Secure online assessment

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Ensuring secure online assessment is critical in online courses where students take high-stakes tests using their computers or mobile devices. The Brightspace Quiz Tool offers several built-in options for securing online test sessions. Respondus Lockdown Browser and Respondus Monitor are integrated with our Brightspace learning management system for additional control if desired. Outside of Brightspace, our Zoom web conferencing tool can be used to monitor students taking high-stakes tests remotely. Many online instructors also adapt their assessment methods, replacing proctored, quantitative tests with other measures (e.g., research papers, competency-based assessments).

Consider alternatives

Although this is very difficult without ample time to think and plan, consider revising or replacing your current, proctored assessment with an alternative of some sort. This might include open book exams, short summaries or journal entries, or recordings of student performance (e.g., student presentations).

Cheating on online tests

There are several general ways that someone might try to cheat when taking tests online:

Consult their notes

During the test session, students might try to find answers to test questions on crib sheets, class notes, or in their textbooks, all of which may be available in digital form. Most students have multiple devices (e.g., laptops, smartphones) through which they can access these materials.

Use confederates

Students may attempt to get help from others during the test session. They might meet in the same physical location to take the test together or they might communicate with each other during the test using their devices (e.g., text message, web conference). Students may also convince or pay others to take the test for them. By giving them their StarID credentials, for example, confederates could log in to Brightspace, posing as students in the class, and complete the test for them.

Fake technical difficulties

Students might open the online test, review the questions, and then report fake technical difficulties, giving them time to consult their notes or confederates for answers. Then, they might resume the test session or ask that a makeup session be scheduled.

Preventative measures

The following are steps you can take to reduce students' motivation to cheat on online tests and close some common loopholes:

Inform students that they are being monitored during online tests

Many students mistakenly believe that we cannot detect online cheating. They may think you aren't tech-savvy enough or that they know enough about technology to avoid detection. If using Brightspace quizzes, inform your students that Brightspace maintains a log of their connection to each and every test from start to finish. Instructors can review every student's quiz log for irregularities (e.g., long breaks in responding, changes in the student's IP address or location during the test, multiple IP addresses accessing the same test). Also, inform your students that Winona State University Information Technology Services can be asked by any instructor to conduct a full forensic analysis of any student's Winona State University network activity during an online test. In the vast majority of past cases where suspected cheating during an online test has been reported, Information Technology Services has been able to provide definitive evidence one way or the other. If students believe they have discovered a new way to cheat on an online test the we don't know about already, they are mistaken.

Use Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor

If you are using Brightspace to administer high-stakes tests online, consider using both Respondus Lockdown Browser (LDB) and Respondus Monitor. These integrated tools must be enabled for each test individually. Lockdown Browser is a special web browser that launches when a student starts a Brightspace test. It prevents students from accessing other computer features and functions (e.g., browsers, messaging, printing) until after they submit the test. Monitor opens the student's web camera when the test starts, records the sessions, and presents you with the entire recording as well as still images taken at various times during the test. You can review this information to detect possible cheating. You may want to share this resource (copy this link to your D2L course with your students so they can learn how to use this new system.

Set a password

Consider requiring a password to start a Brightspace test and then change it as soon as you are sure everyone has started the test. Changing the test password will have no impact on students taking the test, unless they leave the test and need to rejoin it.

Enforce time limits

While this may increase anxiety and you will need to accommodate students who may be affected adversely by this, enforcing a time limit and collecting the test as soon as that time limit expires may reduce the motivation to attempt cheating in a way that takes some time to set in motion (e.g., the use of confederates).

Forensic measures

Quiz Event Log

Access a student's Brightspace quiz event log by opening the quiz attempt and selecting the Quizzes Event Log link. This log lists when the student started the test, submitted each question, and submitted the test. It also lists the IP address of the student's device. Irregularities include multiple IP addresses accessing the same test, a change in IP address, and gaps in individual question submission.

Contact TLT

If you suspect cheating and would like Information Technology Services to consult network and server logs, contact TLT (

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