Preventing Clicker Cheaters

Another question that came up at today’s TLT Group seminar on teaching with clickers was the question of how to prevent and/or deal with students who cheat using clickers.  By cheating, I mean that in classes where clicker questions are counted as part of students’ grades (perhaps as quiz grades based on the accuracy of student responses or simply participation grades based on effort), Student A can skip class by giving his clicker to Student B, who responds to clicker questions during class using her own clicker as well as Student A’s clicker.  This gives Student A credit for clicker questions even though he has skipped class.  What to do about this situation?

I mentioned that short of biometric scanning, there isn’t a good technological solution to this problem, that it’s more of a classroom management issue.  In small classes, instructors can usually spot a student “double clicking,” and in larger classes, TAs might be enlisted to do the same.  Also, instructors can make clicker questions fairly low stakes (maybe 5-10% of the course grade) so that (a) there’s less incentive to cheat and (b) if a few cheaters get away with it, they don’t gain too much benefit from it.

I spend a couple of pages in my book talking about this issue, since I’m asked this question just about every time I speak about clickers.  However, the group from the University of Nevada-Reno at the seminar today had what I think is a great solution, and it’s a technological one!  They use the “pick a student” feature that their classroom response system provides to randomly select students who respond to clicker questions during class.  (These students are presumably asked the share reasons for their responses with the entire class.  The Reno group didn’t specify.)  If a student is selected but isn’t in the room, he or she gets in “big trouble.”

This sounds like a useful approach to the cheating issue.  I’m glad the Reno group shared it today!  I’ve talked with a few instructors who regularly use the “pick a student at random” feature and find it extremely useful for increasing student participation in class without making students feel that their instructors are picking on them.  So that’s two good reasons to try out the “pick a student at random” feature if your system makes it available to you.

How have you approached the cheating issue?  How about the “pick a student” feature?  Do you find it useful?

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