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Cheating gets harder as universities up their detection game

For those who want to cheat on their exams, there is the technology. But now universities are escalating

As previously reported, the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) has implemented frequency scanners that can detect wireless activity to help prevent cheating during exams.

But this is just one of many technological solutions pursued by the universities. As cheat-detectors the institutions are in a constant game of cat and mouse with the cheaters.

Even with guards, closed-circuit computers and frequency scanners, there will still be devices that access the net using signals that the scanners cannot detect. And then new solutions have to be thought up.

“In terms of technology, the simplest thing would be to block all traffic. This can be done within a very specific parameter using relatively simple means, but it’s illegal under international conventions on telecommunication. They can be very restrictive,” says Asbjørn Jessen, section head of University Education Services at UCPH.

Universities working together

“So far, the exam house at Peter Bangs Vej is the best solution we have. But if we look to the future, it’s unclear what will work as the next technological step,” he says.

Aside from the challenge of written exams on campus, UCPH also has controls in place to check assignments written off-campus for plagiarism. A programme developed by Ephorus that compares billions of essays from thousands of schools, universities, academic journals and so on.

UCPH is also planning to pool resources with other Danish universities to invest in an even more effective solution to prevent cheating at exams.

Permanent arms race

There is a constant demand for solutions to fight plagiarism. And there are plenty of people thinking up ideas to meet that demand.

Existing programs that check for plagiarism look for recycled material, but if you’ve hired someone else to write your essay, current software can’t detect it.

Authorship authentication programmes, that profile students based on their existing body of work, can build a ‘written fingerprint’ and thus help determine authorship. So far, they aren’t entirely consistent, but it’s only a matter of time before accurate programs are developed.

“You could call it a technological arms race. But the problem with cheating is nothing new, and is unlikely to go away. The solution therefore cannot be purely technological. We should use all available means to prevent cheating, of course: information, education and available technologies,” says Asbjørn Jessen of UCPH.

“And we also need to make it 100 percent clear that cheating has serious consequences.”

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