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Cheating is a sensitive subject. Teachers often want to know exactly why students were flagged or whether it's possible they were cheating even if they weren't flagged. This article gives advice on how to approach Support tickets about a cheating on Membean. 

The teacher should always be involved in any conversation about cheating. If a student or a parent contacts us about why a student was flagged for cheating, copy the teacher on the response. You can explain how cheating is detected and why we are confident in the flag, but do not give any definitive statement about grading to a student or a parent.

The Cheating Flag

Students are flagged for cheating in three locations. 

  1. On the student's dashboard
    The student will see this alert when the session appears under their recent training or when they view all their training sessions.

  2. On the teacher's grading report
    The teacher will see a yellow exclamation point next to the minutes in the Dubious Minutes column. The can click on the alert to see which sessions were flagged for cheating.

  3. On the student's recent activity log
    The red exclamation point under the Warnings column indicates cheating. A teacher can view all cheating sessions by clicking All Sessions and then View Cheating Sessions.

Why are Students Flagged for Cheating? 

Cheating during training is different from cheating during an assessment. Students are not flagged for cheating when they access a different tab or minimize the browser. They aren't flagged for cheating because they look up words in their computer's dictionary. Students are flagged for cheating for two reasons.

  1. The student used an extension to train in their stead. Extensions can be easily downloaded from the Internet. Extensions answer questions and proceed past word pages with varying degrees of sophistication. Some will answer questions correctly every time; others will ask the students to choose an accuracy range. 

  2. The student used Inspect Element to create pass and fail buttons for questions. This allows them to select whether they want a question marked correctly or incorrectly rather than answering it themselves. Instructions for using Inspect Element to cheat on Membean are available on YouTube. Students do not need to understand how to code to cheat this way.

Common Questions and How to Respond

Whenever you respond to inquiries about cheating, include the article Your Student Is Flagged for Cheating. Additionally, address any specific questions the teacher has in the email, even if the information overlaps with the article. Remember that cheating is a sensitive subject; the teacher will appreciate the focused response.

What method was my student using to cheat? 

In most cases, we can't determine exactly how the student cheated. The system detects that it is occurring, but there is no way to identify the method. This can be difficult for teachers, because their students will claim they weren't cheating, and the teacher can't point to any evidence other than the alert. However, some (but by no means all) extensions create a characteristic training pattern that is discussed below. Explain to the teacher that while we cannot determine the exact method, we are confident that the alert is valid. 

My student claims they are not cheating. Is there any possibility they were flagged in error?

Membean is very careful about flagging students for cheating because we understand the stakes. We would rather miss cheating that occurs than mistakenly identify it. 

Is it possible that the student didn't know there was an extension on the browser? 

Even if someone else downloads the extension onto the browser, the student will notice the trainer acting strangely. For example, the trainer will progress through questions and word pages without the student clicking anything. If the student reports this behavior to the teacher, then it is possible that they are innocent. However, if the student claims someone else must have installed the extension only after being asked by the teacher, then this is less likely. 

My student doesn't understand how extensions or coding works. How could they use them to cheat? 

There are several online resources that walk students through how to cheat on Membean. All they need to do is Google it. Even if students don't understand what they are doing, these step-by-step instructions are easy to follow.

My Student Wasn't Flagged for Cheating, But I Suspect Them

If a teacher suspects a student is cheating, investigate the issue even if sessions are not flagged. Membean does not catch every single extension out there. Keeping up with new approaches to cheating on Membean is like playing Whack a Mole. Currently, the product team is focusing on other priorities such as the new trainer, which will prevent these extensions from working. 

When responding to these tickets, do not mention that we have paused our whack a mole game to work on the new trainer. We do not have a release date for the trainer yet. However, also do not say that we will update the trainer to detect the new extension.
  1. Check the student's accuracy. When students begin to cheat, there will often be a sizable jump in training accuracy. This alone is not sufficient evidence of cheating, but it can indicate where you should start looking at the session details. 

  2. Investigate the session details for suspicious activity. As mentioned above, some extensions leave characteristic training patterns. Here is an example of training that was completed by an extension, but was not flagged for cheating.
    The pattern isn't always as consistent as this one. If you see suspicious patterns, but you are not sure if it is an extension, you can post the training on the Support-Training slack channel to get your teammate's perspectives.

  3. Look at the time of day that training occurs. There is a service called Vocabubot that actually signs in as the student and trains for them. If you see a student training at the same time every session, then they may be using this program. 

If you identify any of these patterns, alert the teacher and provide your interpretation. The only concrete evidence of cheating is the pattern that some extensions leave in the training details. However, other details, such as accuracy and training time, can give the teacher specific details about which to speak to the student.