Online Examinations

A brief article in the Education Life section of Sunday’s New York Times July 27, 2008) talks about the posting of exams on the Internet—a cyber-version of the old fraternity files of past tests. But, in this case, it’s not just a few exams and a few fraternity brothers; thousands of examinations are being scanned into websites and thousands of students are consulting them. It raises lots of interesting issues: Is it ethical to study with previously used questions? Is it ethical to study with “live” questions—questions that are currently on exams? Is it ethical for schools to track students’ use of such websites? Is the honor system—at the University of Virginia, for example—that forbids students to consult previously used examinations effective? Is it fair to the students? Is consulting old questions just a good way of studying, of preparing for examinations? Does the instructor have an ethical obligation to prepare new examinations each semester?


maestra said...

I believe that it is ethical to use past exams to prepare for current ones. Past exams can help students to review important course material, as well as help them to understand the types of questions, and levels of difficulty of the questions, of a teacher’s exam. Many instructors themselves give students copies of their past exams with just that end in sight. Even university libraries around the nation, including those at many top law schools, give students access to past exams. Students can get past exams through their library’s circulation desk, through the open stacks, or through their library’s online system. A university ID, password, and/or pin number are usually required to access these tests, and universities can use these things to track students’ use of these exams, or even to determine if students have cheated when taking a current online exam. It is, however, unethical for students to copy and distribute past exams to online websites, without the permission of the individual teachers who created those exams. It doesn’t matter if the website is offering no reward, or an incentive such as a $5.00 gift card to Starbucks. It is unethical to pass an exam along to anyone without permission. In some universities, teachers themselves even hold copyright of their exams. In this instance, distributing copies of past exams, without their consent, is not only unethical, but is also illegal. It isn’t fair that the honors codes at certain universities dictate that teachers cannot give students copies of past exams, or that students cannot have access to them. Honors codes do not necessarily ensure student honesty when taking exams in the absence of proctors, nor do they ensure that fellow students will report another student whom they know has cheated on an exam. In any case, it should be an instructor’s decision as to whether or not his/her past exams are made available. Instructors themselves do have an ethical obligation to create new exams each semester. With the aid of current sophisticated computer software, there is no excuse for any instructor not to be able to create a new exam each semester, or even multiple mid-term or final exams within a single semester, to ensure that student cheating is kept to a minimum.

Anonymous said...

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Vik Vein said...

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