Academic Dishonesty Academic Dishonesty “To cheat or not to cheat, that is the question. ” This modified statement, borrowed from the soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, aptly denotes the ethical dilemma faced by all students. The majority of students endeavor to conduct themselves in an upright manner. Yet the harsh reality is that many learning institutions, from high schools to universities, are becoming rife with academic dishonesty. The advent of technology has created a tantalizing environment that has greatly enhanced the lives of many people, especially students.
An unfortunate consequence is that some of these technological advances are being used to foster scholastic dishonesty. Modern technology has created a tempting environment for academic dishonesty, as well as providing mechanisms for preventing this behavior. Education is an important aspect of life in most cultures; especially is this true in Western society. Students enrolling in colleges and universities are driven to succeed and generally put forth their best efforts toward that end.
Unfortunately, there are some people who attempt to circumvent the standards for academic behavior by resorting to such activities as cheating and plagiarism.
These actions have been exacerbated by the misuse of technology. Therefore, it is critical that learning institutions take decisive action to curb these dishonest practices for the benefit of those students behaving in an ethical manner The expression “academic dishonesty” covers a broad range of issues, but some of its common forms are cheating, plagiarism, and collusion.
These practices are considered an attack on the integrity of an educational institution and essentially cheapen the learning experience for all involved; this includes the perpetrator, other students, and members of the faculty (Nelson, 2006).
Cheating is basically using information or study guides in any academic exercise without the knowledge or permission of the instructor.
Some forms of cheating include copying from another person during a test; using unauthorized notes during an examination; students asking or allowing another person to take a test for them. Essay plagiarism detector is a needed tool to use as the plagiarism itself is tantamount to stealing because the student is using another person’s thoughts, either through a direct quotation or paraphrasing into his own words, without giving proper credit to the author of those words or ideas. Collusion occurs when any student serves as an accomplice to any of the forms of academic dishonesty outlined above (Nelson, 2006).
Rates of academic cheating have greatly increased during the past decade; a study of 50,000 college and 18,000 high-school students in the United States by Duke University’s Center for Academic Integrity, more than 70 percent admitted to having cheated; up from about 56 percent in 1993 (Vencat, 2006). In today’s world a plethora of new electronic gadgets is available to the public on a daily basis. Theses technologies are transforming how society relates to each other and are having major social impact.
Mobile phones, personal digital assistants, and PCs with Internet access allow people to instantly connect to each other and to tap into a wealth of information. These technologies in many regards bring society together and have fueled a digital renaissance that allows the free flow of ideas and permits anyone on Earth to share his life, but technology brings with it the possibility of negative consequences (Cox, 2006). One of the negative consequences is an explosive rise in academic dishonesty, specifically cheating and plagiarism.
Three technologies that have been exploited for academic cheating are the mobile phone, the Internet, and the Personal Digital Assistant or PDA. Mobile phones have penetrated every nook of today’s society. More than 60% of U. S. households have at least one cell phone, and by 2010 that percentage will be over 80% (KiplingerForcasts, 2005). Since mobile phones have been so widely accepted, it is no wonder there are cellular complications (Cox, 2006). Mobile phones are now commonly used for academic dishonesty. Unscrupulous students surreptitiously take pictures of tests with mobile camera phones (Cox, 2006).
The students then distribute the images either by sending them directly to friends’ phones or posting the photographs on websites for anyone to download. Cell phone cameras are so compact and sophisticated that there is little chance of being apprehended. Cellular text messaging has been quickly adopted as a method for academic cheating. Students can requests answers to test questions from friends via a mobile text message. Students can store test questions in a text messages to later disseminate to classmates.
Pupils are also using their mobile phones to access to the Internet (Meilke, 2006). Today’s cell phones have high speed connectivity to the Internet. This puts unlimited search capability in the hands of the test taker. It allows the student to “Google” the answers to test questions. Not only can pupils search for answers; they can also email friends for help during an exam. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority of England reported over 4,500 incidence of student malpractice in 2005. Of those more than 1,100 were related to mobile phones smuggled into exams (Meilke, 2006).
During a recent “techno sting” at the University of Maryland twelve student were caught cheating; several of those students admitted to using cell phone to cheat (Hayman, 2005). Institutions are combating these cheating techniques by banning cell phones or using detection equipment. Searching students or using high power jamming equipment may be illegal and impractical for use in the average class room, but there are ways to detect covert mobile phone usage. There is a device that can detect some types of mobile phones. The device called a Mobifinder will beep when mobile phones are in use nearby (Business Week, 2001).
