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Spot the Bots!

What’s the Problem?

NOTE: This page is about FAKE student accounts, NOT legitimate students using AI tools in courses.

Robot student at desk in classroom.

California Community Colleges, including Butte College, have experienced a dramatic increase in fraudulent student enrollments, from application through registration. This trend not only threatens the integrity of the educational system but also poses information and security risks, and creates unnecessary work for teachers and staff.

Faculty can help address this issue by paying attention to common signs, employing “humanizing” elements in their courses, and communicating regularly with students. 

Report suspicious activities to Admissions and Records.

Be Prepared

Define a Drop Policy (and enforce it)

All syllabi should include specific class participation requirements and a Drop policy.  These are essential for enforcing the removal of inactive students, and will consequently reduce fraudulent enrollments.

The syllabus MUST identify what criteria you are using to drop students.

  • Describe what constitutes participation during the first week.

    • “To be considered an active participant in the class, students must complete the Orientation module.”
    • “Ensure your continued enrollment in the class by completing the Syllabus Quiz before the due date.”
    • “Students are required to complete all three Check-In assignments during the first week of class. Failure to do so may result in being dropped from the class.”
  • Describe what constitutes participation during the semester.

    • “Active participation is defined as submitting at least one graded assignment on time each week. Missing this requirement for two consecutive weeks, without prior approval from the instructor, may lead to being dropped from the class.”
    • “Students should respond to emails from the instructor within a reasonable time frame as part of their participation.”
    • “Participation in the course requires at least one engagement per week within Canvas. This can include forum participation, responding to email updates, or submitting assignments.”
  • Articulate a clear Drop Policy in your syllabus based on the the above requirements. 

Before Census

Census is an important deadline for reporting inactive and fraudulent students, as it relates to Financial Aid payments and other business processes.

  1. Keep up-to-date with grading to identify inactive students.
  2. Reach out promptly to students with missing assignments.
  3. Make an effort to contact a student before dropping them.
  4. Drop students who are not participating in class. 
  5. Contact A&R if you suspect a fraudulent enrollment.


How do I edit the Syllabus in a Course?

Butte College Attendance Guidelines

Butte College Syllabus Requirements for Online Courses

How do I send a message to students from the Gradebook?

If it Quacks Like a Bot

Catching fraudulent enrollments early can be the most effective time to identify and remove them!

There are a number of ways instructors can identify possible fraudulent students.  Some indicators may be evident by simply checking the roster, while more obvious signs will arise once the course begins.

NOTE: Fraudulent students are generally detected through MULTIPLE means.  There is rarely a single “smoking gun” indicating a fake account. 

Inspect the Roster

Inspect your Self-Service roster for any students with the label “Not authorized to view student’s profile” and contact  Admissions & Records (admissions@butte.edu) to confirm the student is valid.  (NOTE: There are also several legitimate reasons for this status message.)

Monitor Student Activity

Faculty can monitor student activity and submissions for common elements of fraudulent account behavior.  Watch for multiple indications of unusual behavior, and follow up with communication to the student.

Common indications include:

  • Complete lack of course participation and communication.
  • Failure to submit assignments, or a burst of submissions.
  • Irregular login patterns, bursts of activity.
  • Text-based submissions with the following characteristics:
    • very short and generic submissions
    • lengthy enough for the requirement, but very general
    • concrete examples but of an impersonal, generic nature
    • overly cheery and/or academic tone (not typical for students)
    • formal or unusual language, not typical of student work – e.g. “I am very impressed by your insights, and I encourage you to continue your process of self-improvement going forward.”

Other Potential indicators:

  • Multiple submissions of an assignment with similar examples.
  • Requesting to be addressed by last name (direct the student the district’s “Chosen Name” form).
  • Assignments submitted at unusual, but regular, times (for example exactly at midnight every week). Or immediately after the assignment is available.
  • Page views for only assignments, no other content.


What is New Analytics

How do I view the Online Attendance report?

How do I view the course access report for a student?

How do I view the page views for a student?

Connect With the Humans

Fraudulent student accounts typically use a combination of human actors, automated scripts and basic AI bots to navigate and complete a minimal number of tasks.

Illustration of two human heads filled with colorful gears, with a circular dotted line connecting them.

Using a few required check-in activities can often reveal fraudulent accounts in the first week of class. 

Check-in activities can include things like a syllabus quiz, a simple treasure hunt (find info on multiple pages), a request to respond to a message or assignment feedback, recording a short audio or video introduction, or other personal interactions.

Additionally, using approved tools like VoiceThread and Flip for video check-ins or asking students to share photos related to the class can be effective.

Vary the types of check-in assignments and increase their number.  Bots are less likely to complete a diverse range of activities.

Check-In Activities

Create a few simple check-in assignments to identify potentially fraudulent enrollments and, equally importantly, build connections with your students!  By including multiple opportunities, students are not unduly penalized if they don’t participate in all of them.

  • Include several different types of activities for the first week.
  • Ensure the syllabus clearly indicates what constitutes participation during the first week. 
  • Proactively reach out to students who do not complete these activities.
  • Drop students who are not sufficiently participating.


  • Have students post an image of themselves (or an image appropriate to the course) as part of a discussion or assignment and describe some aspect of the picture.
  • Have a video or audio check-in assignment of the student (or a comment related to the assignment). Give students an option for an alternative channel of communication such as  Zoom or a phone call.
  • In an introduction discussion assignment, consider options beyond plain text (for example, images or video).
  • Include an assignment where students are asked to respond to grading comments or annotations.
  • Have a syllabus quiz that has written answers referencing specific items in the syllabus (not just multiple choice).
  • Add an assignment with a simple scavenger hunt or reference to specific items on other pages within Canvas, the textbook, or other web sites.
  • Use interactive technologies (like VoiceThread, Flip or other district approved tools).

Encourage Student Interactions

  • “Participate in peer review sessions for major assignments. Provide constructive feedback to at least two classmates and incorporate the feedback received into your revisions.”
  • “Participate actively in group projects. This includes contributing to the project plan, engaging in group discussions, and collaborating on the final presentation. Each member must document their contributions and peer evaluations will be conducted.”
  • “Create and upload a short video response (2-3 minutes) to the weekly prompt, engage with the course material and offer your perspective.”

Report Suspected Fraud

Before reporting a suspected fraudulent student account, be sure to “triangulate” several considerations.

No single factor will identify an enrollment as definitely fraudulent (or definitely not fraudulent).  Take a moment to consider the indications, and report it if the student seems suspicious.  Admissions and Records staff will examine the account and determine whether it is valid or not.

If you have a student in your course that you believe to be fraudulent, please report it to Admissions and Records (530-895-2511 or admissions@butte.edu).  Include the course name, control number, student name and ID number.

More Resources


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