Algeria Shut Down the Internet to Prevent Students from Cheating on Exams

Algeria shut the Internet down nationwide to prevent high-school students from cheating on their exams.

The solution in New South Wales, Australia was to ban smartphones.

EDITED TO ADD (6/22): Slashdot thread.

Posted on June 21, 2018 at 7:09 AM • 22 Comments

Comments

CallMeLateForSupperJune 21, 2018 9:06 AM

I'll go out on a limb here and say I support the Australian remedy. School kids should focus on the effing exam; phones are just a distraction. (Please spare me the lame "What if A really-really needs to contact B?")

Algeria's solution, killing the internet, is a no-brainer .... and I mean in *every* sense.

Ross SniderJune 21, 2018 9:29 AM

One of the best professors I ever studied under had a great solution to this problem.

He gave us "open everything" tests. We were allowed to use the internet, bring the textbook, bring cell phones, talk to each other, he would even answer questions himself during the testing period.

And he made the test extremely difficult, so that there's no way you could pass unless you knew the material without having to look anything up. The material required that you derive answers and show your work, and there simply wasn't time to both solve your own test and also record it for other people. There was so much material to cover in the test, if you stopped to talk to other people or ask the internet or consult the textbook, you would fail. You could still look up a couple formulas or corrections, but if you didn't know what you were doing, you would fail.

This protects against every kind of cheating except for some versions where all students get into a chat room together and share literally pictures of their tests in a forum. Plus, we were all still "competing", so it didn't make sense for anyone to go out on a limb to sabotage their own good grades.

In the end it was much easier to just understand the material than try to create a collaboration forum under these conditions.

Yabba Dabba Don'tJune 21, 2018 9:56 AM

@Ross

Exactly. The cheating is the symptom of the problem, not the problem. These kinds of testing situations are all wrong to begin with. They don't test anything useful, they fail to predict success, and their actual purpose is a population command and control function rather than anything educational.

Crazy DudeJune 21, 2018 10:16 AM

I did not know it would be possible to shut down Internet for the whole Nation!
How is this even possible? What about the business and rest of communication? I thought this might result in a huge collapse.
On the other hand... cheating has become a very successful DOS to Algeria for few hours, they got no Internet? Has someone ever done a more successful DOS in the history?? :)

SlagJune 21, 2018 10:50 AM

"President Bouteflika would like the nation to know that there will be no internet tonight for anyone because TIMMY CHEATED ON HIS TEST. NOW NO ONE HAS ANY INTERNET. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW TIMMY??"

CuriousJune 21, 2018 1:40 PM

I've seen headlines like this from other countries recently. Is this really the reason, or is it used as a cover to stifle communication when, for example, a negative policy change is announced by the government?

Jon w Three KidsJune 21, 2018 1:53 PM

I have three kids ages 6, 12 and 15.

Most parents I talk to agree that smartphones are not great for their kids, but they allow them so that the kids can keep in touch with the parents and to not exclude the kids from their online social circle. Banning smartphones across the entire school solves both problems.

BilateralropeJune 22, 2018 12:20 AM

About 10 years ago I had my exams at university. The policy was that all cellphones (smartphones weren't a thing yet, but cheating via text message could happen) must be switched off and in your bag at the front of the room, some distance from your desk. The university let everyone know that they would be running cellphone detectors during the exams to catch people cheating.

The university did run the cellphone detectors. They caught people cheating. The student magazine laughed at those caught each time.

No need to cut off the internet. Just a reliable method of detection and serious punishment to serve as a deterrent.

Peter A.June 22, 2018 3:52 AM

@Ross:

This is the best way, at least for subjects that actually need actual thinking, for example solving math or physics problems or writing essays.

There's another method which was applied by my physics professor. The exam was two-stage, written and oral. There was some oversight during the written one but not particularly rigorous. After that professor took every student (actually three students at a time) for a face-to-face "talk". Having marked papers in front of him, he asked a few "control questions". If he felt a particular student's knowledge is on par with the written exam grade, the grade will stay; otherwise it could be a completely different result.

