In case you haven’t heard, the University of Central Florida was recently rocked by a large-scale cheating scandal in a business management course. At one point, over 200 students in the course had turned themselves in to Prof. Richard Quinn or an associate. Prof. Quinn uses (or I should say “used”) tests from a pre-made test bank, and somehow students got hold of the test bank with answer keys prior to the midterm. Every student in the class, guilty or otherwise, was required to retake the midterm, which apparently then showed a normal distribution as opposed to a severely bimodal one on the compromised exam.
UCF puts the videos for Prof. Quinn’s lectures online. Here’s the one where he announces he’s discovered the cheating and describes what’s about to happen. This is 15 minutes long, but you MUST watch it. Seriously. All of it.
About two dozen seniors at Hamilton Southeastern High School in the affluent northern suburbs of Indianapolis have been caught plagiarizing in a dual-enrollment college course, thanks to turnitin.com. Full story with video here, and there’s an official statement from the HSE superintendent on this issue here (.DOC, 20KB).
This would be an ordinary, though disappointing, story about students getting caught cheating if it weren’t for some head-scratchers here. First, this bit from the superintendent’s statement:
We took immediate action because the end of the school year was rapidly approaching. Several students were in danger of not graduating on time. We found a teacher who was willing to step up and administer a complete but highly accelerated online version of a class that would replace the credit that was lost due to cheating. Each student who wishes to graduate…
When I put up this post, highlighting a hilariously bad YouTube video on how to cheat on a test, one of the things I discovered was that there is actually an entire genre of “how to cheat” videos on YouTube. I didn’t realize I had tapped into such a resource, but I did. Since the earlier post got lots of comments, I thought I’d do another. This one is much cleverer and better-produced. Enjoy (I guess):
Like I said, a lot cleverer — and a lot harder to detect. The big hurdle here is that many classrooms don’t allow food or drink in the classroom, and even if they did, a prof could simply ban food and drink to circumvent this particular trick. But the problem there is that a student could perform this trick on anything with a label, and so if you ban pop bottles you might as well ban everything. Which some teachers and testing facilities do.
OMG it’s so simple! Roll up a piece of paper with your cheat notes on it and STICK IT INSIDE A PEN! Then TRY TO READ THE TINY HANDWRITING THROUGH THE CLEAR PLASTIC during the test!
I’m sure it’s OK to immortalize dishonesty on YouTube… Because, like, NOBODY important ever checks YouTube — like teachers, employers, or The Chicago Sun-Times.
Do students really think that this works? Having a little rolled-up piece of paper with microscopic notes on so densely packed together that they threaten to collapse into a black hole, not to mention being sheathed in plastic which blurs the resolution of the notes? How could someone even find those notes legible, let alone useful?
If this young lady wants to come to my college and take a class with me and take one of my tests, I’ll look the other way if she wants to use this little pen trick, because if you haven’t learned the…
Virusdoc, always the prolific commenter, has left another comment that raises the issue of how a professor should actually deal with academic dishonesty when it occurs. What follows is my own procedure for handling these situations; I’m sure it’s not perfect, and I’m open to suggestions for improvement, but it’s worked pretty well for me over the years.
The overall strategy for dealing with academic dishonesty is that the students involved should be confronted with the issue promptly after it’s been discovered, given a chance to give their side of the story, and then the professor can move forward on the dual basis of the evidence in front of her/him and the student’s own statements. This strategy is opposed to two other possible strategies:
Avoiding doing anything about the academic dishonesty at all, either by simply looking the other way and pretending it didn’t happen, or else…
Academic dishonesty is not only easy to catch, it’s a horrible miscarriage of the mutual trust upon which all of education is built, and students who willfully engage in it deserve all the punishment they receive, if not more. There’s simply no rationalizing it, and I don’t think we in higher ed do nearly enough to eradicate it.
I bring this up because of virusdoc’s comment, just made on an old post:
Resurrecting an old thread, but I just graded my first ever take-home essay test (open-book, open web, but no collaboration allowed and students were instructed to make sure their ideas and words were their own).
Out of 30 tests graded thus far, there were two students who boldly copied and pasted huge blocks of text from multiple websites into their test answers, without so much as an attempt to change any words or even alter the font from that in the website. It was horrific. In…
Editorial: Here’s the third article in the weeklong retrospective I am running this week. This article was, I think, the very first one I posted at CO9s about academic dishonesty (cheating, plagiarism, etc.) and might be the clearest statement I’ve made on this painful subject. Academic dishonesty remains one of the biggest personal issues for me in my work as a college professor.
I’ve had to deal with my first academic dishonesty (AD) case of the semester this week. I won’t blog about the details, but suffice to say that this time it was plagiarism; a student copied some examples from a couple of web sites and submitted it as his/her own work. (I am now in the habit of typing any suspicious written work into Google to check for plagiarism, and that’s how I caught it this time.) In the…
OK, commenters, you win. My proposal for extending the punishment for academic dishonesty is probably too draconianfascistmuch like walking the plank strict. Even if I fixed the “five-game suspension” problem for athletes, I admit most students caught in academic dishonesty aren’t cold-blooded cheaters but basically good people who are naive to the ways of college and have gotten themselves talked into thinking that cheating is acceptable if one can sort of morally justify it. And as such, they don’t need the full force of the sanctions that I proposed to get the lesson across.
But at least at my college, the professor reserves the right to suggest withholding parts of the standard penalty for academic dishonesty. While I always report academic dishonesty to the Dean, and while I have done so at least once a semester ever since I started working here, in fact I have almost never…
My college’s official policy on academic dishonesty (cheating, plagiarism, and the like) goes as follows. When a student is “convicted” of academic dishonesty on a course assignment and it is their first offense, then:
The student receives an automatic “0″ on the assignment.
The student’s final letter grade in the course is reduced by one full letter. (An earned B- becomes a C-, etc.)
And should the student ever commit academic dishonesty a second time, the student is expelled.
This policy is pretty typical of a lot of colleges. But I am beginning to think it doesn’t go far enough. Here’s what I am thinking ought to happen to a student caught in academic dishonesty:
The student gets a grade of “0″ on the assignment and a reduction of one letter on the final grade, as is currently the case.
The student is barred for one year from holding any officer position in any official…
I am a mathematician and educator with interests in cryptology, computer science, and STEM education. I am affiliated with the Mathematics Department at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. The views here are my own and are not necessarily shared by GVSU.
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