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#IOLchat Report: Online Cheating and Plagiarism


Each week we meet via Twitter for #IOLchat to discuss current issues related to online learning. Participants include students, instructors, advisors, counselors, eLearning companies, schools, publishers, and instructional designers.

Is cheating in online courses an epidemic or overblown concern? We’ve all heard examples of problems ranging from inappropriate collaboration with classmates to purchasing papers online. It’s even an issue in open online courses that don’t result in degrees or earned credit. What can we do to encourage honest academic behavior? Here’s what our chat participants had to say:

Misconceptions About Online Cheating

Technology Can Help Deter and Detect

  • Online exam questions can be drawn from large pools or banks of items and randomly presented to make each student’s experience a little different – they may receive different questions in a different order, but are still evaluated for achievement of learning objectives.
  • The learning management system (e.g., Blackboard) may have settings that “lockdown the tool to prevent surfing elsewhere during online exams.”
  • Virtual proctoring systems (e.g., ProctorU) monitor students via webcam during online exams.

Advice for Online Instructors

  • “Curbing the ease of cheating is similar online and off – use varying exams each term, written responses vs. multiple choice.”
  • “Don’t worry about cheating more than you would in a face-to-face class.”
  • Experiment with “test design strategies and different assignment/assessment methods.”
  • Consult with your school’s academic technology team, instructional designers, and other instructors to see what they can recommend and/or assist with. Many groups across campus may be trying new things and willing to share their tips.
  • Making students aware of their mistakes may help them understand what is/isn’t acceptable for future assignments.
  • “Plagiarism can happen out of ignorance” as when students “don’t understand what plagiarism is and how to properly cite.”
  • Provide detailed expectations for how students should work on exams and other types of assessments – in the syllabus, orientations, etc.

Advice for Online Students

  • “Stop being grade obsessed. Be quality obsessed and the grades will follow. Do your best work in order to maximize learning.”
  • “Don’t do it! Seriously, it’s not worth it. Your education is too valuable to waste.”
  • Read the syllabus! Find out what is expected of you in your courses and understand the school’s policies on cheating and plagiarism.
  • Ask questions if anything is unclear or you aren’t sure what constitutes plagiarism or cheating on a particular assignment.
  • Review honor codes and academic pledges. You may only agree to your school’s policy during the admissions process, while other schools include it on each course syllabus or with the submission of each assignment, but it applies to all the work you complete as a student.

Thanks to @ODU_DL and @jshamsy for participating in the live event!

For more from the most recent live session, review the chat feed below. Our past chats can be found on the archives page.

Follow us (@OC_org) and plan to attend our next chat. We meet on Wednesdays at 12pm ET and look forward to hearing your perspective.

This week’s read-aheads:

Dozen’s of Plagiarism Incidents are Reported in Coursera’s Free Online Courses from Jeffrey R. Young, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Are They Learning or Cheating? Online Teaching’s Dilemma from George Anders, Forbes.com

Rise in Student Plagiarism Cases Attributed to Blurred Lines of Digital World from Kevin Simpson, The Denver Post

Ways to Deter Cheating in Your Online Classes [tutorial] from University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Preventing Cheating and Plagiarism – Resources from the University of Michigan Library

This week’s chat feed:

Image credit: jobadge, Flickr, CC:BY-NC

October 25th, 2012 written by (learn more about our authors)

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