- Steven Levitt and Ming-Jen Lin, a professor at National Taiwan University, created an algorithm to detect evidence of cheating and found impressive results between a midterm and final when the instructor switched to assigned seating.
- The Chronicle of Higher Education reports the algorithm identified 12 of 242 students as potential cheaters on the midterm, when they could sit wherever they wanted, but on the final “evidence of copying all but vanished” with the assigned seats.
- Research shows cheating rates in college are fairly high and have remained stably so since the 1960s, but premeditated cheating can be addressed with randomized seating charts.
The pressures in colleges are high, especially for students who plan to go on to graduate school. As students struggle to figure out time management and their classes compete with their extracurriculars and social lives, too many find cheating as an acceptable alternative to hard work. That is truer for very large classes, where students feel themselves fade into the masses. It is also truer for courses with just one or two high-stakes exams.
Faculty perhaps should not be encouraged to change their course designs, and eliminating large lecture courses would have far-reaching effects, but a simple fix like randomized seating on exam day could go a long way.