Students report cheating in many ways. And technology is making it easier and easier to do so. The Open Education Data Base (http://oedb.org/ilibrarian/8-astonishing-stats-on-academic-cheating/) cited a survey that included 30,000 students; 60% reported cheating while in college. It was also reported that cheaters have higher grade point averages than peers who do not cheat. Popular paper mill websites report receiving about 8,000 hits per day. Roughly 75-98% of students who are cheating in college were also cheating in high school. 85% of students reported that cheating is essential to their academic success.
This information as well as some experiences we had in our classes last year, lead to a discussion with colleagues about academic dishonesty. We questioned ways in which we could work to reduce this problem. Additionally, what more could and should we be doing if students are reporting cheating is essential to academic success?
What are we talking about?
When we are talking about academic dishonesty, we are focusing mainly on plagiarism and cheating on assessments, exams and quizzes, in the traditional classroom setting as well as in the online learning environment.
Do students know they are cheating?
As part of the discussion, we questioned, “do student always know they are cheating?”. This specifically applies to plagiarism. For example, when they are writing papers, do they know that they have plagiarized when they present a summary of an article, and they do not cite the source in-text. It is not simply just copying and pasting something that someone else wrote, which is what many students believe. Perhaps, being more intentional about not only teaching students what plagiarism is, but also exactly what they can do to avoid it is necessary.
How do we know?
So…how would we know if a student is cheating? For example, how do we know if a student bought a paper from an online site, especially if they are in an online setting. How can we be sure that they are buying a paper and not receiving help from the tutoring center at the school? Building relationships is one way to help to identify cheating. The more interactions we have with students in the discussion forums and through face to face conversations or conversations by phone, the better equip we are to determine if the work being submitted is similar to other interactions we are having with the student.
Technology and Cheating
Wearables have become more popular and prevalent in recent years. They are another tool that students are using to cheating. This came to our attention at the end of the semester when a student was caught using a wearable to access study material during an exam. It appeared that a resource that was given in class was on a student’s wearable and that it was being used during an assessment. After addressing the student regarding the situation, it was clear that bans on wearables would now also need to be addressed in course policies. Prior to this incident, things like cell phones, other technology, and resources were banned, but we had not specifically included wearables.
In some academic institutions, academic policies have not been updated in a decade or more. Therefore, there are not bans put into place or consequences written to address academic dishonesty that can occur using technology, such as wearables. As academics, we are responsible to ensure that documents that are relevant to our classes are updated regularly. If new technological advances have not been considered and included in Course Policies, we would like to encourage you to meet wth your colleagues as you prepare for the semester and revise the policies used.
Academics also report that they do not feel the consequences for academic dishonesty always fit the offense. Academics need to ensure that they are involved in writing policies that are put into place to reduce academic dishonesty and address it when it occurs. If students know that they will only receiving a warning, they are not as worried about cheating than if they hear they will receive a 0, get kicked out of class, or get kicked out of school. While we are not saying that kicking students out of school is the best answer, it is important that students understand the severity of cheating and that consequences deter students from participating.
Additionally, students do not feel the consequences for academic dishonesty are harsh enough. Students get really upset when they are aware that a classmate is cheating without consequence. Students, who are working hard to earn their grades, find this to be unfair, unethical, and want the peer who is cheating to be punished. They look to the professor to address the behavior and report it.
Is the process for reporting academic dishonesty at your institution easy to access and use? Faculty may feel that reporting cheating is too tedious and too time consuming. In addition speculation is often not enough to report a situation. If they instructor does not have “hard evidence”, they may be unable to report the situation that took place. Therefore, the incident goes unreported and the student may be cheating in multiple classes without consequence.
Students are becoming more creative in the methods they use to cheat in classes. Therefore, we must also become more creative in the ways in which we work to maintain the integrity of the course content and materials used to assess students. They must learn the material in our courses as they will be our colleagues in the field one day.
Check out our Facebook live session as we discuss Academic Dishonesty.