No Evidence of Cheating Found for Two Online Open Book Exams With Different Time Limits

No Evidence of Cheating Found for Two Online Open Book Exams With Different Time Limits

What is this Research About?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some instructors converted their traditionally in-person supervised exams to open-book online assessments. In this study, two online open-book assessments were analyzed for evidence of cheating, as academic integrity was a concern for unsupervised online exams. The mid-semester and end of semester exams in this study both consisted of six long essay questions that required students to apply their knowledge. Students had 50 minutes to complete the first exam and four hours to complete the final exam and the researchers were interested in whether the longer time limit would permit cheating on the final exam.

What did the Researchers Do?

The researchers analyzed the results of two exams written by 48 students in a third-year undergraduate course for evidence of cheating. The researchers used three methods to analyze the exams, 1) Turnitin software was used to find answers that contained the same text, 2) the exam graders looked for unusual answers that did not address the questions, and 3) the exam scores were compared between the mid-semester and final exam and with the scores from the in-person exams from the previous year.

What did the Researchers Find?

The researchers did not find evidence of cheating with any of the three methods used in this study. Turnitin software did not find copied answers and the graders did not find unusual answers. The average score was higher on the final exam with a longer time limit (90.2%) than on the shorter mid-semester exam (62.8%); however, this same trend was seen in the previous year with the in-person supervised exams. The average score on the online final exam was also similar to the final score of the in-person final exam (88.2%). The authors noted that there were more unanswered questions on the mid-semester exam. 

→ How to Implement this Research in Your Classroom

Online open-book assessments are an alternative to traditional supervised exams. In this study, the researchers did not find evidence of cheating on either a 50-minute mid-semester or 4-hour end of semester online open book exam which both consisted of long answer application questions. Students left more questions blank on the shorter mid-semester exam which may suggest that students did not have enough time to complete the exam or were unsure how to prepare for the first open-book assessment of the semester. Instructors can provide guidelines to support students when they prepare for assessments that may have question formats or exam formats that are new to students.

→  Citation

Ng, C.K.C. (2020). Evaluation of academic integrity of online open book assessments implemented in an undergraduate medical radiation science course during COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Medical Radiation Sciences 51 (4),

→  Keywords

  • Academic Integrity
  • Online Open Book Assessment
  • Cheating 
  • COVID-19

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Snapshot Writer: Mara Goodyear

Snapshot Publication Date: 2021