Harvard to professors: Just 'trust' students not to cheat on exams

The Ivy League institution is discouraging professors from proctoring "already stressful" exams.

Harvard University is telling its professors to "trust" students to take tests online without cheating.

According to a new report in the Harvard Crimson, a number of Harvard professors have transitioned to open-book exams for the semester after the coronavirus pandemic caused classes to move online.

Open-book exams typically allow students to refer to materials such as notes and textbooks while taking exams. 

The Crimson highlighted several professors and the reasons why they were altering exam formats. 

Christopher Foote, an economics professor, said he was moving to open-note exams because of “technical challenges.”  

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“Aside from the technical challenges of making sure that that software ran for everybody on their home computers no matter where they are, I just didn’t think it was appropriate to sort of introduce that level of intrusion of technological intrusion into the test taking process,” Foote told the Crimson.

Foote added that he trusted in the “academic integrity” of Harvard students.

Other professors are continuing to proctor exams online, but Harvard’s Office of Undergraduate Education (OUE) is encouraging faculty to refrain from doing so. 

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In a resource guide posted on the OUE website, faculty are told to modify exam formats so they may be taken without proctoring. 

“Because exams are already stressful for students and using technology to proctor closed-book, timed exams adds additional stress, we advise that you modify your exams to allow them to be taken without proctoring,” the guide states. 

The guide  asks professors to “trust and collaborate with your students” and later suggests “relying on the honor code for a closed-book test.”

Campus Reform reached out to Harvard but received no response in time for publication. 

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