plagiarismPlagiarism and cheating, or more specifically, how to prevent plagiarism and cheating, are hot topics in online learning. While these are, and have been a concern in face-to-face classes, there is additional attention in online learning for a variety of reasons. Not the least of these is that online, who knows who you really are and what you are really doing? – Brian Newberry


1. Thinking about an online class you teach or might teach, what is the most likely issue related to plagiarism and/or cheating with which you would anticipate dealing?

Now that I think about it, there’s really no way I can tell if students are working together to complete online quizzes that are auto-graded in the LMS. When they hand in their worksheets in print I can tell if there was blatant copying because there might be a simple misspelled or misused word that’s the same on several different students’ submissions. Or the same incredibly wrong answer on several papers. When submissions are in the form of a Word document, as is my exercise on creating citations, it’s hard to tell if the document was shared if the answers are all correct. But in reality one person could have done the work, saved the document, and shared it with others. If there are errors though, it’s easy to tell that sharing has taken place.

Although I don’t require a research paper in my class I do have the students create an annotated bibliography and do some paraphrasing. The plagiarism that occurs in this exercise is either accidental or just sheer laziness. It’s much easier to cut and paste than paraphrase.

2. Identify and explain the steps and measures you would take to reduce the occurrence of plagiarism/cheating identified in item 1.

  • In order to reduce the occurrences of outright copying, I am going to try my best eliminate “fill in the blank” skills exercises in favor of a more constructivist approach in which students work with their own topic from the beginning of the semester and use that topic to learn and build on research skills along the way. As Professor Newberry stated in his lecture, creating assignments and grading systems that encourage unique work and a step-by-step approach will insure unique outcomes. (Newberry, 2014)
  • In order to reduce the incidence of plagiarism I will continue to define the issues as clearly as possible.
    • Explain to students what constitutes plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty.
    • Teach students about the research process, the importance of giving credit to authors via citations, and how to properly quote, paraphrase, and cite works they use in their papers.
  • An objective of every library orientation session and library skills class is to introduce the student to not only the research process but the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information so that they will understand what they must do in order to use information ethically and legally. They should come away with an understanding of intellectual property, copyright, and fair use of copyrighted material. I always tell students it’s perfectly okay to use others people’s ideas to help them make a point as long as they cite the sources. After all, researchers love being cited and when students cite other peoples work they themselves become part of the research process.
  • Other measures:
    • Use campus plagiarism checker, Turnitin, when applicable.
    • Instill in students the values associated with ethical behavior and integrity in the classroom and beyond.
    • Post and discuss the campus Cerritos College Academic Honesty/Dishonesty Policy It’s very well written and addresses the important values that lead to student success.

3. What does research tell us about the reasons students give for plagiarism/cheating. Remember to cite your sources!

Cheating in coursework isn’t a new phenomenon by any means but computers, online resources, and online courses have made it easier by far. Students today, some with more technical savvy than their professors, are getting very, very good at it and are doing it more and more. Most researchers agree that cheating behavior has increased in the last few decades and the Internet is the likely cause. According to Neil C. Rowe of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, the relative ease of online cheating increases the temptation to do so, particularly in distance-learning situations where a student might have less commitment to the integrity of the class and might be dealing with pressures from other jobs. (Rowe, 2004)

In the article Cybercheating in the Information Technology Age I found the following passage very interesting because it shows the lack of understanding of intellectual property, copyright, and fair use of copyrighted material, the very things I try to emphasize in my library skills courses and session:

“…student experiences with electronic media in particular may lead them to develop attitudes towards the ownership of academic work that are different from established wisdom and at variance with the conventions of academic writing. From this perspective, therefore, copying, or plagiarism, from the internet may not be “cheating” in the eyes of students – the material is seen as being in the public domain and without ownership.” (Jones, 2008)

Ralph Heibutzki in his GlobalPost article noted that “Students often view cheating as the only way to level the playing field, especially if they see peers behaving likewise. Surveys also hint at other reasons, including indifference to the concept of academic integrity and an apparent lack of outrage from instructors and administrators.” (Heibutzki) He listed five categories of student cheating:

  • Ambiguous attitudes among students about what qualifies as cheating
  • Competitive pressures
  • Institutional apathy
  • Lack of understanding of what constitutes cheating
  • Self interest

References

Heibutzki, R. (n.d.) Statistics on why college sudents decide to cheat. GlobalPost. Retrieved from http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/statistics-college-students-decide-cheat-5940.html

Jones, K.O., Reid, J. & Bartlett, R. (2008). Cyber cheating in an information technology age. Digithum. No. 10. Retrieved from http://www.uoc.edu/digithum/10/dt/eng/jones_reid_bartlett.pdf

Newberry, B.  (2014). Plagiarism and Cheating [Lecture Notes]. Retrieved from http://studyonthebeach.com/csusb/classes/fall_2014/etec_648_fall_2014/s09.html

Rowe, N.C. (2004) Cheating in online student assessment: Beyond plagiarism. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. (VII)II. Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/summer72/rowe72.html

4. Evaluate your participation in the discussion this week. Provide at least one quote from the discussion that supports your evaluation.

I tried to get to my discussion topics early this week because I have a paper due in another class and the BIG project due in this class next week. As a result I think I finally got the hang of juggling the discussion vs. assignment schedule now that it’s the end of the quarter, lol. Turns out my discussion posts can serve as a draft for the focus point assignment. Tada! Dawn breaks on Marblehead!! Active and early participation in the discussion helps me form my weekly blog post.

I guess my most substantial post was the plagiarism post, parts of which I used in this blog. Besides the assigned reading, I found some interesting articles on the topic. And, as usual with a literature search, there are hundreds more. I’ll re-post only the first two discussion points here because the third point, how we can prevent cybercheating and other types of plagiarism, is incorporated into my answers to questions 2 & 3 above.

