Combating the ability to cheat in a+ls

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combating the ability to cheat in a+ls

Q: Are students able to cheat in A+LS? What are common methods that students employ in an attempt to cheat, and what can be done to combat that?

A: Many of today’s modern students are quite technically savvy, and some will try to find a way to cheat the system. There are steps and suggested policies that you can use to minimize the risk of a student cheating, but none of these is designed or intended to take the place of a vigilant Teacher or Lab Manager overseeing the students’ use of A+LS.
Logons and Passwords in A+LS
If a student obtains the logon and password of an Administrator or Teacher account in A+LS, then much damage can be done very quickly. This is fact of life for nearly all logon and password driven software, not just A+LS. A student who obtains a Teacher account in A+LS can delete theirs or other students’ work, change class rosters, obtain the logon and password of other students, or find the answers to test questions. A student who obtains an Administrator account in A+LS can remove entire subjects, find out the logon and password of other Administrator, Teacher or Student accounts, and wreak other “havoc” within a short time. Therefore it is good policy to have a strong password for all Administrator and Teacher accounts. It is also imperative that Teachers and Administrators log off completely after using A+LS. Historically, most students who have done damage in A+LS with another user’s account were able to do so because the user left themselves logged in to an unattended machine.
Cheating by Repeating Tests
For any lesson in A+LS, there are approximately 30-40 test questions in that lesson’s “test question pool”. One method that students employ to cheat is by taking the Practice test for a lesson in A+LS over and over again. The Practice Test gives a student 2 or 3 chances (depending upon the question layout) to answer the question and lets them know if each answer attempt was “correct” or “incorrect”. If a student is allowed to repeat the Practice test ad nauseam, then he or she can quickly become familiar with the answer to every question in the lesson’s test pool by process of elimination. To combat this, adjust your test settings so that once the student has achieved the “target” score on a Practice Test, they cannot take the test again and must move on to the Mastery Test or Essay section of that lesson (instructions below).
Students have also been known to repeat the Mastery Test, guessing at the answers, getting low scores and repeating the test over and over until they have found the answers to most questions in the test pool by process of elimination. You can easily adjust your lesson settings to limit the amount of times a student can take the Mastery Test without achieving the desired score. The screenshot below shows the “basic” settings window.

  1. Maximum Mastery test attempts is set to 3. This means that the student only gets 3 chances to take the Mastery Test. If they do not achieve the target score for the Mastery Test (an 80 in this example) in any of those 3 attempts, the Mastery Test button becomes unavailable and the student will not have mastered the lesson. They will be able to move on to the next lesson regardless (in case the student is working from home). In order for the student to get an “apple” on that lesson and master it, the teacher will need to intervene and give them more chances to take the Mastery Test. Setting this to 0 (zero) means the student can make unlimited attempts at the Mastery Test.

  1. In this example, student must achieve an 80 or greater in order to complete the Practice Test. This setting ties in with the Advanced settings in the next screenshot. Clicking the Advanced button takes you to the “advanced” settings window.

  1. In the Advanced settings window shown below, the top section shows what areas of the lesson “can be accessed after they are completed”. In other words, if a student is required to spend 5 minutes in the Study section, can they get back into the Study section after they have spent 5 minutes in it and “completed” it? Yes they can, according to these settings. However, Practice Test is unchecked in this section. This means that once the student gets an 80 on the practice test (as set in the Basic settings window), the Practice Test button becomes unavailable and the student must then move on to take the Mastery Test. This prevents the student from taking the Practice Test over and over until they memorize or write down the answers to every question by process of elimination.

Cheating by Launching Two Instances of A+LS.
In the past some students have attempted to cheat by launching A+LS and logging in to the Study section on their computer, minimizing that window, then launching a second instance of A+LS on the same machine and logging in to the Mastery Test section of that same lesson. They then toggle back and forth to get the solutions on one screen and type the answer on the other.
We have put a system in place that causes an “A+LS is already running” message to appear if the student tries to launch a second instance of A+LS on the same machine where one is already running. If you employ A+LS in a “thin client” environment (using Citrix or Terminal Sever for example), then this feature must be deactivated in order for A+LS to work properly. In that case, the teacher or lab manager must be vigilant and watch out for students who have more than one instance of A+LS running on their computer. Students who are able to cheat in this manner would also have overlapping Study and Mastery test access times which can be spotted very easily.
Cheating by Logging in to A+LS on Two Different Computers
Currently there is no way to prevent a student from logging in to A+LS on their computer, then launching and logging in to A+LS on another different computer to have access to both the Study and Test portions of A+LS at the same time. However, it is very obvious if a student is attempting to cheat in this manner. The student would be physically switching from using one computer to another and back again. Also their usage time records would overlap, with entries showing the student accessing the Study section during the same time frame as the Test section.
Using the Essay section to communicate with other students.
If “student A” shares their A+LS logon and password with “student B” and vice-versa, then those students may be able to use the Essay section of any given lesson to pass messages back and forth. The scenario can take place as follows:
Student A logs in, accesses the Essay section and types a note. Student B then logs in with Student A’s logon/password, sees the note left by Student A and types a reply and saves. Student A then logs in and sees the reply, etc.
If a teacher suspects that this is happening, it is fairly easy to verify. The student’s usage records for that activity will show overlapping access times for the Essay section. If you require the Essay section to be completed in order for the lesson to be mastered, then monitoring the Essay access times is the best way to combat this problem since the student must be allowed some freedom to access the Essay section and work.
If you do not require the Essay section to be completed in order for the lesson to be mastered, then lesson settings can be used to either prevent the student from accessing the Essay section at all, or to limit the number of times a student can access the Essay section.
A statement on the installation folder of A+LS
In order for A+LS to operate successfully with no administrative interference required, the student’s network account must allow them full control of the als30\alsclient folder where the software is installed on their computer, and all subfolders and files contained inside it.

There is nothing in that folder that will allow a student to be able to cheat in A+LS. Any proprietary information that even the most “tech-savvy” student could use is encrypted. Also, if a student were to delete or modify any files in that folder, the A+LS Client software can simply be reinstalled in a manner of minutes with no permanent damage done. If you have any questions or need further assistance, please contact AEC Customer Support toll-free at 800-222-2811 or via email at .

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