Can Canvas See When You Switch Tabs? 

can canvas see when you switch tabs

Canvas has become one of the most widely used learning management systems (LMS) in education. Adopted by a majority of colleges and universities across the United States, Canvas provides a robust platform for course administration, communication, and assessment.

However, with the rapid shift to online learning and remote testing triggered by the pandemic, cheating during digital assessments has become a critical concern. So, can professors on Canvas detect if a student switches between browser tabs or applications while undertaking a quiz or test? Let’s find out.

In this comprehensive guide, we analyze how Canvas functions, its built-in anti-cheating capabilities, and the workarounds students use to bypass them. By the end, you will know exactly what Canvas can and cannot detect if a student alternates between tabs or apps during an exam.

What is Canvas?

Canvas is a cloud-based Learning Management System (LMS) developed by Instructure Inc. First launched in 2011, it has emerged as one of the most widely adopted LMS platforms in higher education.

As an LMS, Canvas enables educational institutes to create and deliver online courses and carry out assessments. It provides a broad range of administrative, communicative, analytical, and community-building tools.

Some of the key capabilities and features of Canvas include:

  • Course Content Delivery: Teachers can easily create learning modules containing assignments, quizzes, rich multimedia, web content, LTI integrations, and more.
  • Assessment: Canvas offers various assessment options like online quizzes, offline assignments, and rubric-based grading to test student knowledge.
  • Gradebook: The platform provides a fully-featured grade book that automatically syncs with assessments. Teachers get analytics on student performance.
  • Communication: Inbuilt tools like the inbox, notifications, and user conversations foster seamless communication between students and faculty.
  • Mobile Responsiveness: The Canvas interface seamlessly adapts across devices. Students can access materials, view grades, or participate in discussions on the go.
  • Plagiarism Detection: Canvas integrates with similarity-detection software like Turnitin to identify unoriginal student submissions and curb plagiarism.
  • Accessibility: The platform meets ADA Section 508 accessibility standards and WCAG 2.0 guidelines, making content accessible for differently-abled learners.

With its features focused on streamlining course administration, content delivery, and student engagement, it is easy to see why Canvas has been so widely adopted. It empowers faculties to deliver quality online education while expanding the scope of learning.

Features of Canvas

Some of the major features and capabilities of Canvas LMS include:

  1. Canvas Commons: This is a public resource repository that allows Canvas users to access over 60,000 free learning resources. These include quizzes, assignments, simulations, and even full courses covering a vast range of subjects.
  2. Canvas Studio: This is a video management system integrated into Canvas. It enables users to upload video content into the platform, manage it effectively, and share videos securely with their classes.
  3. Canvas Catalog: It serves as an app store, allowing users to customize their Canvas instance by integrating third-party apps for enhanced functionality. Apps span categories like analytics, content creation, proctoring, and more
  4. MasteryConnect: This add-on assessment tool aligned to content standards tests student mastery through formative assessments. Educators also leverage its analytics to gauge learning outcomes and tailor instruction.
  5. Canvas Dashboards: These provide visual analytics into course performance indicators like student engagement to inform teaching strategies. Metrics on participation, assignments, app usage, and more assist data-driven decisions.

How Does Canvas Detect Cheating?

With digital assessments becoming ubiquitous in education, cheating has evolved as well. Students now have access to information at their fingertips, and methods to gain an unfair edge are only limited by their imagination.

Needless to say, this compromises assessment integrity and skews performance metrics that educators depend on to improve teaching outcomes.

To counter this, Canvas employs the following methods to detect potential cheating during online tests:

Accessibility Checks

Canvas intermittently conducts accessibility audits during a test session to detect the use of external apps. If a student has magnified the screen, opened a new window or enabled screen reading options to access outside information, Canvas flags this activity.

Installing Cheating Detection Extensions

There are a number of third-party Chrome extensions like LockDown Browser that institutions can install to detect tab switching or other suspicious actions. These present students with a controlled test-taking environment where escaping assessment parameters is difficult.

Analyzing Quiz Logs

Back-end quiz logs capture granular information on events like answer changes, browser refreshes, and mouse movements, during a test. Evaluating these chronological records allows faculties to identify anomalous activity patterns that may indicate foul play.

Question Banks

Building assessments using banks containing a randomized pool of questions with similar difficulty levels makes duplicating test papers tougher for students. This, along with time limits, hinders access to outside help.

