Academic Dishonesty in College

 

Rebecca L. Jones

Abstract

Experts disagree on whether or not academic dishonesty is on the rise. Regardless, new technology requires professors to be at least one step ahead of their students and something needs to be done to remedy this problem. In a literature review, I discuss who cheat, how it is done, and students’ reasons for doing so. Also, I will report on suggestions from experts in education who submit recommendations of good teaching practices that will keep students engaged and become masters of their learning.

 

The breakneck pace of college courses is enough to send an unprepared student reeling. Even the most stable student struggles with putting out quality work in a timely fashion. So it is no wonder that students who do not have the most rigid of ethics seriously consider cheating from time to time. A full 75 percent of students admitted to cheating at least once in their college career, according to a 2013 Boston Globe report. And if a student gets away with it once, she is likely to do it again.

In 2012 Harvard forced approximately 70 undergraduates to withdraw from the institution for cheating on a final exam (New York Times). The same year, University of Colorado Denver uncovered a scheme where students were hiring people to take their online courses and exams for them. The University of Oregon also suspended and eventually forced the complete withdrawal of two students who were charging international students $1000 per course to do the same.

How students cheat

Types of cheating run the gamut—from plagiarizing a few lines of an essay, to hiring someone to take an entire course in one’s place. recent technology has students digging even deeper. Now they are recording answers and test information on their smartphone music apps and telling their instructors they work much better with “relaxing music.” Then they put their headphones in, and voila–they are A students. Or they may download answers in the lyrics portion of these music apps. Some students in an earlier section of a class might take a picture of the exam and pass it to a friend in a later section. Leef (2016) likens college cheating today to a hospital superbug that cannot be contained (2016). A smart cheater knows to get some of the answers wrong so as not to arouse suspicion. Even students who hire stand-ins to take entire classes are known to ask their stand-ins to fail a class here and there so as to fly under the radar (Kerwin, 2013).

Much research has been done on plagiarism and there are now fairly foolproof ways to stop it. My daughter is required by her Writing teacher to run her papers through an online plagiarism detector before turning it in. VeriCite is conveniently integrated into her school’s Canvas program. Requiring this extra step of students ensures they are aware of the facts that plagiarism can be somewhat unintentional, they need to be constantly mindful of doing their own work, and that the teacher is watching closely. When a student turns in a paper, she must also include a printout of her VeriCite score, a number on a scale of 1-100 that tells a student how much of her work is actually plagiarized. My daughter often gets an acceptable score of 6-10 percent plagiarism, simply due to the use of common phrases and the vernacular when measured against the almost-infinite content of the World Wide Web.

But plagiarism is old hat now, and instructors are finding students are more likely to cheat when it involves a short answer or multiple choice question. Lang says this is because of the design of the learning environment, which focuses on memorizing content instead of solving problems. “Too often we think about courses as ‘covering’ material. As plenty of people have pointed out, though, just because you are covering something doesn’t mean that the students are learning it (2013)!”

Surprisingly, students do not always know they are cheating. There are gray areas or ways of cheating that have never been addressed with students that might not occur to them as being actual cheating: overstating a disability, pretending to be sick, using an assignment from a previous class again. Some students realize these are not exactly honest, but nowhere close to being a punishable transgression. Professors and staff must talk to their students about the many definitions of cheating, and they must do it early and often. In addition to reinforcing awareness, this also serves to remind students that they are being watched.

Why students cheat

Ask any college student today and they are likely to tell you they want to be successful. And what is the biggest marker of success in the U.S.? Ultimately, money. It is the carrot. The degree is the donkey. Chances are, if you asked a student if she would accept a carrot without having to goad the donkey, and have no chance of getting caught, she would. A college degree, for many, is simply a prize to be attained; something mom and dad demand that one must fulfill; the expected next step after high school. And the sooner you can get the degree, the sooner you will be on your way to riches. It is not about learning, for many. Students who, in research studies, (anonymously) self-report cheating say they do it because of competitive pressures, perceived unfair grading, seeing others do it, and thinking they can get away with it (Vittrup).

Lang says many students who cheat have poor metacognition—or a false sense of security in knowing the material they will be tested on. When a student thinks she understands the material, then bombs the exam, she is likely to resort to cheating the next time. Lang draws a line between two sets of students, the performers and the masters. Performance-oriented students want to do well on the exam but are less concerned about understanding the material. Mastery-oriented students often learn the material more deeply than performance-oriented students, and retain it longer. Master-oriented students also cheat less. Lang calls cheating “an inappropriate response to a learning environment that’s not working for the student (page/etc).”