Plagiarism has received an incredible boost from PCs and the Internet. These same tools that are now indispensable and link student to what seems to be limitless information (Laird, 2001) are so successful that they are commonly used in the commission of plagiarism. A national survey conducted by Education Week found 54% of students admitted to plagiarizing from the Internet (Plagiarism, 2005). A multitude of websites exists to supply students with ready- made research papers. Instructors, at one time, could detect plagiarism because the student’s submission was not in his voice or used grammar and vocabulary that were too sophisticated.
There are websites that will produce a one-of-a-kind paper for a student. They use samples of a student’s past work to produce a paper that is written to the student level. Students can order papers via the Internet much the same as ordering a pizza and in many cases with the same comfort level (Laird, 2001). A survey of 50,000 students conducted by the Center for Integrity at Duke University found that 75% of those surveyed did not think copying from the Internet was a serious issue (Barlow, 2006). Not only can research papers be easily purchased online, but there is a vast sea of information available on the Internet.
Students can easily submit other’s work as their own. “Such bounty, free for the taking, seduces us to step over the line of self-regulation” (Laird, 2001). The PC allows pupils to keep electronic copies of their work indefinitely. In the past a student would have to retype a peer’s research paper to submit it as his own. Now a report can simply be electronically transferred and reprinted for submission. Students have also started “outsourcing” computer programming assignments to expert programmers in India via websites like rentacoder. com (Vencat, 2006).
British researchers found 12 per cent of business at rentacoder. com, a website where software programming can be contracted for as little as fifteen dollars, was from students looking for an alternative to doing their own university work (Morton & Tarica, 2006). The Internet will remain the main tool in the plagiarist’s arsenal for some time to come. There is an arms race among plagiarism thwarting websites and research paper producing Internet sites that will continue for the seeable future; or at least until the problem of plagiarism and cheating is addressed in some academic or social level.
Another gadget that has been extremely successful at connecting students with information is the personal digital assistant or PDA. Theses devices pack all the processing power of a PC, but are small enough to fit into the palm of the hand. This power and portability are why this device has been adopted by many would-be cheaters. PDAs can be loaded with the contents of an entire course. They can also be linked to services that will supply ideas and topics for surprise in-class essays. Summaries of classic novels can be beamed to these devices (Vencat, 2006).
When the PDA first appeared it was hailed as a productivity device, but the use of the PDA as a cheating tool was also instantly recognized. Electronic Gaming Monthly noted in initial reviews that the device would allow the user to easily cheat at tests (Shroeder, 1995). Some top institutions decided to embrace these devices and “legalized cheating” by allowing students to surf the Web on a PDA. Proponents say this allows a student to learn real-world research skills (Vencat 2006). Opponents of using devices like the PDA to “cheat” during exams will devalue the college degree and does not promote acquiring knowledge (Kliener & Lord, 1999).
Using PDAs should be allowed in the classroom during tests. School is about learning for learning sake, but college should also prepare the student to have productive carrier in the real world. Allowing the use of a PDA simulates real world research (Vencat 2006). The PDA has been surpassed by the mobile phone as the primary cheating device in the class room, but the PDA is still in wide spread use due to the PC-like storage and search capabilities. There are several steps that should be taken in an effort to prevent academic dishonesty. One such measure would be to educate students on the standards for academic conduct.
Sometimes dishonest practices occur because students do not clearly understand the elements that categorize scholastic dishonesty. Instructors should devote time at the beginning of the semester to discussing the criteria for academic conduct and scholarship. This will allow the students to develop an appreciation for what is considered acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Students should be given specific instruction outlining the forms of plagiarism and cheating; this direction can be provided orally and followed up with written information.
Also it would be helpful to inform the students on the standards for assessing their performance, and reviewing their progress throughout the term. Another practical suggestion is for instructors to be observant of their students in an effort to identify signs of stress. In this way, faculty can direct the student toward campus resources that are available to assist him with tutoring or counseling services (Gross-Davis, 2006). From this writer’s experience, some of the situations contributing to the stress level for college students are the demands of balancing college, personal responsibilities, and employment needs.
Also, there is the pressure to excel in one’s studies so as to achieve academic honors or recognitions, such as being on the Dean’s list. Further, the social pressure of conforming to peer expectations can be an added burden for students. For example, a student might feel pressured by friends to join a college club, team, or committee that would exact more time from his already busy schedule. Along with educating students on the academic standards to which they are expected to adhere, there should be discussions on the harmful effects of cheating and the consequences of such actions.
