Exam cheating controls designed by students could have a hidden button

The Guardian
Published at 06:00 AM Jun 28 2024
University students attending an exam.
Photo: Courtesy of UDSM
University students attending an exam.

AN irony of sorts was being aired at midweek as students at the University of Dodoma (UDOM) were reported to have innovated a number of systems, or applications, to control examination leakage and facilitate selection of courses using artificial intelligence (AI).

The development was reported at a week-long symposium among students and faculty members for computer studies, informatics and virtual education, where an innovative programme was unveiled.

The student innovators said their design came in response to a series of challenges facing students, and it is thus clear it faces lecturers or tutors as well.

It is unclear how far even the UDOM authorities were on record as having applauded that innovation, even as definitely no one wants exam cheating to mar the respectable holding and marking of examinations.

Yet there will be people in virtually any field who would wish there are loopholes upon which one could gain by their careful use, without upsetting the applecart as it were.

That is the big issue in shifting to computer-based communication in various areas, as at times hideous drawbacks have been noticed as well.

The key issue is removing face-to-face interaction, now showing negative aspects in clearly faulty electronic billing and receipt issuance.

What electronic billing involves comes to virtually destroying evidence as to who is actually responsible for a faulty receipt, as it boils down to who was on duty and how error came about.

It takes a lot of time to sort that out, unlike in a situation where a revenue officer hands a receipt to a customer or client.

Presumably, no one would go home with a 3m/- tax receipt whereas the proper amount paid was 24m/-, as a regional commissioner reported having witnessed in a key urban centre recently.

That was in part why there was room for doubting whether students can design a totally fool-proof control app for exams, as universities design fool-proof apps for academic standards – and that sort of thing.

There is a street expression that ‘boys will be boys’ and thus the hide and seek one may see at play in governance or the corporate world will never be sorted out by designing new tools.

Governance will always have its part in probity, links to the fear of losing one’s job or being black-listed, as no one wants headlines, or rumours all over the place, for the wrong reasons.

So, there are some societal safeguards where people will try to do their best so long as someone is checking and won’t smile at deliberate errors or falsehoods.

Trouble may be that it isn’t the system – yes, system – that people want, but being free to do whatever they want while those on the outside talk as much as they want.

It might be seen as ‘democracy’ while it is, in fact, anarchy that could breed a disgruntled Generation Z. Showcasing exam leakage controls sounds nice, but we must guard against being overly optimistic.