Plagiarism Checks

While this does not apply to MCQ tests, Canvas’ integration with similarity detection software like Turnitin checks answer scripts for plagiarized content. However, this method cannot detect the use of external tools or tab switching during assessment.

Now that we know about Canvas’ anti-cheating capabilities, our next two sections analyze specific student workaround tactics to evade them starting with copy-pasting content.

Can Canvas Detect Copy-Paste?

The short answer is no. Canvas cannot explicitly detect if a student is copy-pasting content from an outside source into assessment fields.

Canvas does integrate with similarity-detection software like Turnitin. However, these only scan completed submissions and check for plagiarized content. They do not flag the active copying of text between windows while a student is still answering a question.

This is a major blindspot that enables cheating if institutions rely solely on Canvas’ inbuilt detection capabilities. Students can easily alternate between assessment and outside browser tabs to copy information on the fly.

Some common copy-paste cheating strategies students employ include:

  • Viewing Lecture Notes: Students copy concepts, facts, keywords, and contextual information directly from pre-recorded lectures or reference materials. With no supervision, these resources become easy cheat sheets.
  • Googling Answers: Students quickly look up answers using search engines and discretely copy them into response fields before submitting assessments. Without tab-switching tracking, this is easy to accomplish.
  • Consulting Peers: Messaging apps and social media make it possible for students to source answers from classmates in real time, circumventing plagiarism detection queues.

Since copy-paste detection relies largely on back-end plagiarism checks, deploying additional third-party proctoring solutions is the only recourse for institutions serious about strengthening assessment integrity.

Can Canvas Detect New Tabs?

Similar to tracking tab switching, Canvas does not have any inherent capability or externally integrated tools to detect if students open content from unauthorized internet sources in new browser tabs during a test.

Opening additional tabs provides seamless portal access to information outside the assessment environment without detection or restrictions. Students leverage this blindspot using techniques like:

  • Maintaining slides, notes, or textbook tabs
  • Internet searches across search engines
  • Accessing communications apps, messengers

Much like existing browser tabs, students can horizontally scale to additional tabs once signed into Canvas assessments without alerting monitoring mechanisms. Together with the inability to track tab switching, this allows students to source information from virtually anywhere on their machine or online.

This limitation once again reinforces why advanced remote proctoring adding environmental restrictions dynamically is crucial to managing digital test integrity.

Can Canvas Detect Switching Tabs?

Like copy-pasting, navigating between active browser tabs or windows is not something native Canvas functionality can explicitly detect or flag. Students can seamlessly switch between a quiz and any other application without a trace once past the assessment login stage.

This is a core limitation in Canvas’ capabilities that still facilitates cheating regardless of whether institutions enable plagiarism detection or deploy question randomization rules. Some common student strategies leveraging unmonitored tab-switching include:

  1. Viewing Reference Materials: Students exploit the inability to track tab-switching to refer to curated lecture notes, textbooks, and other reference materials for answering questions.
  2. Collaboration Between Students: Lateral cheating techniques see students split questions among themselves. By maintaining open communication channels through messaging apps, switching between these tabs provides question feeds and surfaces answers from peers.
  3. Querying Search Engines: Switching between an assessment and search engine tabs offers unrestricted information that students can tap into to answer questions quickly. Canvas cannot evaluate whether accurate responses manifest from memory or online search results.

While frustrating for educators, canvas inherently does not support monitoring student device or browser activity once signed into a test. 

Can Canvas Detect Screen Sharing?

Canvas neither actively tracks student environment parameters nor governs device permissions. Students can utilize secondary devices and screen-sharing apps without detection.

Some ways students leverage these constraints include:

  1. Secondary Devices for Reference: Students keep secondary tablets, laptops, or phones handy during quizzes to search for concepts without arousing suspicion by alternating between tabs. This provides easy access to supplementary learning aids.
  2. Collaborating via Screen Sharing: Learners broadcast their screens privately to friends over apps like Skype who provide real-time guidance. Canvas lacks mechanisms to detect or block such apps used in parallel to assessments.

The use of secondary devices and screen-sharing platforms essentially provides students with control planes that exist outside Canvas’ testing environment. With no real-time visibility over student machines or app activity, external assistance can function unencumbered.

Can Canvas Detect Screenshots?

