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
- Many educators assume that cheating is more prevalent in online courses vs. face-to-face courses, but this may not be the case.
- The motives for cheating are many – take a look at the graphic “Key Reasons Students Plagiarize” from Hazel Owen. However, from time management to language of study these reasons could apply to online and traditional students.
- Take a look at a 2009 report from researchers at Friends University: “Point, Click, and Cheat: Frequency and Type of Academic Dishonesty in the Virtual Classroom.”
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.
For more from the most recent live session, review the chat feed below. Our past chats can be found on the archives page.
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
This week’s chat feed:
Image credit: jobadge, Flickr, CC:BY-NC