The challenges of remote testing

Vincent Le, Staff Writer

Students may need to think twice the next time they are tempted to try cheating on a test. 

Many teachers are assigning tests through Canvas, but from behind a screen, it’s difficult to prevent students from cheating. This can put students’ academic integrity at risk.

Several teachers, however, are working to combat the possibility of cheating.

For example, biology tests, which require intense memorization and critical thinking skills, look very different this year. 

“Giving students tests is much harder. I have students turn off cell phones on camera, share their entire desktop on Zoom, and then open the assessment and take it with their cameras on,” AP biology teacher Erin Stephens said.

Since the testing protocol for biology is so clear-cut, this allows for the tests to assess the same content as if students were to be tested in-person. In contrast, Spanish teachers, who also test memorization (but of vocabulary and grammatical concepts) are using a completely different method. 

“In the virtual learning environment, we are instead focusing on proficiency tasks, which assess what a student can do with the language,” Spanish teacher Andrea Noon said.

On proficiency tests, students are allowed to use class notes and websites like WordReference.com. Because students are allowed to consult notes, cheating is no longer necessary. These tests are more assessments of understanding rather than of memorization. 

English teacher Kristen Daughters does something similar with her students. 

“I try to create assessments that students find hard to cheat on,” Daughters said. 

Similar to proficiency tasks, Daughters creates tests that go beyond definitions and memorization. For example, for a unit test, students were required to write sentences that included both vocabulary words and grammatical concepts to ensure valid understanding. 

“We’re just living in a different world right now,” Daughters said. “I’ve accepted that there’s gonna be some cheating, and I’m trying to combat that, but that’s all I can do.”