Remote cheating leads to ‘corona degrees’ in Greece

THESSALONIKI, GREECE (AFP) – Shuttered for over a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Greek universities are now grappling with a surge in online exam cheating giving rise to a new reality: the “corona degree”.

Both professors and students candidly admit that examination safeguards are practically impossible to enforce in a remote-learning environment with hundreds of participants simultaneously online.

“In jest, we call the degrees to be awarded this season ‘corona degrees’,” said John Mylopoulos, a professor of environmental engineering and former rector of Thessaloniki’s Aristotelio University.

“Remote learning is supposed to be a supplementary education tool. When it completely subsumes teaching, problems begin,” he told AFP.

Sofia, a 20-year-old psychology student at Aristotelio, said that “last summer, I took two exams on behalf of two of my friends and nobody realised”.

“I logged in using their computers and personal registration codes. There was no requirement for an open camera during the exam. My two friends received a nearly perfect score without opening a book,” she told AFP.

Many professors have been surprised to see even long-term students who haven’t set foot in a university campus for years scoring high results.

Dean and Professor of the Department of Applied Informatics Alexandros Chatzigeorgiou at the University of Macedonia, in Thessaloniki. PHOTOS: AFP
A student of the Faculty of Law of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki attends a videoconference course

“Result averages are up, and people we haven’t seen in years are showing up for exams because the system makes it easy to cheat,” said Kostas Kosmatos, an assistant professor of criminology at Thrace’s Democritus University.

Kosmatos noted that only an open-camera examination can help restore transparency to the procedure.

“But it’s impossible to do that with up to 500 people taking part in an exam,” he said.

“So we break down the participants in groups, assigning different subjects to each team. We also try to limit the time available for answers. But even so, we cannot effectively address the problem,” he added.

Alexandros Chatzigeorgiou, a professor of information technology at Thessaloniki’s Macedonia University, warned that even personalised exam passwords are not a complete safeguard.

“We have no way of verifying that the person logging in is the actual student,” he said.

“And the camera could be showing someone else taking the exam in their stead.”

Some students have already figured out counter-measures to overcome nearly any impediment to cheating.

“Groups have formed on Messenger, Discord and other platforms,” said Costas, a 22-year-old Aristotelio University student.

“Using split screens, the correct answers are shared out in real time during an exam without (overseers) realising, regardless of whether the camera is on or not,” he said.

Angela Kastrinaki, dean of the University of Crete’s literature department, said it is easy for students to Google exam answers even under the eye of supervisors on camera.

“We get paraphrased Wikipedia answers,” she noted. Some of her students even enlisted a respected specialist in linguistic history to help crack an exam question that was not available online.

“But even he got a verse wrong, so I got 50 papers with the same mistake. It was funny,” said Kastrinaki. Overall, she found 100 students had employed some form of cheating that day.