How to Proctor Exams and Courses on LearnDash to Prevent Cheating

    Abhay Vishwakarma
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Students cheat on tests.

Every educator knows this to be a fact, and it’s an issue we’ve been battling for decades.

In fact, a study by the International Centre for Academic Integrity revealed that as many as 43% of graduate students admit to cheating on a test. Meanwhile, the number goes up even higher in undergrads at 68%!


Naturally, skeptics of online learning methods argue that online tests can’t possibly be effective. If students can cheat within the rigorous testing standards of traditional schooling, online exams don’t stand a chance.

Well, to that we’d like to say – Inaccurate!

If you have a LearnDash LMS , there are so many ways to secure your online exams. You can have custom proctoring solutions built right into your LMS or make a few tweaks to your test creation methods. Throw in a couple of technology-backed solutions and you’ll even have your most creative students beat.

In the coming sections, we’ll explore various scenarios that can come up when students take an exam. And then talk about different solutions for them.

Scenario 1: Ensuring that the student themselves take the exams 

Traditionally, a student takes the exam in a classroom setting.

So there’s an invigilator who verifies their id before they start the exam. This makes sure students attempt their tests without any external help.

So how do we uphold these standards with an online exam?

The first barrier will be the unique credentials that students use to log in. You can send the password right before the start of the exam to their personal inbox. But even though that makes it a little difficult, credentials can still be easily shared.

Matter of the fact is you don’t have eyes on them. So they can have their siblings or their friends help them out or take the exam.

To prevent this, we need to establish the student’s id before the test begins. And verify that the same student is taking the exam at regular intervals during the test.

Solution 1: Security Questions

This is a very simple method to authenticate a student. And it can be easily integrated right into your LearnDash LMS.

The way it works is – the student is asked a set of security questions at the beginning of the exam or the course.

These could be simple questions, but ones that only the test taker would know: “What was the name of your 2nd-grade teacher?” or “What is your mother’s hometown?”

As the student progresses through the exam, the same questions are asked at random intervals. A very short timer can also be attached forcing the student to answer promptly.

If he or she picks the wrong answer they are logged out of the exam portal. They can be asked to either restart the exam with different questions or take the course again. 

Pro Tip: The key here is to make sure the student is not expecting the questions, so they don’t share the answers beforehand. So you can have them answer a long list of questions and ask only a couple arbitrarily. Or come up with complicated questions. Also give them a very short time to answer.

Solution 2: Face Recognition

Although this method works in a similar fashion, it is a more secure way to proctor your exam as compared to security questions. This can also be added as a custom solution to your LearnDash LMS.

Using their webcam, a picture of the student is captured before giving access to the test.

During the exam, pictures of the student are taken at regular intervals and compared to the initial picture. So we ensure that the same student is taking the exam. Additionally, this can be used to catch images of helpers in the background or mobile devices being used. 

If the pictures do not match, the student will be directly logged out of the site. He/She will have to contact the admin to get access to the exam again.

For a foolproof plan – add security questions along with face recognition to your LearnDash LMS and effectively deter cheating students.

Solution 3: Keystroke Biometric Authentication

This is relatively a more advanced solution. And you might need a separate service provider to add this proctoring method to your LearnDash LMS. Here, the student’s typing pattern is used to authenticate the person taking the exam.

To break it down, this technique analyses the keystroke pattern of the test taker and forms a unique identification parameter for him. This is done by asking him to type out a sentence or two before the test begins.

So once the test taker starts taking the test, his or her keystroke rhythm can be matched periodically with the one recorded at the beginning.

And if a dissimilarity is found, the student is logged out of the exam.

KeystrokeDNA, TypingDNA offer this authentication method as a service.

Scenario 2: Prevent them from using the internet to cheat

As remote exams are administered online,  to take an exam a student will need access to the internet. Unfortunately, that is something you can’t circumvent. It is only natural to question how effective an online test would be when students have the whole internet at their service. 

