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Do Your Students Use Wikipedia & Google During Tests?

At a recent conference, two instructional technologists from a mid-size university (they didn’t want their university named in this article) stopped by our exhibit to tell us about an experience they had with Respondus LockDown Browser.

A few weeks earlier, the two instructional technologists were working with a history professor who was dismayed that students were using Google to obtain answers for the online quizzes in the course. Even worse, the professor was in the classroom at the time that students were taking the quizzes, but he had no idea that cheating was occurring until other students reported the problem.  

To examine the issue further, the professor used Google and Wikipedia to see if he could find correct answers for questions that were on a recent quiz. He first Googled the full question wording (excluding the answer choices) for each of the 25 multiple choice questions. The Google search found word-for-word matches for 4 of the 25 questions. Although he wasn’t thrilled that these four questions were so easily found, it seemed reasonable considering that most of the quiz questions were drawn from a publisher question bank (and hence used by hundreds of teachers around the world). But as he did alternate searches on the remaining questions, he was surprised at how quickly he could come up with correct answers. He decided to limit the searches to Google and Wikipedia and he allotted a maximum of one minute per question. Even so, he was able to find correct answers for over half of the remaining questions.

It was then that the professor contacted the instructional technology staff at his university, looking for ideas on how to combat this problem. Should he walk around the room during the quizzes to monitor the screens of each student? Should he go back to using printed quizzes and grade them by hand?

As coincidence would have it (this is true!), their college had obtained a pilot license for Respondus LockDown Browser a couple of weeks earlier. The instructional technology staff was still testing the software, but they encouraged the professor to give it a try. When they followed up with the professor a week later, he reported that he gave a quiz using Respondus LockDown Browser the previous day. Everything went smoothly, he explained, although the grades for several of the students had dropped significantly when compared to scores on earlier quizzes. Probably not a statistical anomaly, they all agreed!

This story illustrates a simple solution to a problem that has become common in online testing. Computer technology has revolutionized the learning process, but has also opened the door for digital cheating. Assessments are supposed to determine the knowledge of students, not their searching skills. If students are able to access search engines during a quiz, open other applications or documents, send instant messages to classmates, print or copy the assessment, or view other areas of the online course while taking an assessment, then faculty will be reluctant to embrace the online delivery of assessments.

Respondus LockDown Browser doesn’t solve all forms of cheating. Students can still use cell phones, digital cameras, and even slips of paper with notes -- just as with printed tests. But in a proctored environment, Respondus LockDown Browser eliminates the cheating that occurs on the computer being used to take the assessment.  

If you’d like to learn more about Respondus LockDown Browser, view the demonstration movie or go to the following page for product information:

A 2-month free pilot license for both the Windows and Macintosh version of Respondus LockDown Browser is available to institutions that license the Blackboard Learning System or WebCT. Either contact your Respondus account manager or fill out the last page of the license agreement that's available at .


Related Articles
Respondus LockDown Browser - Final Release Available
Respondus LockDown Browser - Macintosh Version Available

Source: Respondus, Inc. (
Originally Published: Nov 13, 2006

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