Online Tournament Guide
It is a common concern that cheating will be more frequent in online quiz bowl. Certainly, there have been high-profile accusations of, admissions to, and arguments about cheating at online tournaments.
NAQT is not in a position to make definitive statements about the prevalence or effect of cheating in online quiz bowl We will certainly take every opportunity to learn as the year goes on so we can provide guidance to hosts and coaches (and properly conduct any online tournaments that we might choose to run directly).
For now, we have a few suggestions intended to prevent such issues from arising in the first place. We also outline the responsibilities of hosts, players, coaches, and NAQT itself in maintaining question security (which apply equally to online and in-person tournaments).
Before the Tournament
This section is primarily written for tournament directors, but coaches should take note of the first and fourth points as well.
- Publicize the question set(s) being used by your tournament. With online tournaments’ ability to attract geographically diverse teams, it is now more likely for a school to be invited to multiple tournaments using the same questions. Tell coaches (especially those who wouldn’t normally travel to an in-person tournament you hosted) that they need to check the list of question sets they have already played and question sets they are planning to play (both of which they should be maintaining) to make sure there is no overlap. Failure to do so can result in teams hearing questions twice, which isn’t cheating in an intentional sense, but is still a very problematic and unfair situation. If a team hears the same questions a second time, it must immediately speak up and withdraw from the tournament.
- Be very clear about tournament requirements, especially that every player must have a video stream. You don’t want to feel pressured into letting a no-camera player compete, or to feel guilty about not doing so, because prior communication wasn’t clear.
- Be certain the accounts you invite to be staff are controlled by the people you expect. If a cheater convinces you to invite their fraudulent account, they will gain access to the questions—possibly in time to cheat at your tournament, and definitely in time to cheat at a subsequent tournament. If you have any doubt about whether an account or email address is legitimate, confirm via another channel (like the phone) with the person. If you suspect or detect impersonation, please let NAQT know as well.
- Regard your tournament as a serious event with high standards. Prior to the pandemic, online quiz bowl was often conducted casually, with emphasis on fun and ease of participation. This guide describes an approach to hosting real, serious competitions with standards as equivalent as possible to those expected of in-person tournaments. Messaging about your tournament should take care to convey the notion that this is not the equivalent of an online practice at which cheating (or inconsiderate behavior in general) is not taken seriously. At a minimum, clearly state that cheating will be reported to a player’s coach, school administration, and NAQT.
- Give coaches and chaperones a direct way to report suspicions of cheating during the tournament.
- Have somebody prepared to deal with issues that are reported. This person will likely be the tournament director (yet another reason that tournament directors should not be moderating at their own tournaments). The exact response to accusations is situational, but a common one would be to assign a staff member to watch the player’s video stream for suspicious activity (see below). This may mean having extra staff member on standby or being willing to pull a scorekeeper from another match.
During the Tournament
- Require all participants (including spectators) to have their video stream on. Many cases of cheating and suspected cheating have involved players without video streams, since those players could use other applications or devices during the game without detection. This approach also allows better identification of the people who will hear the questions (who could, in theory, be players from other schools planning to play the questions later in the year).
- Require that video streams show the participant’s entire face.
- Each player should have their own video stream (even if they are playing from the same physical location and even if they would be using distinct devices on BuzzIn.Live).
Moderators should verify with teams that all spectators associated with them (by having
[Y-spec]in their Zoom display names) are known to them. Moderators should verify with unaffiliated spectators (i.e., those with
[Z-spec]in their Zoom display names) that they have no connections to future players of the questions.
- Recording matches is absolutely prohibited by NAQT’s Host Agreement. No one, not even the tournament director, may record games for any reason. We acknowledge that recording games could be useful for detecting cheating or reviewing allegations thereof (among other uses), but NAQT has determined that the question-security concerns and issues with obtaining proper permission for recording minors outweigh the possible benefits.
Keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
The most common form of cheating at online quiz bowl is simply looking up answers on the Internet.
There are some signs of this that are often visible in a video stream:
- A player’s lack of focus on the screen
- A shift in reflected monitor light as a player changes tabs or applications
- The sound of typing
- Arm and shoulder movements suggestive of typing
- Use extra staff to watch for suspicious activity. In theory, moderators should be watching players for suspicious behavior; in practice, this is difficult to do while fulfilling other duties. Scorekeepers should help as much as possible. If extra staff are available (in general, late in a tournament when fewer games are occurring simultaneously, and especially if there are suspicious of cheating), they can be assigned to monitor players.
After the Tournament
- If you have proof of, or strong concerns about, participant misconduct (including, but not limited to, cheating), consider filing a report using the Misconduct Reporting Form. Quiz bowl’s major national organizations care very deeply about ensuring that cheaters and players who behave inappropriately are not welcomed by any organization.
- If you have nebulous concerns or questions about participant misconduct, you should always feel free to write to NAQT for advice. NAQT may have a greater ability to “connect the dots” and determine if something improper is going on. However, NAQT is unlikely to be able to respond promptly with immediate advice about handling a situation that has arisen at your tournament.
NAQT doesn’t want to give the impression that cheating is widespread or that you are likely to encounter these problems at your tournament. However, concerns about cheating seem to be sufficiently more common at online tournaments (relative to in-person tournaments) that tournament directors should be prepared for the possibility.