While that is valid, it is also not true. A test can be online can still maintain its integrity and effectiveness. Let’s discuss a couple of methods and checks you can put in place to deter students from using the internet to look for answers.

Solution 1: Screen Capturing and disabling Copy-Paste

Screen capturing works in a similar way as the face recognition method. The only difference is here, the system snaps images of the student’s screen. This is done periodically at short intervals of time. If the student’s screen indicates that he is looking at anything other than his exam window he will be logged out of the exam.

This is a useful method to discourage students from switching tabs and search for answers on the internet.

One way the student can bypass this measure would be to quickly copy-paste answers from another tab. If this happens in the interval between two images being captured, it can go undetected. One way to counteract this is to disable the copy-paste function on your LearnDash LMS. This will require them to be on tabs for longer which could then be documented in the next screen capture.

Solution 2: Secure Browser

A secure browser is one that prevents the student from switching to any other tab. This ensures that the student remains only on the exam portal for the entire duration of the exam. Essentially creating a controlled test-taking environment.

Coupled with face recognition to catch the use of mobile devices or help from friends, it can be a highly effective method to prevent cheating.

Scenario 3: Prevent answer sharing among students

This scenario can occur when you are conducting a remote exam but all your students are physically taking the exam together. For example, an aptitude test conducted on a college campus as part of the recruitment process.

Not just that, students are notoriously famous for finding creative ways of sharing answers. For example, using a shared google doc to update and copy answers. These can be discouraged by using any of the methods above along with changing the way you create exams.

The methods discussed below can be put in place by customizing your LearnDash quiz module.

Solution 1: Randomized / Different questions

This is an extremely easy but effective method. And it is probably something you are already familiar with. Shuffling questions on an exam to discourage cheating is quite an old technique.

Similarly, you can have your LearnDash LMS generate the test questions in arbitrary order for each student. This makes it difficult to share and compare answers. Or you could give each student questions that vary from each other slightly. So the answers are different but are of the same level of difficulty.

Solution 2: Add a timer to questions

Add a timer to your LearnDash test, a section, or even individual questions. Set the timer for a time period that is slightly longer than required by an average student to answer the question. What this does is give the test taker very little time to actually ask around for answers.

Solution 3: Restrict order of attempting questions

If your test contains randomized questions to prevent cheating, you also need to enforce that questions need to be attempted serially. So a student will have to answer a question before he can move onto the next.

If allowed to answer questions out of order, it is still possible for students to swap answers. Which this effectively deters.

Pro Tip: For the best results use a combination of the three methods. Talk to us about customizing your LearnDash quiz module.

Scenario 4: Monitor the exam taking

For traditional exams, an invigilator is always present to look for any suspicious activity among the students. The biggest complaint with online exams is that you don’t have eyes on students as they take the test.

But there are also ways to remotely proctor an online exam. And monitor students for any unusual behavior. Here are a couple of such ways:

Solution 1: Video Monitoring

The process itself is quite self-explanatory. The student keeps their web camera on as they take the test. The invigilator logins remotely to see a live feed of the student taking the exam. And reports any suspicious behavior. He/she can view all the students on a single screen and has the power to log a student out of the exam. Services like Examity can help you integrate it into your LearnDash LMS.

However, the pre-requisite for this method is that all students have to take the exam at the same time. For a self-paced course, this isn’t very feasible.

Solution 2: Audit Logging

An alternative to live video monitoring is audit logging.

This is a method where every action taken by the student – from login to pressing the submit button – is documented. This log can be used to flag suspicious activity while the student is taking the exam or even after the exam has been taken by the student.   

Making this method suitable for even self-paced courses.

Parting Words

At the end of it all, I’ll leave you with this cliche line – Students who cheat harm no one but themselves.

But, we can do our best to make it as hard for them as possible! 😉

Let us know if you have any more suggestions to add! If you have any questions about adding proctoring methods to your LearnDash LMS you can leave us a comment or reach out to us!

Abhay Vishwakarma

Abhay Vishwakarma

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