Canvas does not have native functionality to detect if students take screenshots of exam questions or response fields to share externally. Without a reliable proctoring solution that directly surveils and governs device permissions, students can:

  • Screenshot Questions for Distribution: Students band together to compile exam paper screenshots that eventually make their way across an entire batch, defeating randomization protections. This form of coordinated cheating is harder to externally detect and sanction.
  • External Assistance on Answers: Learners screenshot response fields and sample answers to sources external assistance from tutors to refine responses prior to submission, evading post-submission plagiarism checks.

Again, lacking continuous environment monitoring capabilities, screenshots provide backchannels for students to mobilize collective or expert help. For institutions, combining Canvas’ backend analysis with dedicated remote proctoring constitutes a robust first line of defense.

Can Canvas Detect Split Screen?

Canvas does not have any native support or external plugin integrations to detect if students leverage screen split or screen share functionalities that essentially provide access to unauthorized resources.

Learners exploit this vulnerability to discretely maintain open secondary device feeds or communications channels facilitating real-time guidance or information feeds parallel to quizzes.

This allows students to leverage resources residing outside supervised assessment environments without detection. Tactics aided by the inability to track split screens include:

  • Split browser windows with reference materials open
  • Active messaging apps facilitating colleague collaboration
  • Screen-sharing apps broadcasting the test interface

Once again, we see inherent Canvas limitations enable learners to configure external networks that compromise test sanctity. The remedy lies in continuously enforcing locked-down digital test environments through robust proctored solutions.

What Can Professors See On Canvas During Quizzes?

On its own, Canvas does not offer faculty continuous visibility over students undertaking online tests. However, here are some proctoring tools available to overcome inherent limitations:

  1. Canvas Quiz Logs

Back-end audit trails capture granular insight into student navigation during tests – time stamps between question attempts, freq. of moving backward and forward, response changes, and browser refreshes. Analyzing these patterns can assist in simpler forms of misconduct.

  1. Video Proctoring

Integrating Canvas with tools like ProctorU facilitates AI-based suspicious activity detection. Continuous identity verification through machine learning and live remote monitoring further strengthens oversight.

  1. Eye Tracking

Vendors like ProctorExam provide plug-and-play eye-tracking capabilities that determine whether students are referencing secondary sources away from the screen. Heatmaps indicating abnormal visual activity classify cheating probabilities using machine learning, alerting human proctors to intervene.

  1. Environment Lockdown

Browser extensions like LockDown Browser locks device access to other tabs and communication apps during test durations. This bars access to outside reference material without connectivity, promoting focus. Screen sharing is also automatically blocked.

While no current technology offers guaranteed protection, layering robust proctoring solutions over Canvas significantly closes loopholes students attempt to leverage.

Clever Hacks to Cheat on Canvas Assignments

We have so far covered various ways students exploit native Canvas limitations and use external tools to bypass test security protocols. However, learner innovation knows no bounds. Here are some clever techniques students employ:

  1. Browser Sandboxing: Browser sandboxing extensions like GoInSandbox isolate assessment tabs from system changes. Students hide tab switches to outside content farms in plain sight. To Canvas, changes in other tabs remain hidden without detection event triggers.
  2. MAC Address Spoofing: Not all proctoring apps allow MAC address randomization during exams. Students spoof hardware signatures to disguise banned devices as approved ones and pull up content. Apps like Technitium MAC Address Changer aid in this evasion.
  3. Software-based Proctor Defeating: Students leverage VNC viewers to remotely connect to exam devices. This allows external parties to view and control machine activity by bypassing proctoring app restrictions that govern native device usage.
  4. Steganography: More advanced tactics see students using photo editing tools to hide text summaries in permitted reference images that can be expanded during tests. Video encoding also camouflages text in permitted prompts students conveniently leverage.

As security protocols evolve, so do cheating techniques leveraging common system vulnerabilities. However, robust behavioral analysis frameworks provide downstream mechanisms to flag anomalies early without relying solely on systems like Canvas.

The Bottom Line

The Canvas platform does not have internal proctoring tools to actively track tabs or see if students switch screens on their computers. However, many educational institutions deploy additional proctoring software through Canvas for non-proctored tests and quiz questions.

These powerful integrated proctoring programs can track student engagement by restricting computer activities, enabling admins to detect split screens and see attempts to access other applications or online pages. They also discourage copy-pasted content through the use of shortcut keys to find answers. 

Some even use webcams and microphones or run plagiarism checkers over assignments. While Canvas may not directly see if you switch windows, plug-in proctoring tools certainly boost the platform’s capacity to uphold academic integrity by monitoring unauthorized student behavior during remote exams.

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