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In many of my classes (mainly with undergraduate students), I begin every class session with a reading quiz, that is, a short, simple multiple-choice quiz on their assigned reading, to make sure that the students have read before class so that I can spend class time on more challenging and interesting topics than merely regurgitating the textbook for them. This counts for around 5% of the course grade. This technique has transformed my teaching, so I want to retain it in principle. However, there are many logistic challenges to administering these quizzes when I occasionally teach large lecture classes of over 100 students (especially Internet connection problems). So, I want to try to move these quizzes to the course learning management system (LMS), due the night before the class session.

My challenge is that I am afraid that many students might cheat and answer questions by looking up the reading material or sharing answers. When I do reading quizzes in class, I invigilate to restrict cheating, but I would not be present during the online quiz. I have researched and plan to implement multiple techniques to limit cheating in online quizzes (e.g. limited answer time; rotating questions for different students; etc.), cheating cannot be completely eliminated. My main concern with cheating (other than students hurting their conscience) is that if they don't read the assignment, then their learning during class next day would be severly limited.

With that background, my specific question here is: what is an appropriate amount of course weight to assign online quizzes that are given before every course session, considering the risk that student cheating might be quite high? For me, giving no course weight at all for these quizzes is not an option--a reading quiz that carries no weight is virtually useless.

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    But if they look up the answer in the textbook, haven't you achieved your goal of getting them to read the textbook? – Azor Ahai Aug 17 '18 at 20:24
  • @AzorAhai: Not at all, because I only ask 5 random questions with the hope that they read the entire assignment (usually 50 to 100 pages at a time). So, if they only look up answers, then maybe they read only 1% of the reading assignment to answer the questions, and they probably forget that 1% five minutes later. That completely defeats the purpose of a reading quiz. – Tripartio Aug 17 '18 at 20:32
  • @tripartio I find generally that the biggest problem is getting them to open the book to begin with. Once it's opened, they're more likely to read some, thus goal accomplished. If you're really concerned, presuming that the class meets thrice weekly, you could do an online quiz for every class session, but inform students that you reserve the right to do a quiz in class, and then so one about every 3-4 classes. If the reading is covers ten topics, and the online quiz five, make the in person one cover the other five. You'll fast know who did real reading. – guifa Aug 18 '18 at 16:22
  • @guifa, Actually, what you describe is more ore less what I've been doing for years and what I'm trying to move away from. The point of my question is that I want to move these quizzes outside the classroom, mainly to resolve complications due to technical issues (like Internet connection) and to regain around 15 minutes in each class session. – Tripartio Aug 18 '18 at 20:13
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My favorite way of incorporating out-of-class online quizzes is rather unconventional.

Rather than worrying about cheating, we encouraged students to work together and even to keep redoing the quiz until they got everything right. Then we incorporated their scores into their overall class grade as a multiplier.

In other words, the grade for the class was: grade = weighted_tests * f(online_quizzes)

We played some fancy curving games with that f function to mean that students wouldn't get hurt by being a little off, but that they'd suffer badly if they didn't take the online quizzes seriously. The net effect was to use the online quizzes as self-grading practice work, with a grading "stick" to enforce that the students were actually expected to do them.

  • I'm not sure how this obviates the cheating issue. Some students would simply share answers with friends without doing the reading themselves. That would defeat the purpose of the reading quizzes. As an aside, I also provide additional practice quiz questions for no credit and no deadline that they can repeat as often as they want. My question concerns reading quizzes which only work if the students actually read the assignment before class starts. – Tripartio Aug 18 '18 at 20:21
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    @Tripartio If a student wants to copy answers while unsupervised, there's no way for you to stop them. If you encourage them to share answers by working in a group, however, then you may find that students who would have skipped much of the readings anyway at least become better informed readings through discussion with others. – jakebeal Aug 18 '18 at 21:08
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I do quizzes, worth a significant grade and they are controlled...

Any quiz that you give the students which is not controlled should be worth zero IMHO, but as you have done 5% up to now, then 5% maximum as it is not controlled - definitely no more as, as you point out, they can cheat all too easily.

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There is value in giving a small amount of credit to such things. It is nothing more than an inducement to get them to engage with the course material. Assume that students look up answers rather than think them up. That doesn't matter if there is only a bit of credit for them. Even if they work together to come up with the answers, it isn't lost time for them, so don't worry about that either.

An alternative (that probably won't work for you) is to make the students hand you a physical paper (or electronic token) as a ticket to attend the lecture. If you don't have a ticket you don't get to watch the show. Then you don't need to give them credit at all.

The goal is that the students that are going to do well anyway and score at the top of the class don't really need to do this so there is no need to worry about them or penalize them for wanting to learn in a different way (small amount of credit). But the students who aren't going to be your superstars need the nudge (positive amount of credit). A bit of credit is the bait that lures them in to the trap.

But the real alternative is to flip the classroom, so that all reading and "content delivery" is outside the face to face sessions and the only things that you do when facing them are things you can't do otherwise. Small group work, discussions, projects, etc. (

  • For attendance a “chip” system like the ones used for pets would work - sensor round the door and you know exactly who is there... – Solar Mike Aug 18 '18 at 6:42

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