Is trying to catch cheaters a worthwhile use of college resources?

Three out of five college students admit to cheating on tests and assignments. Today’s Question: Is trying to catch cheaters a worthwhile use of college resources?

  • Sue de Nim

    Yes. If too many cheaters get by without getting caught, then a degree from that institution is no better than a mail-order diploma.

  • Toby Dogwiler

    As a college professor, I see Academic honesty as paramount to the integrity and validity of a college’s credibility for granting degrees. If degrees are being granted to students who cheat their way through school that diminishes the value of all past, present, and future students who have rightfully earned their degrees at that institution. Furthermore, it diminishes the reputation of the institution in the eye’s of employers, prospective students, and alumni donors.

  • Philip

    It is a very worthwhile use of resources. A school is only as good as its integrity and honor. This must be reflected by its students and staff.

  • Benjamin

    Clearly, if colleges have to exert resources on this, parents and schools must be failing to teach students the value of honest work. What we really need to do is focus on raising moral kids from the beginning.

  • Bruce

    Colleges should spend sparingly on enforcement. Colleges should teach students how to recognize the difference between learning and parroting what they find on the web or other sources.

  • Andrew

    As a former teaching assistant in engineering, I saw cheating quite often. The problem I have with cheating at this level is that it is habitual and will most likely carry on into professional careers. As a graduate of the same institution, I had a hard-line policy on cheating as these students would be future graduates of my Alma matter. Cheating also goes against the principles that Professional Engineers must adhere to.

  • Lorraine O’Shea

    As a middle school teacher, I think it is very important for colleges to make sure they are enforcing the moral code. I find what your researcher said very true. Students see others cheating so often that they think it is fine. I try to impart to students the importance of doing their own work. Cheating in my class may mean a zero on the assignment but cheating in college may mean being kicked out of school. If the rules are not enforced they think that there is no consequences for cheating so why not do it.

  • Russ Hanson

    Cheating is the sharing of one person’s work with others either by mutual consent or by surreptitious means when such sharing has been disallowed by the teacher.

    Education, by definition, is the attempt to learn how to use other people’s achievements to make your own easier.

    Cheating is a behavior that leads us to achieve better results using other people’s achievements, thus it is really just education.

    Most cheating comes from expecting people to memorize things that it would make more sense to just look up when you need to find them.

  • T

    Looking at our society objectively it seems that “cheating” could have its merits on a personal level (although likely not on a societal level). Being a good cheater (i.e. one that doesn’t get caught or better yet who’s actions are socially acceptable): the lawyer who can win a court case that should have been lost, the hospital that charges 3 times more for because it is well regarded, the politician who can get lots of funding from companies while still appealing to his constituency, the bank that charges fees for every little thing.

    Should we then be teaching our kids to cheat, but to cheat smartly. Like it or not, a lot of what is taught in high school or college is irrelevant for most students’ future endeavors. If a student cheats smartly (only when they can get away with it, and only the subjects that are worthless to them), they could potentially achieve more than if they didn’t cheat. The cheater could do more with less time, and get better grades. That could lead to a better college, which could lead to a better job, etc., etc.. Is this really how our society is set up?

  • Stephen Maupin

    Being a parent of 2 children in the k-12 system (one just graduated from high school and off to college), and husband to a school teacher, i agree that there is a moral right to crack-down on consequences to cheating, without being overbearing. Teach the kids the value of hard work and honesty!

  • kennedy

    Certainly cheaters should be aggressively pursued. Everyone seems to justify cheating when they do it to get something they feel they deserve. We seem to forget that cheating puts people in positions they may not be qualified for. Think of how much trust you have in other’s ability to do their jobs. Do you want to rely on a cheater?

    I don’t want my oral surgery performed by someone who get their certificate through cheating.

    I don’t want to drive across a bridge designed by an engineer who got their license through cheating.

    I don’t want children watched over by a daycare provider who got their license through cheating.

    I don’t want to eat food at a restaurant that passed it’s inspection by cheating.

  • Chris

    NO, I don’t think Colleges should do anything about cheaters!

    Just think of how much those people could stimulate our economy later in life. They could get jobs on wall street, or maybe as insurance adjusters.

    We should deregulate colleges and Universities so these people can cheat to their fullest know… get them ready for the real world.

  • jamex

    Russ’s post got me thinking. Is Education really nothing more than teaching kids to copy what was done by others? I don’t think so. I’d argue there’s a significant difference between building on the work of others and taking credit for work you didn’t do yourself.

    As for allegedly pointless memorization: Yeah, it’s good to know where to look when you don’t know something. But how far does that really extend? Do we just give every kid an iPad and tell them to use the internet to find out how to do things? Should I memorize information about foreign countries, or have to look it up when I’m talking to my fellow Senators about why we should build a relationship with Brazil (because surely, with all the time I’ve saved by cheating, I can devote my time fully to my political career (which is 83% cheating and 29% lying and 14% paying for (gay) sex))?

    Wait, I’m not sure my numbers add up… bah, close enough.

  • Michelle

    Nah. Cheaters always end up screwing themselves over anyway. I don’t know of 1 person who got anywhere in college by cheating his or her way through it; and I was cheated off of in grad school. And everyone who knows that person will never, ever give him/her a recommendation, a good word, or a job offer.

    You can’t fake a medical, law, or teaching degree, to name just a few. Sorry. I would give the cheater 1 day in almost any profession before their colleagues figured out they had no idea what they were doing. Let the idiots screw themselves over!

  • DNA

    Encourage sharing and cooperation…discourage cheating… re-educate the student (if they with to continue at that institution) as to appropriate methods of study and producing good work.

