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 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.


Group testing May 18, 2015

Why Open-book Tests Deserve a Place in Your Courses

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With the proliferation of learning management systems (LMS), many instructors now incorporate web-based technologies into their courses. While posting slides and readings online are common practices, the LMS can also be leveraged for testing. Purely online courses typically employ some form of web-based testing tool, but they are also useful for hybrid and face-to-face (F2F) offerings. Some instructors, however, are reluctant to embrace online testing. Their concerns can be wide ranging, but chief among them is cheating.


August 8, 2014

Promoting Academic Integrity in the Online Classroom

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Teddi Fishman, director of the International Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University, advocates an instructional design/community-building approach to academic integrity rather than an adversarial approach. Her stint as a police officer informs this stance. As radar gun companies introduced improved speed enforcement tools, the latest radar detectors (often produced by the same companies) rendered such improvements ineffective. “I learned that you can’t out-tech people, and you don’t want to get into that situation. You don’t want to have that arms race. Certainly some security measures are going to be necessary, but don’t get into the habit of relying on technology to establish a climate of integrity, because it can have adverse effects. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being watched all the time,” she says.


October 18, 2013

What I Learned from Students Who Cheat

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We all know that feeling. That sinking, pit of your stomach feeling when you know you have seen this paper, problem, or quiz answer before. That feeling when you know you have witnessed academic dishonesty. Your first response might be anger. You may sigh because you know you have to investigate, fill out paperwork, and confront a student. Catching and acknowledging academic dishonesty can be disappointing, enraging, time-consuming, and undeniably unpleasant. It can end a student’s academic career. What’s more, academic dishonesty can make you question your ability as an educator.