The elder students' somewhat perverse advice was this: don't shoot for A, unless you're really confident with your knowledge, or you'll be grilled so hard you may end up with F. Shoot for B or C, answer a few relatively easy control questions and be done with it. I can't remember exactly what I got, but it was either B or C :-)

meJune 22, 2018 5:12 AM

what if someone uses walkie talkie?
or has a nearby wifi hotspot with an offline copy of wikipedia?
that's no sense...

exaclty like it was no sense to "ban telegram" in russia.

i don't know the reason behind this internet block but for the russia case i don't think it was about telegram, i think that it was about damaging america by shutting down the whole amazon and goole, so that business must buy from russia cloud infrastructure or other country like ovh france.
(i'm not american)
do you think it makes sense?

meJune 22, 2018 5:18 AM

@Crazy Dude
Yes it's possible.
think about your modem: you have a few devices connected to it: pc, phone, console...
if you shutdown your modem your devices lose internet.
your modem is connected to isp modem (the one that gives you service).
if they shutdown their modem you and everyone who live near you and has your isp lose internet.
this chain become bigger and bigger.
in the end there are a few (not only one) modems that join the traffic of multiple isp forming the nation traffic, they are connected with multiple nations that are near yours.
if you shutdown them you shutdow the whole internet for that country.
but note there is no "master modem" that if you shutdown it you shutdown the internet globally.
because each nation has multiple modems connected to multiple nations.

(but you can still use dial up 56k modem)

eRnieJune 22, 2018 8:58 AM

@Jon w Three Kids,

Most parents I talk to agree that smartphones are not great for their kids, but they allow them so that the kids can keep in touch with the parents

A mobile phone is great if you need to contact your kid and you only know they're wandering around the neighborhood somewhere--but I've heard "most parents" are too paranoid to allow that anymore (despite crime rates being near all-time lows). If they're at school or a friend's house, they can communicate on whatever phone's there, without having their own.

albertJune 22, 2018 1:19 PM

Algeria has government monitor and control capabilities "baked in" to its Internet system.

"...ISPs responsible for the sites they host, and requires them to take “all necessary steps to ensure constant surveillance” of content to prevent access to “material contrary to public order and morality.”..."

(see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_in_Algeria)
Read the section in 'Surveillance and filtering'

So it's trivial for them to shut down the Internet.

OT, but interesting: Algeria has a 'shadow govt'.
"...Elected politicians are considered to have relatively little sway over Algeria. Instead, a group of unelected civilian and military "décideurs", known as "le pouvoir" ("the power"), actually rule the country, even deciding who should be president. The most powerful man may be Mohamed Mediène, head of the military intelligence...."

. .. . .. --- ....

albertJune 22, 2018 1:45 PM

Re: Students cheating on exams.

When I was a lad, students did try to cheat on exams, but we didn't have cell phones or calculators. You could use your slide rule:) And you had to show your work. Not many multiple choice questions, but lots of questions required lengthly, hand-written answers. Imagine the work teachers had to do to grade those tests.

'Showing your work' in math meant you needed to understand the -concepts- behind the various procedures you used to get the answer. Rote memorization of formulas can work, but I've always found conceptualizing is better. But that's me.

Flash forward. Banning smartphones means I lose my calculator, watch, and appointment book ('diary' for those across the Pond:)

AS far as getting in contact with your kid, we had a system that worked pretty well: call the school and they sent a runner to the classroom to fetch you.

We are victims of technology and slaves to it well.
That's progress....I guess.

. .. . .. --- ....

TRXJune 28, 2018 8:19 AM

> Asimov

In the story, a character found that he could do math in his head, without needing a computer.

Asimov actually wrote a whole book about doing that. Knowing him, maybe more than one... and I read it when I was a kid.

Back there were paper, slide rules, and desk calculators. Asimov's justification for teaching people to do arithemetic in their heads was that it was almost always faster that way than to take the time ot write it down, move the sliders, or punch the keys. And even if you chose to use written or mechanical assistance, even a partial solution in your head would help you recognize mistakes if you pushed the wrong key...

Nowadays there's an echo of this in the engineering field. You have young(ish) engineers who will look at a problem, maybe take a stab at it, and declare it unsolveable. And you have old(er) engineers who will poke around at the problem and develop a solution eventually.

That's because we're at the point where one cohort of engineers was trained to solve by approximation, iterating to a desired result. The other cohort was trained that there is one, and only one, correct answer and no other answer is acceptable.

Alyer Babtu June 29, 2018 9:51 AM

@TRX

trained that there is one, and only one, correct answer

By taste and by prejudice of schooling, I would only acknowledge pure mathematics, complete and perfect. The messy partial character of applied math meant it wasn’t really math. Later in the workplace, the environment had little place for purist approaches, so I had to learn how to make adequate and fruitful approximations, and to “think approximatively”. It was one of the most valuable lessons I ever received. The contrast seemed to oppose math against math for a while. This was resolved when I came across the (absolutely wonderful) book “Theory of Oscillators” by Andronov, Vitt, Khaikin. (Dover reprints the full second edition). The authors give a beautiful discussion of the relation between the two maths. One can never abandon rigor, but every area has a rigor that is appropriate to it.

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