talking with students about cheating May 9

Cheating: Can We Be Doing More to Promote Academic Integrity?

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The most common approach to cheating involves trying to prevent it—multiple versions of a test, roving observation during tests, software that detects plagiarism, policies that prohibit it.  However, if we look at cheating across the board, what we’re doing to stop it hasn’t been all that successful. Depending on the study, the percentage of students who say they’ve cheated runs between 50% and 90% with more results falling on the high side of that range. Can we be doing more? Here are some ideas.


cheating scenarios May 3

Scenarios: Is It Cheating?

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The collection of cheating scenarios provided below are adapted from a variety used in research on academic integrity. What makes these scenarios such helpful learning tools is their identification of specific behaviors and the context in which they occur. Some of the scenarios also highlight the involvement of enablers, those who make the cheating possible or increase the likelihood of success.

Scenarios like these can be used in a variety of different ways. Here are some suggestions.

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why do students plagiarize April 16

Three Keys to Stopping Plagiarism

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Although there are software-based services that can help instructors check the originality of student writing and discourage students from deliberately copying the work of others, many instances of plagiarism stem not from a willful disregard of the rules but from simple ignorance of them.

Elizabeth Kleinfeld, an English instructor and director of the writing center at Metropolitan State University of Denver, has studied plagiarism and students’ use of sources for the last seven years, mostly among students in first-year writing courses. She has found that many students don’t understand the differences between paraphrasing, summarizing, and plagiarism.


cheating in college classroom April 11

Activities that Promote Awareness of What Is and Isn’t Cheating

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Although some behaviors are pretty much universally identified as cheating (copying exam answers, for example), we’re not in agreement on everything. Particularly significant are disagreements between faculty and students (for example, students don’t think cheating occurs if they look something up on their phone and can’t find it; faculty consider cheating in terms of intent). In many cases, there is the question of degree (when, for example, collaboration crosses the line and becomes cheating). The effectiveness of cheating prevention mechanisms can be increased by clarifying upfront what is and isn’t cheating. Here’s a collection of activities faculty can use to ensure that students understand the behaviors that constitute cheating.


copy and paste keyboard - cheating in college April 5

Fact Sheet on Cheating in College

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Cheating and its related issues have been studied extensively for decades. There’s an overwhelming amount of literature. However, results from the past and the present confirm that cheating has been and continues to be a serious problem in higher education.

Here’s an overview of what’s been studied and is known about cheating. The answers provided are broadly supported by the research and illustrated here with brief highlights from a few sample studies. This overview focuses on work published since 2000. Plenty of good research was done before then and is well summarized by McCabe, Trevino, and Butterfield (2001). The findings reported previously continue to be supported by more recent research.

How widespread is cheating? It depends on the study but most report the percentage of students who cheat in the 50-90% range.

Cheating in classrooms

  • 75% of 824 students in 14 different graduate and undergraduate business classes. (Chapman, David, Toy, and Wright, 2004)
  • 5% of all students at a small liberal arts institution. Cheaters were defined as students who more than once engaged in any one of 17 cheating behaviors. (Kidwell, Wozniak and Laurel, 2003)
  • 92% of students surveyed in an online business course had cheated or knew someone who had (Jones, 2011)
  • 86% of a 268-student cross disciplinary sample reported they had cheated (Klein, et. al. 2006)

Cheating in online courses

  • Almost 75% of a cohort of 121 undergraduate business students believe that was easier to cheat in online courses than in traditional classrooms (King, Guyette, Piotrowski, 2009).
  • When 84 MBA and undergraduate business were asked, 47% of MBA students and almost 38% of undergraduates thought it was easier to cheat in online courses (Larkin and Mintu-Wimsatt, 2015)

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cheating in college March 13

Students as a Forgotten Ally in Preventing Cheating

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I’m still wandering around in the literature on cheating. It’s hard not to get depressed. It’s such a pervasive problem and one that compromises all that education could and should be.

Faculty are pretty much focused on preventative measures, which are essential, but there are a couple of other issues rarely mentioned in the literature or in our discussions. Students who don’t cheat usually aren’t on our side when it comes to enforcing cheating policies. In one study, almost 93% of the students said they had witnessed another student cheat, but only 4.4% said they had ever reported a cheating incident (Bernardi, et. al., 2016) Students are in a bind—they don’t want to rat out fellow classmates, some of whom may be friends. If they do and word gets out, they are labeled as “snitches” and “tattletales” — told to mind their own business and otherwise berated. With serious social consequences like these, it takes real courage to do the right thing.


cheating on a test January 17

A Memo to Students on Cheating

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Cheating among college students remains rampant. Our institutional and/or course policies aren’t stopping much of it. There are lots of reasons why, which we could debate, but the more profitable conversation is how we get students to realize that cheating hurts them. I don’t think they consider the personal consequences, so that’s the goal of this memo, framed like others that have appeared in the blog. You are welcome to revise it, make the language your own, and share it as you see fit with students. Will it stop cheating? Not likely, but it might make some students realize the consequences go well beyond getting caught.


online testing December 8, 2017

But What If They Cheat? Giving Non-Proctored Online Assessments

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As online education continues to grow, so does the potential for academic dishonesty. So how do you ensure your online students are not cheating on their tests? Bottom line, you don’t. But there are ways to stack the deck in your favor.

The good news is it’s not as bad as you think. A 2002 study by Grijalva, Kerkvliet, and Nowell it found that “academic dishonesty in a single online class is no more prevalent than in traditional classrooms” (Paullet, Chawdhry, Douglas & Pinchot, 2016, pg. 46). Although the offenders have become quite creative in their endeavors, the prevention remains the best defense.


copy-paste September 2, 2016

Plagiarism vs. Originality: Why I [heart] Melania Trump

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When I first I started teaching, I knew what plagiarism meant and how it related to schoolwork. But student “cheaters” challenged my beliefs. I also assumed graduate students would submit original work. So it took me by surprise when I noticed a mysterious improvement in one student’s writing capacity, well beyond the skill level he’d demonstrated earlier. When a Google search proved more than 20 percent of his paper was copied, he explained it as a computer error—he’d accidentally dropped the footnote when cutting and pasting. I lowered his course grade, but assumed it really was a snafu—not subterfuge. The (now) obvious question went unasked: Why was so much of his assignment based on other people’s insights?


mouse click November 6, 2015

Do Online Students Cheat More on Tests?

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A lot of faculty worry that they do. Given the cheating epidemic in college courses, why wouldn’t students be even more inclined to cheat in an unmonitored exam situation? Add to that how tech-savvy most college students are. Many know their way around computers and software better than their professors. Several studies report that the belief that students cheat more on online tests is most strongly held by faculty who’ve never taught an online course. Those who have taught online are less likely to report discernible differences in cheating between online and face-to-face courses. But those are faculty perceptions, not hard, empirical evidence.