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Since the beginning of exams, cheating has been a part of life. Cheating on exams has become more common with the advent of technology. Students not only use their smartphones to search for answers, but they also post test questions and answers online, often as the test is in progress.
How can you stop student cheating with smartphone technology? Algeria may have one answer, but it might not be something we like.
For several years, Algeria has been plagued by cheating among more than 700,000. Students who have taken Algeria’s four-year bachelor’s degree exit exam. Students who use their smartphones to share exam questions and answers immediately after each exam start appear on social media. Students could share their answers and latecomers (of whom there is a large number) could view the questions before they enter one of the 2,100 exam centers in Algeria.
In 2016, the problem was so severe that the Algerian Education Ministry declared several exams null and ordered over 500,000 students from the country to retake the exam with a new question. 31 people were also arrested, including several employees of the education ministry.
The Ministry installed mobile phone jammers in 2017 and blocked access to Facebook and Twitter. Students who arrived late to the exam were not allowed to take it, but they could attend an alternative test centre at a later time.
What about turning off the internet?
However, it did not work completely. All centers had metal detectors in place in 2018 to stop smartphones being smuggled into the center. All teachers and test proctors were required to hand over their tablets and phones. Also installed were devices that could be used to jam wireless signals and record video surveillance cameras.
However, this was nothing compared with what Algeria did other than turning off the Internet.
It shut down all internet access. It was not limited to students and not only around testing centers. The entire country was without internet access. The Algerian government ordered that the public telephone operator, which provides most of the Internet access, and private internet service providers (ISPs), shut down the Internet for up three hours each day during the week of testing. Three one-hour blackouts occurred on Wednesday and two each Thursday through Monday. Every type of connection was down, whether it be Wi-Fi, mobile, 3G or any other. This was true for every student at each exam center and every employee at every company, as well as every user at every private home and public location. No one could access the Internet.
Algeria is not the only one. During testing, the Internet is blocked by several Indian states, including Syria, Iraq and Mauritania. Ethiopia also blocks access to social media.
Turning off the Internet in the whole country is one way to stop students cheating with their smartphones. It’s also a great way reduce cybercrime.
Maybe there is a better way. We just have to keep looking.