I spent most of Friday at an Academic Integrity Symposium in Corvallis and what I learned was eye-opening, if not depressing. I posted about this topic once already but the number of academic misconduct cases I’m seeing is definitely on the rise and I learned a little bit about why that might be. I also learned about (more) strategies that we as instructors can use to discourage or prevent cheating and plagiarism in our classes. This is a big topic, so I will break this up into two posts.

There is no question that this generation of students has grown up in a culture where they have witnessed powerful, influential people “cheat” with little to no consequence. There are many companies who market opportunities to cheat directly to students, not to mention the fact that this generation of students has ALWAYS used the internet to “find” an answer to a question…just ask Google. In some countries, it is perfectly acceptable to not cite your online sources, because you are the one who “did the research” to locate them. It’s no wonder that America’s universities are experiencing erosion in academic conduct.

Here are some online cheating resources that I’m sure our students know about, and we should to:

  • Course Hero is a website that acts as a receptacle for assisting students to engage in academic misconduct. You search by class and can find exams, homework, and notes that other students have uploaded for your class. You get 3 free previews per month, after which you have to subscribe. The interesting part is that “subscription” means that you upload 10 items to get another 5 free unlocks. A faculty member can submit a “take down” request by justifying why the item is their intellectual property.
  • Studocu.com will paystudents for past exams, assignments, and study resources.
  • Chegg.com uses online “tutors” who don’t care about your institution’s policies. Students send them questions and they send back answers or re-write papers entirely. They may plagiarize from the internet without the student knowing.
  • Spinbot.com is an online resource where students put up to 10,000 characters into a box and Spinbot rewords sentences for them. It is somewhat detectable in that sometimes words it chooses are unconventional (e.g. student = understudy and Great Britain = Good Britain).
  • There are many ways for another person to take an online course for another person. Just search for “take my course” and see how many resources pop up. “Contract cheating” is when students pay to have someone else do their work.
  • “Patch writing” is a technique where students copy/paste small bits of information from many different resources to mask plagiarism.
  • Did you know that there are online videos that show students how to embed class notes on a Coke or water bottle label? Google that one. Time for a “no food or drink” policy I guess.

All is not lost and there are best practices we can follow to design “cheat proof” assignments that help ensure our students are actually learning the material and presenting their own work. Read next week’s post to find out!

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