With the advent of online courses, it seems technology is playing "keep up" not only with the rate in which teachers require new methods to teach their students, but also the rate in which teachers require more sophisticated methods of discouraging and stopping academic plagiarism, which seems to be happening more than ever in educational institutions all over the globe.
In March of 2015, IIEP Policy Forum on Planning Higher Education Integrity held a conference in Paris that brought together teaching and university professionals to discuss plagiarism and other types of fraud in the educational system. Clearly, cheating is a global problem, but the type of fraud that occurs differs from region to region. For example, an attendee from Eastern Europe spoke about "how personal relations and bribes are a more effective way of gaining acceptance to university than getting good marks in school." However, in countries like the US and the UK, the type of fraud that is most prevalent is student plagiarism in university coursework, including essays and tests.
Some students who are caught cheating are high performers who are overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to finish while still maintaining a social life, athletic scholarships and other activities. Because society often values a successful result over the journey to achievement, students fall prey to the "cheating culture." In other words, students who are pressured to achieve extraordinarily may panic and seek "extraordinary" means of being successful (i.e. paying another student to write their paper or cutting corners by "borrowing" content from an internet search).
However, there are many students who seem to incorporate cheating as a regular part of their academic lifestyle. Researchers believe it has to do with a combination of arrogance and a laissez faire attitude toward the how cheating compromises the integrity of an educational institution. Students who cheat don't think that their professor, or plagiarism detection software, will be able to catch them, even if they are warned about it ahead of time.
In addition, many students also have an inflated sense of how well they understand citation and copyright fair practices. A recent study's findings, published in Assessment Evaluation in Higher Education in 2015, showed that "students...having a seriously misplaced confidence in their understanding of referencing and plagiarism, with a lenient view of how transgressions' are...punished" are behind the increase in plagiarism. Students also tend to have confidence that their tech know-how is more advanced than their teachers. They consider their cheating methods too sophisticated to be caught, even if they're just copying and pasting text from Wikipedia. For these students, there may be no deterrent but the consequences they experience when they are caught.
Still, many incidents of students' cheating are the result of students simply not knowing the proper way to cite, or what constitutes plagiarism in the first place. The study conducted in Europe showed that, although the majority of students were able to identify blatant, copy-and-paste plagiarism, many had trouble identifying less-obvious transgressions. For example, when 40% of an essay contains material that is taken from another source, but only some of it is verbatim, only 40% of surveyed students correctly identified it as an incident of plagiarism.
There are other ways in which savvy teachers and professors can combat cheating making plagiarism statistics more "optimistic". Based on the presence of plagiarism in their classrooms, here are a few ways in which teachers are combatting plagiarism in 2015:
Assigning tests and essays that are cheat-resistant. Professors of upper-level courses usually have less to fear when it comes to plagiarism not only because most of the students have chosen to enroll in the classes for their majors or areas of interest (as opposed to being forced to take a class to fulfill a core requirement), but also because the nature of the assignments aren't based on regurgitating class notes or numbers. Many professors encourage students to use their books or notecards, or even allow students to revise essays a few times, before they receive a final grade because it is the nature in which they are applying specific theories or concepts that is being tested, which isn't something that can easily be copied from another source. If a student were to plagiarize, it would be easier to spot and follow-up on, simply by asking a few questions that the author of the test or essay would be able to answer.
Using plagiarism-detection software. Several companies have seized the opportunity to assist professors on their quest to eliminate cheating. Plagiarism Software can easily detect content that has been plagiarized from the web and can even be customized to review text books and original content (like course materials). Some teachers require students to run their essays through these tools and turn in the subsequent report with their essay to prove they have taken the time to eliminate any copied content. However, as discussed above, this software might not deter students who believe their cheating tactics to be "too good" to be detected.
Proctoring. It's no longer up to the professor to prove the identity of a student that is taking an online test. Several companies now specialize in online identity confirmation techniques, often using a webcam to verify that a student is who he or she says s/he is, thus helping to eliminate cheating in online classes.
Virtual Student Monitors. Especially effective in online courses, universities can work together with teachers to have a virtual student monitoring program, where "fake" student profiles, monitored by university officials, "attend" classes to keep an eye and ear on any activity that might lead to cheating among the other students.
Guilt. Appealing to their students' sense of fairness and reminding the class of the negative effects of their classmates' cheating actually can make a difference, especially if the professor employs old-fashion, tried-and-true methods of grading, like grading on a curve so that the student with the highest score on a test or paper sets the standard for all other students. Students are less likely to cheat or, at least, more likely to cheat less, if they know they could face consequences from their classmates in addition to their professor.
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