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There are two kinds of unauthorised use or access which may give problems: expert hacking, and casual attempts by students to cheat.

Casual Cheating and Unsubmitted Exercises

There are some obvious ways in which students can cheat. For example, they might download an exercise, so that they have an opportunity to see the questions, then avoid actually doing the exercise on screen at that time. They could take as long as they wish to find the answers, then download the exercise again, and complete it perfectly.

It is impossible to prevent this type of behaviour, but does record every occasion on which an exercise is downloaded by a registered student, and records the student name and download time. Whenever a teacher sees a list of exercise results, they will also see a list of the occasions on which the exercise was downloaded but not submitted, and this should allow the teacher to see when students are cheating in this way. The results are displayed like this:

Exercise Results for 'Too Many Cooks'
Student Name Mark Submitted Duration  
Fred Smith 99 30 Oct 2001 09:17 0:06:26 More information...
Yoko Fujiyama 83 31 Oct 2001 11:21 0:09:14 More information...
Dipak Patel 76 30 Oct 2001 23:22 0:07:07 More information...
Fred Smith Not submitted 28 Oct 2001 15:30 n/a  
Fred Smith Not submitted 29 Oct 2001 15:55 n/a  

This shows that Fred Smith scored 99 when he completed the "Too Many Cooks" exercise on the 30th October, but also that he had previously downloaded the exercise on 28th and 29th. He did not complete the exercise on either of these occasions, but he may have had an opportunity to see the questions.

The system does not try prevent this kind of behaviour - it simply informs the teacher that it is happening, so that the teacher can act on it if s/he wants to do so. The existence of unsubmitted exercises does not prove that a student has been cheating, or deliberately misusing the system - for example, a few unsubmitted exercises may simply indicate that the student is using an unreliable internet connection. It is for the teacher to decide what response, if any, is appropriate.

Note that when an "Unfinished" result is recorded, this also indicates that the student may have had the opportunity to see the exercise questions.

Extra Information - Host Names and IP Addresses

As well as the score, and an optional student comment, the results system also stores the host-name (computer name) and IP address (internet number) of the computer from which the exercise was submitted. Those who understand this information may find it useful, especially for tracking and monitoring students who are suspected of collaborating unfairly, or cheating in some other way.

Expert Hacking is as website, and as such, it may be possible for expert users to gain unauthorised access to it, and to alter the records and results stored here. We have put in place every security measure available to us, within the technological restrictions under which the system works, but we cannot guarantee that cheating is impossible, or that the system cannot be "hacked".

It is therefore important to remember that the results scoring system is not designed for use in testing for statutory examinations or formal qualifications. is only as secure as any other online environment, and is inherently less secure than a supervised examination room.

If you know of or suspect that some unauthorised access has been made to your account, or to any of the information or results stored there, please let us know urgently. In the UK, unauthorised use of computer systems is a criminal offence.