Student surgically implants Bluetooth device into own ear to cheat in final exam
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Student surgically implants Bluetooth device into own ear to cheat in final exam

Student surgically implants Bluetooth device into own ear to cheat in final exam

On a regular basis we hear about very unique cases of students going to extraordinary lengths to gain advantage on an examination. Surgically implanting technology is definitely one of the most extreme we have heard of.

When it comes to online proctored assessments,  often discussions focus on the student’s behavior and a third-party's ability to monitor that behavior. The actual method of assessment is often overlooked as a variable that is within the control of the organization. When the assessment itself is modified for an online application, not only does this increase academic integrity but also reduces student stress by simplifying the online exam proctoring process, and in turn reducing the cost and time associated with proctoring.

Assessments are developed regularly through the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy to help ensure that they are asking appropriate questions and delivering an appropriate assessment.

It was in the early 1940s that a man named Benjamin Bloom identified the need for educational goals to be placed in specific categories,  and believed that by doing so, it would be possible to more accurately predict the performance of college students. Bloom collaborated with a number of other experts and spent 16 years refining and revising this framework. The final version, published as the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives in 1956, offered a framework for education attainment through six orders of learning.  

1. Remember 

2. Understand 

3. Apply 

4. Analyze 

5. Evaluate 

6. Create

Each successive level requires more learning and a greater degree of cognitive processing. 

By using higher orders of Bloom's Taxonomy in an online assessment, organizations can reduce not only their concerns regarding academic integrity,  but also the complexity and thereby the costs associated with remote proctoring.

If we look at each of the levels we can quickly see how questions written to assess at the lower levels require more monitoring and are less effective.

  1. Knowledge Questions
    This would be as simple as “spell rutabaga” or “define representative democracy”, questions that could be searched easily on another browser tab, on a phone, read off notes, or by asking a friend,  and thereby require a proctoring process that monitors the user's computer activities, electronics use, eye movement and the potential presence of others.

  2. Comprehension Questions
    An example of these questions is “Explain the role of citizens in a representative democracy”. This question is subject to the same integrity risks and monitoring requirements as Knowledge Questions (ie: monitors the user's computer activities, electronics use, eye movement and the potential presence of others).

  3. Application Question
    These questions require the student to explain or identify a correct explanation. The answer to this question now requires far more in-depth browsing, reading, and/or discussions in order to determine the correct answer. When the recommendations outlined in the article “Proctoring is only part of the solution“ are implemented (ie: time limitations, large question banks, and randomized questions/answer combinations,  the advantage of external resources is removed and thereby the type of proctoring efforts will focus on verifying the identity and sole participation of the learner (lower cost and less invasive student experience).

    The other three levels further reduce the risk of integrity loss;

    Analysis Questions: eg “Compare and contrast the motives of …”
    Synthesis Question: eg. Create a slogan that expresses the …”
    Evaluation Question: eg. Explain the effect of X on the country's economy.

The next time someone talks about the possibility of unethical behavior by learners in assessments,  rather than looking for increasingly invasive software and biased algorithms,  we suggest that the assessment method is reviewed first. 

Integrity Advocate believes that when entire assessment processes are looked at holistically, solutions can be found that are truly win-win, rather than the default solution being tighter controls and more invasive technology being applied to the students.