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Mobile scanners to detect cheating in exams

A vibrating alert sounds if a student has switched on a mobile phone during an exam. SDU does not experience many instances of cheating, though.

The University of Southern Denmark is the first Danish university to equip its invigilators with mobile scanners.
This is to ensure that students do not look up information online or get help via text message when sitting an exam.

“Use of mobile phones in exams has always been prohibited, but it is difficult to enforce in practice, especially when a student goes to the toilet. The scanner lets us know if a mobile phone has been turned on, and it works rather like a Geiger counter, where the signal strength increases the closer you are to the source,” explains Kurt Gammelgaard, Head of IT at the University of Southern Denmark.

He adds that the invigilators will generally keep the scanner discreetly hidden away in a pocket, and it will only be brought out if it starts to vibrate.

Mobile scanners now in use

The scanners have already been in use since December, and will be put to the test in earnest in January, when traditionally many exams take place. Any students caught using their mobiles could be expelled.

Before the exam starts, students are reminded that they are not allowed to use mobile phones, and they have the option of having their mobiles stored until they have completed their assignments.

The University of Southern Denmark is working to minimise cheating in exams in general, using both technical measures and information campaigns for students.

Some students are not aware of all the rules

“We do a lot of preventive work because, apparently, some of the cheating that occurs is because the students are not sufficiently aware of the rules,” according to Morten Hansen, Director of Studies at the University of Southern Denmark.

He reports that approximately 175 cases of cheating occurred at the university in 2013. This figure should be seen in the context of the fact that 160,000 exams took place.

“And some of the cases were only minor. For example, one student had omitted to use quotation marks around a quotation, but had mentioned elsewhere in the text that it was a quotation. So it was really just a careless error, but we had to report it nonetheless,” Morten Hansen explains.

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