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Adding breadcrumbs (that lead from a problem back to a user)

Adding breadcrumbs (that lead from a problem back to a user)

by Sean Fitzpatrick -
Number of replies: 4

A question on the academic integrity side: I know that some UBC stats questions have breadcrumbs in their datasets, so that when a question is posted online, it can be traced back to a particular student.

Has anyone thought about how to do this in something like a standard Calculus problem?

(E.g. if I see a question on a site like Chegg, and a particular set of values are present for random variables, could they be traced? Not with standard problems, I think. Is there something we could add that wouldn't be an obvious attempt to make the question traceable?)

Context: a colleague (who is also my wife, so I have extra motivation in this case) is currently teaching Calculus 1 online, in summer session.

She's using WeBWorK, and made it clear to students that the homework was for practice, and provided the following conditions:

- It's only worth 3%.

- They can work in groups.

- She will walk them through the solution (with different numbers) in either a Zoom meeting or the discussion forum.

So there should be really low incentive to cheat. And yet, those WeBWorK problems are already up on Chegg. (And not all the students are dumb enough to leave their user ID in the screenshot.)

In reply to Sean Fitzpatrick

Re: Adding breadcrumbs (that lead from a problem back to a user)

by Sean Fitzpatrick -
There is the obvious solution that involves no new features, but requires cooperation from an already overworked Dean's Office.
Submit an official request to Chegg (who will provide you with account info including IP addresses if the request comes from your Dean) and cross reference IP addresses against the login log.
In reply to Sean Fitzpatrick

Re: Adding breadcrumbs (that lead from a problem back to a user)

by Danny Glin -

I think that this would require specially designed questions, as most questions probably don't have sufficient randomization to generate a unique version for each student.  There are some artificial things you could do, like add a very large constant to the function in a derivative problem, but I suspect that students might see through this.

There are a number of possible approaches to make it harder to post questions to Chegg, but in the end I think that they all can be circumvented by clever students.  Particularly with computer graded questions it would be very hard to prove that a student obtained a solution online, other than by using your suggestion of having your dean appeal to the Chegg honor code.

In reply to Danny Glin

Re: Adding breadcrumbs (that lead from a problem back to a user)

by Sean Fitzpatrick -

Yeah. It's frustrating. But I also don't want to spoil the learning experience of the majority of students because of a handful of bad actors.

With OPL questions we can't be sure it's our own students posting. But we can modify to make sure we know the question came from us and then appeal to the honour code.

I'm not sure it's the clever students trying to cheat though. Some are careless enough to leave their user name exposed in the screenshot!

(Once we had two "clever" CS students who hacked the WeBWorK code somehow and dug so the answers out. So they aced the homework. But failed everything else, of course.)

In reply to Sean Fitzpatrick

Re: Adding breadcrumbs (that lead from a problem back to a user)

by Alex Jordan -
On the more general topic of students using "assistance" when we don't want them to. A colleague wrote the following in an internal email thread back in April. I found it helpful. Some of what is written makes more sense if you understand she puts some questions in the online homework system that tell a student to do something on paper and upload it to the LMS.

I use a checklist at the beginning of all quizzes as Question #1 so students have to agree to follow the quiz policy.  This has been a helpful deterrent for cheating.

Academic Integrity Agreement Checklist
Please read the following, and check each box to show your understanding of the quiz policy, as it's stated in the syllabus.
I understand that this quiz is an assessment of my knowledge on the topics in this module, and as such, I agree not to use any outside resources. Outside resources include, but are not limited to: notes, textbook, homework, any online content, friends, relatives, formula sheets, etc.I understand that once my quiz is submitted here in [online homework platform], I may not add or remove anything from my work; I must immediately upload my work to the D2L Assignments tab. Any reference to the "D2L Dropbox" is referring to the "D2L Assignments tab".I understand that a calculator (physical or online) is NOT allowed on this quiz, and agree not to use one.

That being said, I do have the occasional student cheat and use things like online derivative calculators or online integral calculators that show steps; however, it's usually pretty obvious since the steps have more of a "computer-vibe" than a "human-vibe".  Here are all the websites/resources that students tend to use if they do cheat and I always look at them before I grade to know what to look out for.  You'd be surprised how easy it is to spot copied work once you know what to look for:
I'm sure there are more but those first 3 are the most common ones I see used.  

When I do see a student cheat, I get in touch with them immediately and try to come from a place of support rather than a place of judgement or shaming.  Here is the email that I send to students and after fine-tuning it over the years, I almost always get a "I'm so sorry, it won't happen again.  Thank you for reaching out." type of reply rather than a defensive one.  

Example Email for Occurrences of Academic Dishonesty

Hi _______,

I just graded your Module __ Quiz and have some concerns.  It's pretty clear that https://www.integral-calculator.com/ was used for most, if not all, of the quiz.  I take academic integrity very seriously, especially in an online class.  I understand wanting to succeed in this class, but this is not the way to do so.  Please remember that as your instructor, I am here to help and 100% want you to succeed in this class.  These integration techniques can be challenging at first, but with practice and commitment, I believe you have the potential to do these on your own without any help.  Our first  Exam is this week, so it's really important to understand these integration techniques before then in order to be successful in the class.

A grade of 0 is being given on the Module 4 Quiz and additional occurrences will result in an Academic Dishonesty report being filed.  I would appreciate a response to make sure that we are on the same page with the quiz policy from this point forward.