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Online Testing in D2L – The Truth About Security

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Conducting online, self-scoring objective tests using the Quizzes tool in D2L has become a popular way to assess students in both online and face-to-face courses. However, for faculty using online tests, the questions always comes up as to how secure online tests really are, and how to keep students from cheating. This post will attempt to clear up some misconceptions.

Hard Truth #1: Students Sometimes Copy and Share Questions Out of the Test

Now and then I hear from faculty who are shocked to find that a student has emailed them with questions taken out of a test or quiz. Yes, in the Properties screen of a quiz, you can turn off right-clicking, but students can still copy questions out by using the PrintScreen button on their keyboards, or by using keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste. Expensive and awkward software solutions exist that can disable the PrintScreen buttons and copy/paste functions, but even then students can copy and share tests by taking cell phone pictures of their screens.


Hard Truth #2: Students Sometimes Use Their Notes and the Internet to Look Up Answers

Unless you conduct your online exam in a proctored computer lab, there is no way to stop students from opening up their paper notes while taking the exam. Students may also use their cell phones or open up a second browser window to search for answers.


Hard Truth #3: Students Sometimes Take Online Tests Together

It is a common sight in the library during midterm and finals week to find students sitting side-by-side in the computer labs, working together on the same online test. This is especially common in fully online undergrad courses, in which most of the students live on campus.


Best Practices to Ensure Academic Integrity

It’s very difficult to create a perfectly secure, fully-online test, but there are strategies you can use to make collaboration more difficult:

1) When creating multiple-choice quiz questions, always use the “Randomize Options” setting.

2) It takes some time to learn how to do, but you can also randomize the order in which the quiz questions appear for each student.

3) Be sure to set a conservative time limit (30 seconds to 1 minute per question). A short time limit means less time to look up answers.

4) Also be sure to set a narrow start and end date window. This means less opportunity for students to meet up and work together.

5) When opening up Post-Test Feedback, be sure to show only questions answered incorrectly, and NO answers.


This has been the reality since before SRU used Desire2Learn, and was the case with Blackboard as well. The best approach to take is to assume that students will be using notes and other resources, and will likely be sharing details about the exams with one another. Many of the most successful online instructors place far less weight on objective tests, and instead draw most of their assessments from writing assignments, discussions, and research. Dishonesty is much easier to spot in written assignments since we can do plagiarism detection with Turnitin.


Written by SRU Ed Tech

February 12, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Tests/Quizzes

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