  • Susan WB

    Simply put, people cheat because they can. And, in my experience as a teacher, cheating can be very much reduced by better instructional design. Poorly designed tests and assignments, and an over-reliance on particular formats of tests and assignments, lead to cheating because of their very nature. Sit a hall of 100 people down to do a multiple-choice test and some will cheat. Give that same group of people an essay exam and you’ll have much less cheating because the format is just not as conducive to it. Assignments that ask students to report on what is already known on a subject lead to cheating (copy-and-paste writing), while assignments that ask students to propose a research question and do original work – that is, to discover new knowledge – do not lend themselves as easily to cheating.

    Taken in this light, it’s not a a waste of resources to combat cheating, if the resources are used to design more rigorous and challenging instruction and assignments, which by their nature lead to less cheating.

  • K. Bentley

    Yes, it is important to discipline cheaters, but how? If they are cheating they already know how to game the system. They can challenge a low grade and the Prof. has to prove the cheating incident. Unfortunately, direct observation is just ” he says..she says” info. The professor/teacher rarely wins in these cases because the institutions do not back up their faculty. They have to be nice to their “clients” ie. tuition paying students. Then add in the parent component who will threaten consequences because a bad grade may harm a students future career and earnings. We can only hope as others here have said that they sink their own boats.

  • Steve

    It would be worthwhile, if colleges & universities actually used resources to deter cheating, but I don’t think this is a priority, or even on the radar for most institutions. If you had actual consequences for cheating that applied to everybody, I believe cheating would be reduced.

  • Nancy Jo Hambleton

    Yes. However, I wonder about the collective will of all those involved in education – teachers, students, parents, administrators – to work together to curb the culture of cheating that seems to have taken hold.

    I agree with Susan that good instructional design by teachers can reduce cheating and that certain kinds of testing can reduce certain kinds of cheating. However, that only goes so far. There is not a one-size-fits-all method of testing that works for all kinds of learning objectives. Good pedagogical practice involves using the right assessment tool at the right time. As an instructor, I use a variety of assessment tools to evaluate student effort and achievement.

    But a teacher can only do so much. Some evaluation methods require more time-intensive methods of scoring. Grading an essay or student portfolio takes a lot more time than a machine-scored multiple-choice exam. Also, a good teacher knows that student assessment also presents learning opportunities. If students can get individual feedback on specific portions of their essay or insight on the pattern of types of multiple-choice questions missed on a test rather than a single score or grade, there is the potential for that student to learn from the assessment experience. Scoring rubrics can help but they still aren’t able to point out positives and negatives in the same way that written comments from the teacher on the students’ work can do. These can present very real time challenges for the teacher burdoned with multiple sections of large class sizes. Do the administrators and tax payers want to pay the cost of lower class sizes and/or reduced credit loads for faculty who conscientiously use these these best practices in student evaluation?

    And what about distance learning, i.e. interactive television (ITV) and on-line education? Student assessment in these settings is even more challenging. Ideally, in interactive television settings, you’d have a proctor at every “remote site” for objective testing (when objective testing is the appropriate assessment tool). For on-line classes, having a proctored testing center is a possibility. But these sorts of solutions mean extra personnel, often during evening and weekend hours. In this day and age of budget cuts in education, these are some of the things that are the first to go. And for the on-line student from way out of area or even country, there’s no practical way to require them to come to a testing center. After all, the whole point of “distance education” is to accomodate the student who is place-bound, or schedule-bound and can’t get to a brick-and-morter classroom. Other methods of student assessment in distance education also have other unique obstacles. Some, in my experience, can be overcome but which require an inordinate amount of teacher monitoring and involvement – much more than the “prep” time for which we’re paid.

    Lastly, administrative and parental support for applying meaningful consequences when a student is “busted” for cheating is sorely lacking. Honor codes and punishment policies are all good and well until it happens to be their little “johnny” or “susie” or the “star athlete” or student senate president. Then the teacher is often left hanging out to dry. Is it worthwhile to spend resources on preventing academic cheating. Yes, for all the reasons others have mentioned concerning academic integrity, moral character, and promotion true learning. But I’m just not sure many people realize just how many resources would be needed to truly make a dent in the problem that exists today.

  • Lauren

    No. Instead you should teach students good values and morals. I’m a student at St. Olaf college and we have an Honor Code for all of our exams. The professors aren’t allowed to be in the classroom during the exams, they just check back periodically for questions. At the end of the exam each student considers the pledge. Signing the pledge indicates that you have “seen nor receieved no dishonest work during this exam”. Initialling in a box below indicates the opposite, then the Honor Committee investigates the matter. Everyone – students and faculty alike – respect and uphold our honor code. Cheating will eventually catch up with you – in later schooling, a job or maybe even in a relationship. Just teach students to uphold the beliefs they believe in.

  • Jw

    I have always envied my wife’s experience at St. Olaf over mine at the U of M. Cheating is such a huge concern at the U that it becomes a major distraction during test-taking.

    I wonder though, if a student is paying for their education, why do they value it so little that they would devise a way to avoid learning it? I think that one could argue that in some cases, the knowledge being tested doesn’t seem relevant to the student, and therefore not important enough to learn or synthesize.

  • unkown

    Ok, i agree they should stop cheaters withen reason however colleges should NOT

    A. create policys that while making cheating harder inhibits learning ( the one i go to does we have lab every week they refuse to let you have a copy of said lab because you might get someone to do it for you hand it out ect dispite its meant to learn from )

    B. create envoirments where people can cheat without detection and ask them not to

    I.E online tests that are closed book at home ( serously those that follow that are probalby only one or two i agree with the say not to get another person to help you though but if ya do your just screwing yourself.

    also classmates should be allowed to help each other withen reason not told to not help each other whatsoever and only to go to the prof/ta

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