Students using app to cheat

Students admit to abusing Quizlet study app to access answer keys

ORLANDO, Fla. – Cheating has gone high-tech in Central Florida schools. Students are using the Internet to share answers to assignments, including tests and quizzes, across the country.  

“There are some classes where at the end of it I learned nothing but got an A," said a student who admitted to cheating in high school and agreed to talk about it if his identity was concealed.

[READ: Quizlet and UCF release statements concerning app]

The student said he cheated by using a popular app and website called Quizlet. It’s supposed to be used to study, but that’s not how he said it was used in high school class.

“We all had a computer in front of us, and Quizlet was pretty much on every screen,” he said. “We would take the tests and Quizlet would be in a separate window. We'd minimize it and blow up the tests when she walked by, then when she walked by us, pop up Quizlet again.”

He explained how simple it is to cheat with Quizlet.

“It's so easy to use: You just copy (a) question and paste it in Google and Quizlet is (the) first thing that pops up,” he said. “In some cases, it's not just the question, it will have the entire assignment for everything. Really, it's just one click and done.”

It’s not just happening in high school. News 6 watched a UCF student log on to his online Spanish quiz. Within seconds he was able to paste one question into Google and get all the answers to the quiz. News 6 watched as the student got a 100 percent without even reading the questions.

UCF said it does not blame tools such as Quizlet for the cheating.

“There are a host of different study resources online, and what’s important is the intent with which students use them,” UCF spokeswoman Courtney Gilmartin said. “Quizlet can be used ethically, but we encourage students to make their settings private so that the tool remains a resource for them but does not give others an unfair advantage.”

But students make it a point to share.

“College students are all in this together,” a UCF student told News 6. “Any time they get their hands on something, they're really quick to get it out to other students.”

The problem is made worse, students said, because educators use cookie-cutter tests from publishers that end up all over the Internet. And many students just can’t resist.

“If someone put $100 in front of you, would you take it?” asked the student who used Quizlet to cheat in high school.

But UCF said they should resist.

“Students come to UCF to learn, and taking unethical shortcuts undermines what higher education is all about and puts students’ academic futures in jeopardy,” Gilmartin said.

Students blame the system.

"If professors wanted to take time and create their own tests and quizzes to avoid students cheating and using Quizlet, they could definitely do so,” a UCF student said. “But I don’t see it happening too often."

Gilmartin said UCF has been working with both students and faculty members to address this type of technology.

UCF has also used technology of its own to combat cheating. News 6 has learned some classes required students to videotape themselves while taking online quizzes and tests at home.

UCF also built a high-tech computerized testing lab, with plenty of video cameras, to try to combat cheating during tests. But students said that doesn't help when students memorize the answers before walking in.

“Paying for something you already have the answers for is kind of a joke,” the UCF student said. “I feel like having answers to the test kind of defeats the purpose. There’s really no purpose because you’re not learning anything and not learning how to apply knowledge. It's just memorization. I was doing that back in grade school.”

Quizlet told News 6 it actively works to combat cheating on its app.

"Our mission is to improve education. We have millions of students and teachers using Quizlet study sets every day in every country of the world who are excited about improving their performance. Despite having over 100 million study sets created by users, only a small percentage are found to be inappropriate. We take a number of steps to actively combat cheating of any kind."

Quizlet said it takes the following steps when it hears about cheating:

  • If notified of suspicious content, we immediately take it down.
    • We use that content to train our tools to automatically identify ‘suspect’ material when posted, flag it for our support team, review each of those study sets and remove them if appropriate.
    • We reach out to teachers who let us know about offending content and asked them to send us any other such study materials they've found on Quizlet.
    • We also have Community Guidelines that explicitly state that Quizlet is not intended to be used for cheating and to report any suspicious study sets to us if found. 
    • We are making constant improvements to our automated tools to identify and quarantine suspicious materials more quickly.

And Quizlet is being used as intended in Seminole County, as a tool to help students learn.

At Millennium Middle School, science teachers use the app, “but it's used as a station and monitored because only five students use it at a time,” said Michael Lawrence, the spokesman for Seminole County Public Schools.

The student who told News 6 about cheating in his high school confirmed there are some students who do the right thing.

“There's always the one student that wants to do the work,” he said.