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How Common is Cheating in Online Exams and did it Increase During the COVID-19 Pandemic? A Systematic Review

Phil Newton Orcid Logo, Keioni Essex

Journal of Academic Ethics

Swansea University Author: Phil Newton Orcid Logo

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Abstract

Academic misconduct is a threat to the validity and reliability of online examinations, and media reports suggest that misconduct spiked dramatically in higher education during the emergency shift to online exams caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This study reviewed survey research to determine how c...

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Published in: Journal of Academic Ethics
ISSN: 1570-1727 1572-8544
Published: Springer Science and Business Media LLC 2023
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa63995
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Abstract: Academic misconduct is a threat to the validity and reliability of online examinations, and media reports suggest that misconduct spiked dramatically in higher education during the emergency shift to online exams caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This study reviewed survey research to determine how common it is for university students to admit cheating in online exams, and how and why they do it. We also assessed whether these self-reports of cheating increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with an evaluation of the quality of the research evidence which addressed these questions. 25 samples were identified from 19 Studies, including 4672 participants, going back to 2012. Online exam cheating was self-reported by a substantial minority (44.7%) of students in total. Pre-COVID this was 29.9%, but during COVID cheating jumped to 54.7%, although these samples were more heterogenous. Individual cheating was more common than group cheating, and the most common reason students reported for cheating was simply that there was an opportunity to do so. Remote proctoring appeared to reduce the occurrence of cheating, although data were limited. However there were a number of methodological features which reduce confidence in the accuracy of all these findings. Most samples were collected using designs which makes it likely that online exam cheating is under-reported, for example using convenience sampling, a modest sample size and insufficient information to calculate response rate. No studies considered whether samples were representative of their population. Future approaches to online exams should consider how the basic validity of examinations can be maintained, considering the substantial numbers of students who appear to be willing to admit engaging in misconduct. Future research on academic misconduct would benefit from using large representative samples, guaranteeing participants anonymity.
Keywords: Academic Integrity, Assessment, Covid-19, Distance Learning, Digital Education
College: Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences
Funders: Swansea University