More checks with online university exams

The Otago University Students' Association has disaffiliated with the Elohim Bible Academy. Photo...
Photo: ODT files
University of Otago staff have had to review more academic misconduct cases after a move to online examinations but that may not mean more students than usual set out to cheat.

Online checking systems flagged suspicious behaviour in some semester one exams and this could have driven an increased workload for staff who needed to investigate.

Extra staff were called in to help and full results are expected to be known soon.

Exams were shifted online as part of the university’s response to the Covid-19 crisis and checking software was used in some programmes to deter cheating or flag the possibility of it.

After checks by staff, some students may be deemed guilty of misconduct, some cleared of wrongdoing and others may have made what the university has called naive errors.

Otago University Students’ Association president Jack Manning said the situation had created significant distress for many students.

The number of cases was unprecedented and many students asked for help from the Student Support team, he said.

"This situation seems to be a product of moving exams online quickly in response to Covid-19."

Most students had approached their exams normally and had not intended to cheat, he said.

The university seemed to take a "reasonable and compassionate approach but it has still created significant distress for many students".

University acting academic deputy vice-chancellor Pat Cragg said there was an increase in potential academic misconduct cases across all four of the university’s divisions.

"We are pleased that our systems to detect potential academic misconduct during online exams have been effective," she said in a statement.

Students under investigation were not necessarily guilty, she emphasised.

"In many of these cases, students have made naive errors.

"We have a very careful investigation process."

Many students had been advised of the outcome of their cases last week.

"We recognise it was a different examination environment in first semester, and we are not trying to trip up anyone who made a genuine mistake.

"However, we will take a very dim view of anyone who attempted to use the changes to examination and assessment processes as an opportunity to knowingly cheat."

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