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Written by:
Martin Barrett
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Is It Possible To Cheat On edX Courses

Can You Cheat On eDX Courses?

With teachers and invigilators doing the rounds, test takers are under constant supervision in a brick-and-mortar facility, but how would things be different if you took away the bricks, mortar, and the searching eyes from the exam equation?

Well, that’s just what we’re seeing in this, the golden age of online education platforms such as edX, the non-profit Harvard Graduate School-MIT brainchild that’s been revolutionizing remote digital learning.

Can you cheat on edX courses like computer science courses or other courses? Well, yes, technically, but, needless to say, you shouldn’t.

Let’s take a closer look at the issue of dishonorable comportment on edX, including how people have been doing it, how many people are up to no good, and why it’s really not in your best interest to follow suit.

What Does edX Say About Cheating?

edX doesn’t dedicate a lot of user manual real estate to the topic of cheating, and that might well be a wise move, as the more it’s mentioned, the more it might weigh on someone’s mind as a possibility.

Here’s what they say:

“…cheating by students is a possibility. However, students are warned not to cheat. Cheating reduces your learning ability, and this will not be good for your academic health.”

This is essentially a condensed version of edX’s Honor Code and the pledge you have to make to follow the platform’s rules when you create an account.

What Happens If edX Catches You Cheating?

Should you be caught red-handed violating the Honor Code and contradicting your pledge, edX reserves the right to take one or more of the following actions:

  • Give you nothing for an assignment
  • Withhold or revoke certification at the end of a course
  • Kick you off the course
  • Ban you from the edX platform
  • Additional tailored punitive action if deemed necessary by edX and edX course providers.
  • Diverse courses
  • Flexible access
  • Certificates/degrees
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How Are People Cheating On edX?

There are a few ways people have been known to cheat on edX courses and programs, but be wary, for the reason we know about them is that people are frequently being caught in the act.

Outsourcing Information

The easiest, and thus, the most common way of cheating in edX tests is simply searching for answers online or using other people’s notes. 

Although most edX exams follow the open book format, all the material you use must either be written by yourself or be considered supplemental materials.

In other words, you can use your own work and work handed out by the course itself to help you complete a test/quiz/exam on edX.

Anything outside of this is considered cheating, but while edX does have anti-cheating protocols in place, there’s no way they can fully police the dishonest methods detailed above.

What Part Of The edX Honor Code Does Outsourcing Information Contradict?

This form of cheating ignores the very first stipulation in the edX Honor Code Pledge:

“I will complete all tests and assignments on my own unless collaboration on an assignment is explicitly permitted.”

Can You Cheat On eDX Courses

edX & CAMEO Cheating

A much more sophisticated form of cheating on the edX platform is known as CAMEO, which stands for copying answers using multiple existences online.

CAMEO involves enrolling in a course on multiple accounts, establishing one as the “master account” and dubbing the rest “harvester accounts”.

On harvester accounts, cheaters will flick through a test as quickly as possible in order to reach the answer table at the end.

Students then simply snatch the correct answers from the table and input them into the test on the master account, allowing people to blaze through massive open online courses at a speed that would otherwise be impossible.

They then pay to claim their certificate and use it to fool others into thinking they’re more intelligent and qualified than they are, or sometimes even to try and leverage a position in the job market that they’re not suitable for.

Research has shown that CAMEO is quickly becoming a favorite among cheaters, as roughly 1.3% of all certificates handed out for HarvardX or MITx courses were obtained using this new cheating method.

How do researchers know this is happening? Well, when cross-referenced using a specialized algorithm, IP addresses, and timestamps laid it all out in black and white.

Instances of CAMEO are most prevalent across the social science, government, and health categories, which seemed… strange.

Why were so many people using this method to beat the system on these courses while only 0.1% of the computer science certificates handed out were found to have been claimed using underhanded tactics?

The answer, according to Ph.D. candidate Curtis G. Northcutt, MIT professor Isaac L. Chuang, and HarvardX committee co-chair Andrew D. Ho, is that social science, government, and health categories rely on relatively fixed question banks.

This means that exam questions can’t be randomized, which would be a great way of combating CAMEO.

Professor Chuang remarked, “Randomized questions are easier to ask when you have numeric answers. It’s more difficult to ask different questions in humanities and social science scenarios.”

The results of this study are worrying as is, but considering many CAMEO users may have utilized IP anonymizers or purposely slowed down their answer input to have it appear more natural, it’s possible the algorithm allowed many dishonest students to fall through the net.

What Part Of The edX Honor Code Does CAMEO Contradict?

CAMEO contradicts the second Honor Code stipulation:

“I will maintain only one user account unless edX has approved the use of a separate user account in connection with an employer-sponsored or university-sponsored program.”

Posting Answers

Seeking answers to test questions isn’t the only way people have been caught cheating on edX; providing others with said answers is also strictly out of the question, as it facilitates cheating.

Even though this is more of an indirect mode of cheating varied that rarely benefits the culprit, should someone be caught out, they will face one or more of the violation consequences detailed earlier.

What Part Of The edX Honor Code Does Sharing Answers Contradict?

Sharing answers is breaking the following rule of the Honor Code Pledge:

“I will not post answers to problems that are being used to assess learner performance.”

  • Diverse courses
  • Flexible access
  • Certificates/degrees
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Account Sharing

The final way in which people are known to play it fast and loose with the edX rules is account sharing, which is when a student’s data grant someone else access to their edX account, which could result in instances of CAMEO.

Account sharing also cheats the company out of money, as paid-for educational resources may be shared multiple times for free.

Being that edX is a non-profit organization, it’s only the learners that suffer, as money that would be used to optimize content is now lost.

What Part Of The edX Honor Code Does Account Sharing Contradict?

Account sharing is addressed by the third stipulation of the Honor Code Pledge:

“I will not let anyone else use my username and/or password.”

Final Thoughts

Can you cheat on edX? Yes. Should you? Absolutely not. Cheating your way to a certificate is a waste of time and effort, as the true value of edX is found in educational content.

The certificate is meaningless without the skills, and without the skills, you can’t utilize the certificate in any way besides maybe bragging about it to those who don’t know any better.

So, do yourself a favor… knuckle down, study hard, and earn your certificate!

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