In days not so long past, rote learning was important because, in many professions, there was no way to access the source data within a reasonable amount of time within the arena where that information would be useful. A trip to the library in the middle of the workday was generally not feasible. Pausing to locating and consulting the correct medical textbooks in the middle of an operation was dangerous and could have proven fatal to the patient.
Contrast that with the current state of the world where, in the vast majority of cases, the answers to many questions and the solutions to many problems can be located within minutes or even seconds from a smartphone or tablet. Combine that with widespread wireless broadband access in the developed world and it becomes obvious that not only is rote memorization of many facts, figures, formulae, and so forth not needed, it may actually be counterproductive.
I say counterproductive because, due to the way university-level education works much of what you are learning, especially in technical disciplines, is obsolete by the time you learn it. That's not a swing at formal education, mind you. I'm not asserting that what is learned at a university is not useful. I'm asserting that by the time you memorize that information it is highly likely that some other development has arisen which either invalidates or supersedes what you just recorded.
What I believe would be more productive than online universities worrying about cheating would be to more aggressively time-limit their exams. Doing so would at least validate how quickly students are able to gather and synthesize information to arrive at correct conclusions - a skill set that will serve them well even in today's rapid-access-to-information world.
That only works if you can prevent the student from simply hiring an expert to take their tests for them.
Therefore tests should be open book iff open book tests are better at measuring understanding than closed book tests.
Are open tests better? I remember from my university days that you can simply look at questions in the book that look sort of similar to the question on the test and apply the necessary substitutions. With open book tests it's remarkably easy to create an answer that looks intelligent about a subject you don't understand at all. With closed book tests this isn't so easy.
Even trivia questions can reveal fundamental gaps in people's understanding. For instance, if a student answers that dinosaurs existed 3000 years ago they must think within a frame of reference where 3000 years is a plausible answer (so no understanding of evolution). So it's a question that is easy to ask, easy to grade, objective, and one that can function as a great litmus test. When all tests are open book you can't ask these questions anymore.
So I'm pretty skeptical about the claim that open book tests are better, period.
As for the argument that people can look things up in books after they graduate, I don't buy that at all. The logical next step would then be to also allow students to ask questions on web forums during exams. Copy question to forum. Get coffee. Copy answer to test paper. After all, when the students get a professional job they may also consult web forums to get their work done.
The reason is that being able to recall at will have a much lower latency than a google search or tabbing through your iphone or android device.
People disparages memorization as mindless, but that's only if you memorize mindlessly about stuff you don't need to know. You can memorize smart, such as your multiplication table.
Our tests hark back to the days when to "look up" something meant going to the library and flipping through an index. Internal recall will remain faster than external look-up for some time yet, but as the balance shifts the current setup will appear increasingly archaic.
For example, human memory follows the law spaced repetition and forgetting curve(our ability to retrieve information exponentially decay). We can take advantage of this by remembering or exercising our memory at the last possible to keep our knowledge. That mean we can efficiently review information as needed. Moreover, as we constantly review information, we only have to repeat them later and later in the future. In pyschology, spaced repetition is one of the least taken advantage discovery. Only in the past two decade or so, did we start using computers to speed up the process of remembering and learning.
That's only by taking advantage of human biology. it's possible in the future that we will enhance the speed and computational ability through bioengineering and neuroprosthetics. More over, the propagation of information is limited by the speed of light. So it's likely those with memory at close at hand will have an advantage over people's whose memory is far away, hence longer latency.
My other memories of open-note tests consist of turning notes in as well. I really liked this idea especially on early exams because the professors could see what you were paying attention to and give you better guidance as to where you shift your focus. Note: I went to a small liberal arts college.
Perhaps it was your substance use or general elevation that lead to your increased performance, not your dedicated effort to memorize the material beforehand?
Though if the test was conducted under a deadline, it stands to reason that you could do better with memorization. As some else noted, the latency is much lower with memorization, but tests do not really mimic the real-world so it is not exactly clear how the lower latency will impact your use of the information outside of a test-like setting.
-- I kinda expect the guy designing a bridge to lookup the correct formulas and not expect that he memorized it correctly. (paraphrased, of course)
People will cheat, and maybe they are great scam artists and will be able to cheat through the rest of their life. Those few and the others who screw themselves by not learning aren't worth being concerned with. Spend (all) your effort on those who want to learn.
Schools are worried about reputation and their profit. My point is they should be worried about teaching.
You can't have exams for everything - for example creating or extending a big project is best examined by labs and/or a bigger project. If you have the same lab series for everyone students can simply copy the solution from other students or ask someone for "help" where the help consists of explaining exactly what to do. I know I've been guilty of helping my friends a bit too much.
Organize groups? Some students may coast on the skills of others. We had a programming project assignment where I wrote 95-100% of all code. In the beginning we split it around 50/50 but it ended up with me writing it all anyways. In another course we wrote a game in Java where my friend rougly wrote 1-2 classes or something. I know it's unfair, but I didn't really care - I like to code and I didn't really have to put in any effort anyways.
Cheating may be easier in online courses, but trying die hard to stop all kinds of cheating is bound to fail, cause it's impossible.
Marking against the other members of the class. I remember one project where the performance of the code was under test and the fastest 30% got an A, the next fastest 10% got a B etc. There was little incentive to help anyone else beyond the most naive implementation.
Group projects, avoid the problem of collaboration by openly encouraging it. Also has the benefit of improving the real life skills everyone will need. Allowing members of the group to rate other members makes it obvious when someone has simply ridden on the coat tails of the other members of the group.
The real cost of University(specially in Europe where University is affordable, not like in the US) is living abroad most of the year. Making it 1% offline and 99% online is a good compromise.
Another possibility is asking your students real innovative work and make copying a must!!(organize people in working groups like in real life).
How do you stop remote workers from slacking off?
I think ultimately the rigor for actual "testing" is going to have to come from whoever is accepting applications from these types of degree holders, sure you might be able to apply to graduate school with them but you'd probably have to sit an additional test that "standard" degree holders wouldn't or in the case of a job interview there would have to be a bit more rigor in testing the applicant.
Cheating on an online course right now seems so...pointless, the only reason for them at the moment is to enrich yourself and learn something but if people start accepting them in the same way we accept a standard degree we'll see a massive drop in the value of all degrees.