Some schools give instructors the authority to impose punishment for cheating which might include “a reprimand, assignment of additional work, re-examination, lowering of the grade, or exclusion from the course. ” In addition to these consequences, the school might chose to impose further sanctions such as a written warnings or disciplinary probation (Nelson, 2006, 21). Students should be reminded that “plagiarism and cheating are unfair, demoralizing and demeaning to all of us” (Nelson, 2006, 23). The students should be made aware that the institution will not tolerate such dishonest behavior, and anyone articipating in this activity would be subject to certain punishment which might include expulsion from the school. An additional measure that can be taken to stem the tide of dishonest behavior in schools is to minimize the opportunities for plagiarism or cheating in its traditional or newer electronic forms. Instructors can help alleviate or diminish the anxiety associated with writing by analyzing the writing process with the students and possibly assigning short in-class exercises to help the students improve their writing abilities.
The instructor might also have the students submit a first draft of their papers, and include other drafts when the final paper is submitted. During test administration, preventative measures would include having a proctor present at all times, periodically walking through the aisles to actively observe the students. Another suggestion would be to randomly seat students in alternate chairs and have their personal belongings placed on the floor instead of in an empty seat. As discussed previously, the electronic means available for use in cheating are many and varied, making it a challenge for instructors to detect and prevent their abuse.
Nevertheless, when instructors advise students that they are aware of the misuse of these electronic tools, it often serves as a deterrent to those would-be cheaters (Gross-Davis, 2006). Technology has made cheating and plagiarism easier and more prevalent than ever (Barlow, 2006). No matter the technology used cheating and plagiarism are growing every year. Some institutions have decided to incorporate the technology to stop technology-based cheating (Vencat, 2006). There are schools and instructors that have decided to attack the problem with education about cheating and plagiarism.
Still others have been dealing with academic cheating by imposing strict punitive actions. There are, however , services and methods to reduce the amount of academic cheating or at least dissuade some students from using technology to cheat. Some of the technologies that are used to thwart cheaters are website like Turnitin. com, use the Internet to disseminate disinformation, and even the extreme of electronic cages. The availability of texts on-line makes it far easier for students to cheat. The technology has been manipulated to address Internet plagiarism (Sheridan, 2005).
There are now websites that check uploaded papers to see if the contents are plagiarized. Teachers no longer need to know their students’ writing styles or the breadth of their vocabulary to detect plagiarism (Niell, 2006). The main service among plagiarism detection web sites is Turnitin. com. The service checks around 70,000 papers a day from both high schools and universities (Niell, 2006). Turnitin. com is also the underlying website that is used for University of Phoenix’s Plagiarism Checker. Institutions are signing on to the Turnitin. com service at fairly fast pace.
The service makes a digital fingerprint of papers submitted and compares that fingerprint against a database. The papers are then scored for percentage of plagiarized wording. All submitted works become part of the database as well (Sheridan, 2005). This technology is impressive and will contribute to academic honesty, but two issues arise from this service. First, academic honesty is based on an honor code. The honor code is built on trust. Submitting all papers to a plagiarism website fosters a culture of guilty until proven innocent (McCarroll, 2001).
Also, there are some grumblings from students about Turnitin. com. The claim is Turnitin. com is misusing their intellectual property by incorporating all submitted papers into the services repository (Pereira, 2006). This service may stem the tide of Internet based plagiarism. Some professors have taken the cheating epidemic into their own hands. They have used the Internet against the very students that use it to cheat. Professors at University of Maryland posted responses to 30 test questions. The responses were riddled with false answers (Read, 2004).
Of the 400 students taking the test 12 had copied the answers directly. Staff at the university applauded the professors’ scheme, but some professors and students are claiming the professors actions are ethically questionable (Read, 2006). Posting incorrect answers on the web uses the Internet to employ an old strategy of misinformation. Another way to curb cheating is to block cell phone use. Since the mobile phone is one of the main devices used to cheat during test, some education institutions have looked into electronic cages or Faraday cages (Meilke, 2006).
The Faraday cage is named after the physicist Michael Faraday. The cage or shield could be constructed around test halls to prevent mobile devices from receiving outside transmissions (Meilke, 2006). The cage would prevent any electromagnetic fields form penetrating the test hall. This would render all mobile communication useless (Yaqoob, 2006). The problem with this technology is that some students have good cause to carry a cell phone and may need to receive an important call from family.
Another way to deter mobile communication would be to use metal detecting devices or other equipment to sense wireless phone transmissions (Yaqoob, 2006). Conclusion Most students recognize the need for a good education and therefore conduct themselves honorably. Academic dishonesty has created a challenging situation for educators. The misuse of well-intended technology has further contributed to the proliferation of inappropriate academic behavior. But for those individuals who attempt to excel scholastically, or simply to attain average performance, by adopting dishonest practices, measures have to be taken to stem the tide.
Many learning institutions have implemented standards of academic behavior that is shared with all students, education on the various forms of cheating or plagiarism, and the punishment that would be exacted upon the offenders. By so doing, a clear message is sent to those brazenly dishonest people, while allowing fair-minded students to derive the benefits of a wholesome education.