Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The interesting and secretive world of academic cheating detection

For as long as teachers have handed out grades, students have been tempted to cheat.  Wireless technology and the ubiquity of personal communication devices have made the problem more widespread, and harder to defeat, than ever according to some educators.  This article from the New York Times describes some of the techniques that the anti-cheating consultants and software makers use to combat hi-tech cheaters, including those who sit for the LSAT.   For example, there's software that "analyzes answer sheets . . . and flags those with so many of the same questions wrong or right that the chances of random agreement are astronomically small."  One company, called Caveon (which the LSAC hires to cruise the internet looking for leaked LSAT answers) uses computers that

hunt for illogical patterns, like test-takers who did better on harder questions than easy ones. That can be a sign of advance knowledge of part of a test.

The computers also look for unusually large score gains from a previous test by a student or class. They also count the number of erasures on answer sheets, which in some cases can be evidence that teachers or administrators tampered with a test.

These new techniques do have critics, however, who say that until these companies publish academic papers describing their methodology, it's impossible to know how accurate the techniques are and the extent of false-positives. 

You can read more about the very interesting black op world of anti-cheating detection here.



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