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Widespread cheating at exams, students claim: »Most people are doing it«

It is all monkey business doing digital tests, according to two students. More exam checks are on the way, says the University of Copenhagen.

It has got pretty easy to cheat at the exams at the University of Copenhagen after the covid pandemic moved the written on-site campus exams out to students’ private homes. This is according to two students speaking out to the University Post. Instead of doing the exams on their own, in accordance with regulations, students set up groups to do exam assignments together.

»Before corona, we would sit three or four hours in an indoor sports hall under the eye of exam attendants. Now the same exams are done online where you are alone at home,« says an anonymous student, whose identity has been disclosed to the newsroom.

An on-site exam may be either with or without study aids or materials, but it is a requirement that the student solves the assignment on their own.

There is no supervision or control.

Anonymous student

»What many people do is sit together on Zoom or on Skype and solve the assignments together. Afterwards, they sign a solemn declaration that they have not cheated,« says a student. »There is no supervision or control.«

The University of Copenhagen checks the assignments for plagiarism with software, and registered twice as many cheating cases as usual in 2020, according to the media Akademikerbladet.

The students who spoke to the University Post, reckon that more students do it, however:

»Because this type of cheating is not discovered, it is not registered. People are fairly open about it. Most people are doing it.«

Individual students face ethical dilemma

The students that the University Post have been in contact with say that they have knowledge of cheating taking place on Mathematics, Economics and Medicine programmes. The University Post does not have information to suggest that these programmes might be particularly afflicted with students who cheat.

»Almost 100 per cent of the students that I have talked to have done it,« says one of them.

Exam cheating affects the students who do not cheat.

»It makes the students think: When all the others do it, why should I not do it,« says one of the students, who claims that they do not cheat themselves:

»I’ve never cheated myself, but I’m also fairly strong academically. My co-student had difficulty at one exam, but did not cheat either. She failed on her third attempt, while others just did their exam in groups and passed. This is not fair.«

The anonymous student has heard of groups of up to eight students who complete their exam assignments together.

More supervision possible

At the University of Southern Denmark, at-home exams are covered by a lot more supervision than at the University of Copenhagen. If you are at an online exam, it is a requirement that you are on Zoom with the camera switched on. At the other end, there is an exam attendant who keeps an eye on you to make sure you are not talking to others in the room or on the screen.

To prevent you from writing to others, the student must have a programme installed that keeps an eye on what is happening on the computer while the exam is in progress.

At the University of Copenhagen, vice director for the Education & Students unit Rie Snekkerup says that they are aware that the amount of cheating is greater than what they have been able to register.

I’m going to do it at the next exam as well.

Anonymous student

»The written [normally on-site, ed.] exams have, in particular, not worked optimally during the corona lockdown,« she says.

The University of Copenhagen primarily uses the plagiarism system Urkund to detect cheating. This cross-references the assignment text with other texts on the internet and other assignments. »You can also take a sample. By calling up students and asking them, ‘how did you solve this assignment?’,« says Rie Snekkerup.

If you are caught cheating, you risk a reprimand, quarantine or, in serious cases, expulsion from university.

If you ask Rie Snekkerup where, on this scale, the type of cheating where students work together on individual assignments is, she says:

»This is grave. This is very serious.

Enough for getting expelled?

»I don’t want to stick my neck out on this, but this is grave, because you have signed a declaration. This could very well be a basis for being expelled,« she says. »It’s a shame that students are cheating. I don’t know who it gives an advantage to in the final instance. This can backfire seriously, either in your further studies, or when you reach working life and there are things that you cannot do.«

But Rie Snekkerup says that she has confidence in students in general:

»I would like to maintain that we trust that the majority of students comply with the rules. We have confidence in students behaving properly.«

Testing new monitoring system on quota 2 admissions exams

They will need this trust. Because the at-home exams look like they are going to continue.

»We are working on being able to take on-site exams at home, also after corona,« says Rie Snekkerup. »We currently have an online surveillance system in the pipeline, which can be used for these exams and thereby reduce the risk of cheating. When we get the chance, it will be up to the study boards and instructors to decide what type they would prefer to use.«

Rie Snekkerup adds that the university has now clarified the legal framework so that it is possible to increase the monitoring of students.

»We have not had this until now. We had a different system in the pipeline eighteen months ago, but this was stopped, partly because it was not in accordance with GDPR. We need to make sure we do not get sensitive personal data like medical certificates, CPR numbers, etc. from the student’s computer. Now that this framework is in place, we are going to test it on the quota 2 admissions tests.«

According to one of the students that the University Post spoke to, more monitoring would solve the cheating problem.

This student met the same fellow student online at several previous exams.

»I’m going to do it at the next exam as well.«

Why?

»Because it is possible. It’s a huge competition to get good grades. So when there is no supervision, I see no reason not to.«

Grade levels have generally not changed during the corona shutdowns at the University of Copenhagen.

The University Post knows the identity of the anonymous students in this article.

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