Saturday, August 27, 2016

Combating Cheating in the Classroom

Online resources students may use for cheating

Have you ever heard of websites such as Course Hero, Quizlet, or Koofers? If you have, you may know that while these websites can provide some advantages for honest students, they also provide an opportunity for some students to cheat. A recent presentation by a professor at Brigham Young University (BYU) highlighted several concerns about these study websites. After searching the websites, thousands of assignments, quizzes, and exams were discovered posted on the various sites. While it may be okay to post student notes, flash cards, or even class slides depending on professors’ instructions, posting assignments, quizzes, and exams is likely a violation of copyright laws.

When a student cheats they aren’t just affecting their own learning. One professor from South Dakota State University said in a Wall Street Journal article that he was essentially forced to drastically reduce the weight of homework because study websites had made it too easy for students to cheat on homework. Students who cheat are affecting others’ grades (by changing the curve), the university, future employers, and ultimately society as a whole. If cheating is commonplace among students in school, then why wouldn’t fraud become common place after those students graduate? So what can be done about it? 

At BYU, faculty have communicated to a number of study websites and requested that specific assignments, quizzes, and exams be removed. Some faculty have proposed that the university create a new position at the university tasked with contacting the various study websites to request removal of material whenever an unauthorized document is uploaded. This position could also search uploaded materials by student name with the intent to take action against the student for uploading unauthorized material. Essentially, this new position would reduce both opportunity (less unauthorized material online) and rationalization for the students (students could no longer feel that nobody would care that they posted a quiz or exam).

It may seem like there are too many ways for students to cheat, and that tackling the problem is impossible. However, if every university, or even a majority of universities, hired someone to monitor websites that allow people to post unauthorized classroom material, cheating could decrease. In any case, we shouldn't quit trying to fight corruption and allow it to flourish simply because we will never stop all corruption.

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