The Melbourne model for stopping exam cheats before they start

Plagiarism attracts attention in academic integrity but exam cheating is still out there. So the University of Melbourne built a system to address it  

At this week’s assessment integrity conference, Richard James and Neil Robinson set out the University of Melbourne demonstrated how the university responded to a case of exam tampering by identifying 11 stages in the exam process and coming up with ways to improve security for each of them. “There’s no stopping some students from cheating but you can make it harder for them,” they say.

Quite a bit harder.

The research listed every stage in the exam lifecycle, from preparing questions to students scrutinising their scripts to check they were fairly treated and found potential problems in all. They identified five generic risks; policy and procedures are unclear or not followed, local practice creates opportunities for cheats and their agents, IT is used differently in various stages of the cycle, physical storage and security varies and electronic security, including CCT is not always comprehensive.

In essence there are inevitably too many people and too much handling to assure security. But focusing on three areas can improve it. First people, screen staff for integrity and ensure they are right for their stage of the process. Second keep material physically safe and make sure it is monitored. And always ensure that university IT systems involved are secure.

No, it will not keep Oceans 11 out if they want to steal the Accounting 101 exam but a culture of security means university management can adapt, as the thieves do. “Ways to cheat will constantly evolve and we will need to similarly evolve what we do to reduce the opportunities available,” James and Robinson say.