Finance and international relations classes were caught exchanging answers via WhatsApp groups and email.

By Tshepo Thaela and Catia De Castro

Wits University is implementing new measures to ensure that students are not cheating during online assessments, as well as setting up disciplinary measures should there be instances of cheating.

Some of these stricter security measures will include honour pledges before each test, randomly selected questions from a question bank that will appear in random order and students not being able to go back to previous questions.

This follows recent cheating incidents at the school of economics and finance (SEF) and the department of international relations. In both courses, students were exchanging online test and assignment answers via WhatsApp groups and email.

Consequently, the students will be subject to disciplinary measures, which include receiving zero for the assessments as well as having to re-write tests. Additional disciplinary measures are yet to be fully determined.

In an email sent to Wits Vuvuzela on May 18, the SEF said that they had received “indisputable evidence of the cheating” by second-year finance students in FINE 2000 during their online test on May 6, and as such had decided to invalidate the test. “The test will thus be rescheduled at a suitable date with additional security features.  

“The school is in the process of identifying the students in order to initiate disciplinary action,” the email continued.

The first-year international relations course is dealing with a similar issue. According to an email sent by INTR 1012

One of the guilty parties on the FINE 2000 WhatsApp group wants to bury the evidence

lecturers to students on May 16, cheating occurred in both an online test on May 12, and an assignment on May 15.

“All cases discovered will receive a zero and the university disciplinary process will be invoked,” read the email.

A third-year BCom general student who is repeating finance, told Wits Vuvuzela that, “I didn’t look at the group during the test, but afterward, I saw people were asking for and sending answers. The only way [the university] could find out is if someone told them.”

The move from face-to-face teaching to emergency remote teaching has drastically changed test conditions. According to Professor Diane Grayson, the senior director of academic affairs at Wits, the university has been implementing preventative measures to reduce cheating.

“Some of these include randomising questions selected automatically from a question pool, shuffling question order, requiring some assignments to be handwritten and then photographed and ensuring that students complete an assessment in one, timed sitting,” she told Wits Vuvuzela.

However, some students say there is still a lack of monitoring, which has facilitated the cheating.

A first-year international relations student who asked to remain anonymous, says that he felt unmonitored. “You can safely assume that if a student has a textbook in front of him, he’s going to use it,” he told Wits Vuvuzela.

These incidents have led to students in different courses leaving their university WhatsApp groups. Daniela Mech, a fourth-year BCom Law student, says that after the cheating incidents, people started leaving her law group out of fear that something similar could happen.

She told Wits Vuvuzela, “I don’t want to get into trouble just for being on a group.”


FEATURED IMAGE: Cheating is the latest threat to online assessments at Wits. Photo: Tshepo Thaela