proctored in-class exams

Abstract

The rapid growth of online education, especially since the pandemic, is presenting educators with numerous challenges. Chief among these is concern about academic dishonesty, especially on unproctored online exams. Students cheating on exams is not a new phenomenon. The topic has been discussed and debated within institutions of higher learning, and significant levels of cheating have been reported in the academic literature for over sixty years. Much of this literature, however, has focused on student behavior in a classroom utilizing proctored, in-class exams. Grades on exams usually determine most of a student’s final grade in a course, and GPAs are used by employers and graduate schools to indicate a student’s subject matter mastery. As more conventional colleges and universities expand their online course offerings it is natural to wonder if academic dishonesty is more prevalent in online classes than in face-to-face classes. In particular, are students more likely to cheat when no one is watching (i.e., on unproctored assessment assignments) than they do when someone is watching (i.e., on proctored assessment assignments)? The purpose of this study is to investigate whether students cheat more on unproctored online exams than they do on proctored in-classroom exams, and if so, is there any pattern to their cheating behavior. Our findings are derived from careful empirical analysis of 741 undergraduate students who completed three unproctored online exams, several collaboration-encouraged assignments, and a proctored in-class comprehensive final exam in the same course with the same instructor. Additionally, we collected demographic and human capital data for every student. Using bivariate and regression analysis, we find significant evidence of more cheating on unproctored online exams than on proctored in-class exams even though students were given stern honor code violation warnings. Moreover, we discover that student cheating increased with each unproctored online exam, implying that students learn how to cheat as they become more familiar with taking online assessment assignments. Finally, we find that students with certain demographic and human capital characteristics tend to cheat more than others. This research strongly supports the use of proctoring for all evaluation assignments in online classes to ensure that grades in these classes properly reflect student aptitude as opposed to merely reflecting their ability to cheat.

Author Biographies

Richard Fendler, Department of Finance, Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University, USA

Clinical Professor 

 

 

David Beard, Department of Finance, Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University, USA

Senior Lecturer 

 

Jonathan Godbey, Department of Finance, Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University, USA

Clinical Associate Professor

 

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Published

8 May 2024

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Articles