A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology devised a clever way to detect student cheating on homework in his introductory physics course--and found about 50 percent more cheating than students reported in anonymous surveys. And he discovered that frequent cheaters ended up bombing their exams.
The professor, David E. Pritchard, led a research team that analyzed student performance in an online homework system called MasteringPhysics.com during four different semesters. The researchers were able to measure the time spent on each question and look for suspicious work patterns. If a student took less than a minute each answering several complex questions and got them all right, for instance, the system flagged that as likely cheating. "Since one minute is insufficient time to read the problem and enter the several answers typically required, we infer that the quick-solver group is copying the answer from somewhere," said the researchers in a paper due out today in the free online journal Physical Review Special Topics--Physics Education Research.
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