Doc Seidman Says…….
….Quick. What percent of college students admit to cheating? 30%? 40%? 50%? Higher? Of those that admit to cheating, what percent admit to being caught? 30%? 20%? 10%? Lower?
According to a 2015 study by the Center for Academic Integrity, 71,000 students were surveyed and 68% admitted to some type of academic cheating. Another recent study by Kessler International, a forensic accounting and digital forensic investigative firm, found that a whopping 86% of students admitted to cheating. Some form of academic cheating is apparently quite popular. And why not? Researchers claim that 97% of self-admitted cheaters have never been caught.
Academic cheating is loosely defined as using someone else’s work as your own. Students provide many justifications for cheating. Some are obvious, such as the pressure to get good grades or even pass a class. Cheating can also save a lot of time. Why write that paper when you can download it? Since cheating is common and goes relatively unpunished, students see others cheat and get rewarded so they feel they can do the same. Other rationales are less obvious. Many students claim it can be inadvertent (your eyes accidentally see the exam in front of you). Also, technology now makes it so easy to cheat. It blurs the line between honesty and dishonesty. That quick cut and paste from a website might not seem dishonest, but as every teacher knows, it’s cheating.
Academic cheating researchers claim technology hasn’t necessarily made cheating more common. It’s always been popular. Technology has simply given rise to more types of cheating. Smart phones are great enablers. Students can take photos of tests and post them online. Text messages with answers can fly around the room during a test. Phones can easily browse the Internet, searching for answers during exams. Also- students might save notes on their phones which can be viewed or shared during exams.
Smart professors try and stay ahead of this by introducing more innovative testing techniques and less memorization requirements. This is a smart way forward. In the age of Google, why memorize the atomic makeup of boron when you can simply Google it on your hand-held device? I don’t think having the atomic makeup of boron memorized makes you more popular at parties these days. Memorizing the atomic makeup of boron is out. Having a cool phone to look it up without even looking, is in.
In my college professor days, catching cheaters, and proving they were cheating, was always a struggle. Restroom usage was a great example. If a student asked to use the restroom during a test, I always consented. I just didn’t have it in my heart to say no. I would like to think it was an actual biological emergency and not an excuse to look up Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s 14 Points for Management. I could never have lived with myself if I denied the student a bathroom visit and he or she had an uber-embarrassing gastrointestinal incident- or any other type of biological woe- right there in the classroom. I certainly wasn’t going to follow anyone into the bathroom. There was no way I wanted “bathroom spy” prominently featured on my Rate My Professor profile. I don’t think I could have lived with that, either. Right or wrong, I just gave everyone the benefit of the doubt when it came time to a restroom visit.
A big issue with cheating surrounds the online classroom. Like many other professors, I taught online classes in addition to the more traditional face to face classes. In the online classroom you get to know the students somewhat, but don’t really get to know them well enough to know if the paper they turned in on the 14 Points of Management was in fact their paper. While there are “checkers” you can use, such as Google or TurnitIn.com, there is no way of knowing if the paper was written by Tom Jones the student or Tom Jones the entertainer. It’s not unusual. Additionally, I had to wonder if the student in the actual online class was the student who was actually registered to be in the class. It might have been someone for hire. Registered student Delilah can easily pay nerdy entrepreneur Samson to pretend he is her for the entire class. Why, why, why, Delilah? Easy. Delilah can now pass a difficult class and move one step closer to obtaining her degree. Who knows about this act of deceit? The average teacher probably doesn’t.
One of the more interesting rationales comes from the students who justify cheating by saying their professors cheat. Students have shared stories of faculty members requesting sexual favors for better grades. There are also tales of faculty accepting bribes. A common complaint is how faculty members often pressure students to purchase the textbook, authored by the said faculty member. Students who don’t buy the textbook say they get penalized through difficult exams or less than preferential treatment. If there are any professors reading this who do that, know that your students consider that cheating. Take that! Switch to writing fiction.
The purpose of this post isn’t to solve the issue of college cheating, or make anyone feel guilty that they do cheat (although you should). I am simply pointing out it is an issue; and a rather large and complicated one at that. I cringe to think that my colleagues in the professorial world are having sex on the beach with vulnerable students. Or, vice versa for that matter. Students might in fact be having sex on the beach with vulnerable teachers. That creates a whole new wave of potential problems.
Fortunately, there is some hope, even if it’s a glimmer of hope. Twelve percent of students said they wouldn’t cheat because of their own personal ethics. Whereas that number isn’t particularly high, it’s a start. For the sake of keeping our profession honorable, I’d also like to think the vast majority of professors are enjoying sexy relationships with their spouses, or good friends (with benefits), and not their students. After all, college teaching is such a cool job. Why screw it up?