Contending with college cheaters

How higher ed institutions are addressing plagiarism and other academic offenses

As a new academic year gets underway, faculty and academic affairs administrators must consider how to prevent cheating on exams and papers in light of the ever-evolving tactics that students use.

Tiny earbuds, for example, could allow a student to listen to content transmitted from a smartphone in their backpack across the room, reports USA Today.

Self-identified student cheaters are sharing what works via Twitter. One student mentions having bought an Apple Watch “just to cheat on exams.” Another boasts of bringing two cell phones to the exam so when the instructor collects one, the other is still accessible.

One of the latest and widespread forms of cheating, the article says, involves using auto-summarize features in Microsoft Word and other programs to pass off computer-generated essays as original work.

Common solutions to the problem include requiring user verification to curb cheating in online classes; giving shorter, lower-stake assessments so students feel less pressure; discouraging cheating through student-run honor codes; and using plagiarism-checking tools such as Turnitin.

A UB article earlier this year points to how online proctoring, deployed live or via a recording, allows students to be watched as they take an exam. Students may be required to scan their work area to show that they don’t have books, devices or other methods of finding answers on hand.

Faculty can also curb cheating by using new assessment management systems to develop, schedule and deliver exams and quizzes in a highly secure environment.

Read: How to prevent plagiarism and other forms of cheating

Recent coverage by News 5 Cleveland warns of the penalties being imposed by northeast Ohio college and university officials who catch students cheating. Case Western Reserve University’s academic integrity policies include an ethics education program for first-time violators and explain how the Academic Integrity Board takes action against students who violate conduct standards related to cheating.

The Wall Street Journal recently reviewed 100 websites offering tutoring help or writing services, or both, and found they promise custom work. Some sites even offer to run work through anti-plagiarism programs to prove it’s original. Contract cheating sites are a lucrative business. One Rutgers graduate who spent over a decade working for such sites says he earned $60,000 per year.

While the problem of prevalent cheating is hardly going away, a combination of technology, policy and practice continues to help higher ed institutions keep up with cheaters’ latest tricks.

Melissa Ezarik is senior managing editor of UB.

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