Online Exam Fraud Allegations: University of Auckland markers warned not to be extra vigilant

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Another student contacted the Herald alleging cheating on online exams at the University of Auckland. Stock Photo / 123RF

Exam markers at the University of Auckland are instructed to carefully search for “collusion” clues following allegations of widespread online exam fraud.

The university is investigating claims that fraud is “productive” in exams held online to ensure consistency in the event of future Covid-19 bans.

Answers were reportedly shared in group chats and it was alleged that some students were taking tests in the same room.

The university spokeswoman said staff were aware of this and were “carefully looking for evidence of collusion and plagiarism.”

A student reached out to a staff member with concerns about “planned academic misconduct during a recent online exam,” she said.

The original complaint related to an online science exam. The spokeswoman said such exams would include multiple-choice questions, as well as short answers and extended short essay sections.

A freshman trade student has since contacted the Herald to say he heard of scams in other subjects, where students gather in dormitories, exchange answers and take tests on each other.

He said that while exams are easier to cheat with multiple-choice answers, cheating with longer written answers is still possible, especially when people are in the same room.

Some of the exams were open exams, which could make people feel like asking classmates for help wasn’t that bad.

“As a person who has studied very hard, I feel deprived and my hard work is in vain,” he said.

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But another freshman student said she saw no evidence of fraud – only students giving support to each other in online groups before the tests began.

All of the group chats and Discord servers she used were closed or banned before the exams began, she said.

Online exams have been very helpful for students suffering from anxiety – and their mental health could be compromised by cheating on others, she said.

“We all know that online exams won’t last forever, but especially for us first graders, we have the opportunity to complete our college education without getting sick.”

She and her colleagues would be “absolutely mad” if their exams were postponed offline.

University: No surveillance, but we have “fraud detection mechanisms”

Exam tutors will look closely for clues to collusion or plagiarism, says the university.  Photo / Getty Images
Exam tutors will look closely for clues to collusion or plagiarism, says the university. Photo / Getty Images

A spokeswoman told the Herald that a student had reached out to an employee with concerns about “planned academic misconduct during a recent online exam.”

“As a result, tutors have been warned to be particularly vigilant about academic misconduct in the face of these allegations.

“The university has mechanisms in place to detect fraud and will pursue and punish if there are indications of violations.”

Covid-19 has brought exams largely online, she said.

“We have continued this practice in some programs to reassure students about the assessment process in light of potential changes in Covid warning levels.

“We will continue to seek ways to ensure that the highest standards of academic integrity are maintained and that the small number of students who do not meet them does not adversely affect others.”

The exams take place on a platform called Inspera. It has a monitoring feature called Safe Exam Browser that is designed to prevent fraud, however this function is not used, according to the university’s website.

The spokeswoman confirmed that the exams would not be monitored.

“However, the university has plagiarism detection software built into Inspera that detects collusion and fraud. Incidents of these have already been detected and students will be adequately punished and reported,” she said.

A reminder of the academic integrity process was sent to all instructors and tutors who took exams that semester.



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