Cheating on free massive open online courses (MOOCs) happens, according to new research from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The study found that learners are signing up for multiple courses and using one account to get the correct answers for another account.
The strategy is known as CAMEO, from “copying answers using multiple existences online.” Using the strategy, learners create multiple accounts to gain access to the correct answers to questions. They then use the right answers to earn a perfect score and a certificate showing their mastery of the topic.
“When you see this interweaving of one account from an Internet location getting a bunch of answers wrong, checking the solutions, then immediately followed by another account from the same location submitting the correct answers, you start to get a little suspicious,” said Andrew Ho, professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, in a report for Inside Higher Education.
Researchers collected data from 115 Harvard and MIT MOOCs that were offered between fall 2012 and June 2015 and found that at least 1% of the 1,237 certificates awarded were earned by using CAMEO. Only 0.1% of the cheaters were taking computer science courses, while 1.3% took government, health, and social science courses. Also, most of the cheaters came from Albania, Indonesia, Serbia, Colombia, and China.
“One of the most interesting lessons from the paper is that there are ways to mitigate cheating that are straightforward and implementable by the teams creating online course content,” said Isaac L. Chuang, senior associate dean of digital learning at MIT. “We also expect platform improvements, such as virtual proctoring, to help reduce cheating.”