This content was published: June 5, 2018. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.
Beware: Your testbank questions are out there
Posted by Greg Kaminski
This is a good thing to keep in mind as we approach finals week. Regardless of the underlying intent, there are plenty of ways for students to share testbank questions. The recent Inside Higher Ed article “Learning Tool or Cheating Aid” highlights how learning tools such as Quizlet can also be used by students to share exam questions. It’s an eye opening article with a different perspective, certainly worth reading. On a related note, have you ever tried a google search for a few of your exam questions? Give it a try sometime. You might be surprised.
The problem is not really with Quizlet and similar tools, which are designed to provide excellent learning aids for students. (See recent blog post by Ron Bekey. Also see the Online Classroom article “Promote active learning with Quizlet” referenced below.) These companies also take steps to promote academic integrity, but their options are limited. Much of it comes down to what we do as instructors, and how we design our assessments. There are a number of important best practices that come out of this, and here are a couple of crucial ones.
Use quizzes more for formative assessments, not summative
Quizzes can make an excellent learning tool for students. When quizzes are designed as a low-stakes self-check tool, students have little reason to search for alternative sources of answers, and they can benefit greatly from the immediate feedback provided. Try to rely on alternate forms of summative assessment when possible.
Change your exam questions
If the quiz tool has to be used for summative assessment, change the exam questions regularly. Even full test banks are out there available for students who are actively searching for that option, so it’s best to include some of your own questions.
Randomize questions and answer choices
If you do have to use some questions from previous exams, at least randomize the questions, and better yet, randomize the answer choices. This is easy to do within Brightspace.
Set a time limit for exams. Set them up to reveal only one question at a time where students cannot go back. When possible, use essay or short answer type questions. Relate questions to instructor-generated content, even to student-generated content, e.g. from a discussion. When possible, require students to create answers rather than find them. Have students sign or even create an honor code for the class. In another recent article, Brian Udermann points out that “research indicates that students cheat more when they believe that cheating is a student norm. Whatever you can do to make academic honesty a class norm might help reduce the chance of cheating.”
Bekey, Ron, Breaking up boring content with Quizlet, April 2018
McKenzie, Lindsay, Learning Tool or Cheating Aid, Inside Higher Ed, May 14, 2018.
Mullins, Amy, Barthlow-Potkanowicz, Deanna, Tips from the pros: Promote active learning with Quizlet, Online Classroom, Magna Publications, May 1, 2018. (Direct access below)
Udermann, Brian, (Mis) Perceptions about Cheating in Online Classes, Sloan conference presentation, March 2014.
To Access all Online Classroom articles:
- Log into D2L Brightspace.
- From the drop down “Instructional Resources” link in the navigation bar, select “Access Magna Publications.”
- Click on “Newsletter: Online Classroom Archive.” You’ll see the current articles, and you can access the archives as well.