Using technology to address academic dishonesty

By Dustin Manley

Dealing with academic dishonesty is a nightmare. When suspicions of cheating arise, the onus often falls on the professor to demonstrate proof, secure the integrity of the assessment, and identify the guilty students. It’s a painful scenario which damages the reputation of professors and institutions and destroys the academic future of students.

Cheating has always been a serious concern at post-secondary institutions but data suggests instances are increasing. Over 68% of US undergraduate students admit to cheating, according to a 2002-2015 study by the International Center for Academic Integrity. In Canada, 53% of undergraduates admitted to plagiarism and 18% to serious test cheating in a 2002-2003 study by Hughes and McCabe.

While the Internet of Things appears responsible for the influx of cheating, Jon McCabe—an integral member of both aforementioned studies—hesitates to delegate all the blame to it. The reasons are complicated and will require more research, but McCabe theorized a primary contributor is a growing apathy towards cheating among students.

A number of professors report the relatively common practice of dishonest students taking an eraser to their graded assessments, writing the correct answer, and requesting a regrade. In order to combat this, a number of professors—particularly those in Chemistry, I found through anecdotal experience—began scanning and photocopying assessments; albeit on their own time. Unfortunately, cheaters now have more tools at their hands than erasers.

While the rise of digital technology is providing more opportunities for cheating, it also makes instances easier to detect and identify. The growing trend of paperless grading often produces a digital artifact of student work which is securely stored and accessible in cases of grading disputes. New attendance-recording technology also serves to validate student identities while creating virtual seating maps for proctored examinations.

Academic dishonesty is not going to disappear. However, the proactive use of digital technology, advice from colleagues, and enforcement will make identifying current instances and make deterring potential ones much easier.

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