Vittrup says “as college professors, we have an opportunity—and an obligation—to interrupt this trajectory of cheating before it moves from the classroom to the professional world.” She posits that cheating undergraduates become cheating graduates, who become cheating professors and researchers.

How do we discourage cheating

Lang says that the best methods of reducing cheating are also the best ways to get students to retain the material. “When students can grasp the subject matter, they have little motivation to cheat,” he says. Lang also encourages professors to draw students into a course by beginning class with a fascinating question or challenge. Additionally, educators must continually ask themselves daily why students should care about what the professor is teaching.

Lang recommends what he calls “grounded” assessments in which students are asked to solve a problem in the immediate area, campus, or community. “If we can use such assignments to convince students that our courses matter, and give them authentic and interesting assignments, we will go a long way toward reducing cheating,” Lang says.

But the overriding theme of matriculating into college needs to be focused on the fact that this is heavy lifting. “Do hard things.” It is not for wimps. You are here to learn, so to make it easier on yourself, you may want to embrace that and prioritize other things around your opportunities for knowledge.

References

Kerwin, J. (Oct 8, 2013). If you’re paying someone to take your classes, pay for Bs, not As. Nonparibus. Retrieved from http://jasonkerwin.com/nonparibus/2013/10/08/if-youre-paying-someone-to-take-your-classes-pay-for-bs-not-as/

Lang, J. (Aug 4, 2013). How college classes encourage cheating. Boston Globe. Retrieved from

https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/08/03/how-college-classes-encourage-cheating/3Q34x5ysYcplWNA3yO2eLK/story.html

Leef, G. (Oct 12, 2016) The new college cheating: Why not buy your degree. Retrieved from http://www.popecenter.org/2016/10/new-college-cheating

Perez-Pena, R. (Aug 12, 2012). Harvard students in cheating scandal say collaboration was accepted. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/01/education/students-of-harvard-cheating-scandal-say-group-work-was-accepted.html

Vittrup, B. (Apr 27, 2016). Stop students who cheat before they become cheating professors. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/article/Stop-Students-Who-Cheat-Before/236269?cid=rc_right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abstract

Experts disagree on whether or not academic dishonesty is on the rise. Regardless, new technology requires professors to be at least one step ahead of their students and something needs to be done to remedy this problem. In a literature review, I discuss who cheat, how it is done, and students’ reasons for doing so. Also, I will report on suggestions from experts in education who submit recommendations of good teaching practices that will keep students engaged and become masters of their learning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The breakneck pace of college courses is enough to send an unprepared student reeling. Even the most stable student struggles with putting out quality work in a timely fashion. So it is no wonder that students who do not have the most rigid of ethics seriously consider cheating from time to time. A full 75 percent of students admitted to cheating at least once in their college career, according to a 2013 Boston Globe report. And if a student gets away with it once, she is likely to do it again.

In 2012 Harvard forced approximately 70 undergraduates to withdraw from the institution for cheating on a final exam (New York Times). The same year, University of Colorado Denver uncovered a scheme where students were hiring people to take their online courses and exams for them. The University of Oregon also suspended and eventually forced the complete withdrawal of two students who were charging international students $1000 per course to do the same.

How students cheat

Types of cheating run the gamut—from plagiarizing a few lines of an essay, to hiring someone to take an entire course in one’s place. recent technology has students digging even deeper. Now they are recording answers and test information on their smartphone music apps and telling their instructors they work much better with “relaxing music.” Then they put their headphones in, and voila–they are A students. Or they may download answers in the lyrics portion of these music apps. Some students in an earlier section of a class might take a picture of the exam and pass it to a friend in a later section. Leef (2016) likens college cheating today to a hospital superbug that cannot be contained (2016). A smart cheater knows to get some of the answers wrong so as not to arouse suspicion. Even students who hire stand-ins to take entire classes are known to ask their stand-ins to fail a class here and there so as to fly under the radar (Kerwin, 2013).

Much research has been done on plagiarism and there are now fairly foolproof ways to stop it. My daughter is required by her Writing teacher to run her papers through an online plagiarism detector before turning it in. VeriCite is conveniently integrated into her school’s Canvas program. Requiring this extra step of students ensures they are aware of the facts that plagiarism can be somewhat unintentional, they need to be constantly mindful of doing their own work, and that the teacher is watching closely. When a student turns in a paper, she must also include a printout of her VeriCite score, a number on a scale of 1-100 that tells a student how much of her work is actually plagiarized. My daughter often gets an acceptable score of 6-10 percent plagiarism, simply due to the use of common phrases and the vernacular when measured against the almost-infinite content of the World Wide Web.

