As more classes go online and more money gets thrown at getting as many students enrolled into online classes as possible, expect online cheating to become massive. The easy way around this, of course, is to have small class sizes with dedicated teachers who would personally tailor material and grade essays and such.
But that would eliminate or at the very least greatly reduce the cost savings schools hope to have from offering online classes. Some of the online classes Stanford is offering can have literally thousands of students enrolled in a single session. Thousands. There is no teacher interaction there. There are no personalized touches. They are basically watching someone else read a book to them and taking multiple choice quizzes at the end.
As long as the system prioritizes efficiency over efficacy, cheating will be easy.
Schneier on Security: Cheating in Online Classes
In the case of that student, the professor in the course had tried to prevent cheating by using a testing system that pulled questions at random from a bank of possibilities. The online tests could be taken anywhere and were open-book, but students had only a short window each week in which to take them, which was not long enough for most people to look up the answers on the fly. As the students proceeded, they were told whether each answer was right or wrong.
Mr. Smith figured out that the actual number of possible questions in the test bank was pretty small. If he and his friends got together to take the test jointly, they could paste the questions they saw into the shared Google Doc, along with the right or wrong answers. The schemers would go through the test quickly, one at a time, logging their work as they went. The first student often did poorly, since he had never seen the material before, though he would search an online version of the textbook on Google Books for relevant keywords to make informed guesses. The next student did significantly better, thanks to the cheat sheet, and subsequent test-takers upped their scores even further. They took turns going first. Students in the course were allowed to take each test twice, with the two results averaged into a final score.
"So the grades are bouncing back and forth, but we're all guaranteed an A in the end," Mr. Smith told me. "We're playing the system, and we're playing the system pretty well."