This is an age old question that isn’t tied to using online homework. Back in the day, students would pay other people to do their pencil and paper homework. Now, they can do the same thing online--but with a wider pool of people willing to "help". So how can you as an instructor combat cheating, so that your homework scores follow the same general patterns as your test scores? Here are a few ideas from users:
Erika Martinez, an economics professor at University of South Florida, has a variety of assignments for students, including watching videos, completing the LearningCurve adaptive quizzes, and having the students complete worksheets (or do in-class activities). All of this work is for points, but very few points. Then she has a weekly homework assignment (which is essentially considered the summation of everything learned that week) that is worth 0 points. She tracks the students who complete the assignments, but they don’t get credit for the completion as part of their overall grade. (They do get flagged by Prof. Martinez if they are not doing the work as no points doesn’t mean optional!) Then she has the students complete weekly quizzes (for points) as well as 2 bigger tests and a final. In this way, students come to see the homework as practice and self-assessment, not as a reason to cheat.
Amanda Norbutus, a chemistry professor at Valencia College explains that while she is willing for students to have multiple attempts at a problem, she has Achieve deduct small points each attempt (5%), so a student has to actively work to solve the problem effectively. With this method, students are more actively mentally engaged with doing the work, and develop better problem-solving skills that serve them well in high-stress situations like a quiz or exam. She theorizes that the lack of any penalty makes it too easy for students to “throw a handful of pasta at the ceiling to see what sticks,” without needing the student to critically think of how to approach a problem and culling through their knowledge to find a working solution/approach.
Dr. Norbutus also suggests making sure the homework assigned has a range of easy, medium, and hard skill level questions, as exposing students only to easy and medium-level questions is a disservice to them in building their skill set for solving problems quickly and efficiently. Professors could also use more problem-solving worksheets or practice assignments either in class or as part of bonus work. If for bonus, make sure they are tiered problems, where the problem requires the use of more than one skill or concept. Finally, have the teacher select one handwritten problem for students to solve and submit with work shown per HW assignment. This can quickly identify where students may have a disconnect between high scoring Achieve assignments and low scoring quizzes and exams.
Kiandra Johnson, a mathematics professor at Spelman College, suggested two simple, easy, and effective ideas. Use clicker questions during the lecture as many of the clicker questions are concept-based and cannot be entered into a mathematical database. This is a way to check individual student understanding outside of the homework. Additionally, use a few problems directly from the homework on the test, and analyze the difference between how students performed on those same problems in homework form vs. on the test.
A few instructors mentioned versions of this as well, “We’ve tried to emphasize the importance of the assignments with lots of explanations about why we create these assignments and how they can improve understanding (and grades!) but also try to weight those assignments low enough in the grade to de-incentivize cheating."
We hope this tips help you as you work to navigate an increasingly digital world with your students.
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