But plagiarism is old hat now, and instructors are finding students are more likely to cheat when it involves a short answer or multiple choice question. Lang says this is because of the design of the learning environment, which focuses on memorizing content instead of solving problems. “Too often we think about courses as ‘covering’ material. As plenty of people have pointed out, though, just because you are covering something doesn’t mean that the students are learning it (2013)!”

Surprisingly, students do not always know they are cheating. There are gray areas or ways of cheating that have never been addressed with students that might not occur to them as being actual cheating: overstating a disability, pretending to be sick, using an assignment from a previous class again. Some students realize these are not exactly honest, but nowhere close to being a punishable transgression. Professors and staff must talk to their students about the many definitions of cheating, and they must do it early and often. In addition to reinforcing awareness, this also serves to remind students that they are being watched.

Why students cheat

Ask any college student today and they are likely to tell you they want to be successful. And what is the biggest marker of success in the U.S.? Ultimately, money. It is the carrot. The degree is the donkey. Chances are, if you asked a student if she would accept a carrot without having to goad the donkey, and have no chance of getting caught, she would. A college degree, for many, is simply a prize to be attained; something mom and dad demand that one must fulfill; the expected next step after high school. And the sooner you can get the degree, the sooner you will be on your way to riches. It is not about learning, for many. Students who, in research studies, (anonymously) self-report cheating say they do it because of competitive pressures, perceived unfair grading, seeing others do it, and thinking they can get away with it (Vittrup).

Lang says many students who cheat have poor metacognition—or a false sense of security in knowing the material they will be tested on. When a student thinks she understands the material, then bombs the exam, she is likely to resort to cheating the next time. Lang draws a line between two sets of students, the performers and the masters. Performance-oriented students want to do well on the exam but are less concerned about understanding the material. Mastery-oriented students often learn the material more deeply than performance-oriented students, and retain it longer. Master-oriented students also cheat less. Lang calls cheating “an inappropriate response to a learning environment that’s not working for the student (page/etc).”

Vittrup says “as college professors, we have an opportunity—and an obligation—to interrupt this trajectory of cheating before it moves from the classroom to the professional world.” She posits that cheating undergraduates become cheating graduates, who become cheating professors and researchers.

 

How do we discourage cheating

Lang says that the best methods of reducing cheating are also the best ways to get students to retain the material. “When students can grasp the subject matter, they have little motivation to cheat,” he says. Lang also encourages professors to draw students into a course by beginning class with a fascinating question or challenge. Additionally, educators must continually ask themselves daily why students should care about what the professor is teaching.

Lang recommends what he calls “grounded” assessments in which students are asked to solve a problem in the immediate area, campus, or community. “If we can use such assignments to convince students that our courses matter, and give them authentic and interesting assignments, we will go a long way toward reducing cheating,” Lang says.

But the overriding theme of matriculating into college needs to be focused on the fact that this is heavy lifting. “Do hard things.” It is not for wimps. You are here to learn, so to make it easier on yourself, you may want to embrace that and prioritize other things around your opportunities for knowledge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Kerwin, J. (Oct 8, 2013). If you’re paying someone to take your classes, pay for Bs, not As. Nonparibus. Retrieved from http://jasonkerwin.com/nonparibus/2013/10/08/if-youre-paying-someone-to-take-your-classes-pay-for-bs-not-as/

 

Lang, J. (Aug 4, 2013). How college classes encourage cheating. Boston Globe. Retrieved from

https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/08/03/how-college-classes-encourage-cheating/3Q34x5ysYcplWNA3yO2eLK/story.html

 

Leef, G. (Oct 12, 2016) The new college cheating: Why not buy your degree. Retrieved from http://www.popecenter.org/2016/10/new-college-cheating

 

Perez-Pena, R. (Aug 12, 2012). Harvard students in cheating scandal say collaboration was accepted. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/01/education/students-of-harvard-cheating-scandal-say-group-work-was-accepted.html

 

 

Vittrup, B. (Apr 27, 2016). Stop students who cheat before they become cheating professors. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/article/Stop-Students-Who-Cheat-Before/236269?cid=rc_right

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