Is cybercheating really different than any other form of plagiarism or cheating?

When I first did a google search on cybercheating I retrieved a list of sites that had to do with a whole other kind of cheating. It took me few seconds to realize what I was looking at, lol. It seems that other form of cybercheating is pretty rampant too!

Whether it’s a love affair or school work, cybercheating IS cheating. Cheating in coursework isn’t a new phenomenon by any means but computers, online resources, and online courses have made it easier by far and have given us a new name for an old problem. In his blog article in NeoAcademic Richard N. Landers discusses a study by N. Selwyn that defines cybercheating as “cheating enabled by the internet.” Just like cheating before the internet age, it can occur in any type of course on any topic. But students today, some with more technical savvy than their professors, are getting very, very good at it and are doing it more and more. Most researchers agree that there is evidence that cheating has increased in the last few decades, and the Internet is the likely cause.  According to the Selwyn study outlined in Landers post,

  • In a US study, 50% of students admitted to cybercheating at some point while they were in college.
  • In another 30-40% of students admitted to copying text from the internet into their own work without citing the source.  10-20% did so for large sections of their assignments (i.e. more than a sentence here and there).
  • About 25% of graduate students engage in these same behaviors.
  • Typical profile of the most likely cybercheater: young male underclassmen experienced with the Internet

What is “cybercheating” according to the article provided?

Cybercheating is any form of plagiarism, cheating, or academic dishonesty that takes place via the internet or by means of other online sources. It can take place in an online class or a F2F class. It can be intentional or unintentional. It can be copying and pasting without proper citation. It can be retaking online tests. It can be buying and selling test answers or complete research papers.  It can be collusion. It can be research fraud. Cybercheating is cheating and it can take many forms.

Reference

Landers, R.N. (2011) Online plagiarism and cybercheating still strong – 61.9%. Neoacademic. 4 February. Retrieved from http://neoacademic.com/2011/02/04/online-plagiarism-and-cybercheating-still-strong/#.VH0k7smtfxU

5. Identify the student you think was the most important participant in the Blackboard discussion. Explain why and provide at least one quote from that student’s contributions to the Blackboard discussion.

This week I was impressed with everyone’s plagiarism posts and feel there was consensus and similarity among the responses. I was very impressed with everyone’s project update. The projects are well thought out, relevant, and well executed.  I posted several comments to my classmates as did others. I enjoyed all the interaction on the forum. There was so much going on with all these projects that it sort of made me pine for F2F time to really get into them as a group. But I could totally relate to Victor when he said “I am further behind than I would like be: I struggled–for some time–with distinguishing between design, implementation and evaluation.  I also found myself needing create a manageable and non-theoretical project.” I’m still stressing about mine for all the same reasons and because I haven’t had much time to work on it this week.

6. Reflect on what you have learned this week. What have you learned that has the potential to inform or influence you or your practice of online learning going forward? Explain why.

Learning about students attitudes towards cheating and plagiarism confirmed what I had already figured out. The ease of access to information online has changed the way people perceive that information. As Jones et al noted, there’s no longer a sense of ownership and therefore students just don’t get the importance of the citation process and the ethical use of information. I myself am guilty of this when I use images I find on the web, as I do in this blog. Is it fair-use because it’s for educational purposes? Even I admit to a lack of understanding when it comes to copyright and fair-use. Imagine how it looks to today’s generation who grew up in the digital world. As a librarian it’s my job to enlighten new college students to the world of research and the citation process. In my experience, once they understand the process they embrace it and try their best to follow the rules. They actually like being a part of the process. It’s one of the big steps from high school to college that they’re proud to take.

Non-plagiarism forms of cheating such as using cheat sheets, buying test answers, collusion, and the like have less to do with lack of understanding and more to do with an individual’s own moral scale. If students feel pressure to succeed at all costs, or if they’re too lazy to do their own work, it’s harder for me to be understanding. However, since most of the students I come in contact with are just beginning their college careers, it’s a very important issue to discuss. Hopefully a conversation about academic honesty and integrity will get them on the right track. One thing I do know is that all the articles I read for this week’s module have given food for thought and lots of good ideas on how to change students’ attitudes and practices regarding plagiarism and cheating.


Other Discussion Topics This Week

1. How can we prevent cybercheating and other similar types of plagiarism?

In the article Cybercheating in the Information Technology Age I found the following passage very interesting:

“…student experiences with electronic media in particular may lead them to develop attitudes towards the ownership of academic work that are different from established wisdom and at variance with the conventions of academic writing. From this perspective, therefore, copying, or plagiarism, from the internet may not be “cheating” in the eyes of students – the material is seen as being in the public domain and without ownership.”

Sadly, I see this attitude in my own students.

So, as Professor Newberry states in his lecture, one of most important steps is to define the issues. Explain to students what constitutes plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty. Other measures to consider:

  • Teach students about the research process, the importance of giving credit to authors via citations, and how to properly quote, paraphrase, and cite works they use in their papers.
  • Create assignments and grading systems that encourage unique work and a step-by-step approach.
  • Use plagiarism checkers such as Turnitin or SafeAssign.
  • Instill in students the values associated with ethical behavior and integrity in the classroom and beyond.
  • Post and discuss your campus Academic Honesty/Dishonesty policy. The Cerritos College Academic Honesty/Dishonesty Policy statement is featured prominently in my courses. It’s very well written and addresses the important values that lead to student success.

References

Jones, K.O., Reid, J. & Bartlett, R. (2008). Cyber cheating in an information technology age. Digithum. No. 10. Retrieved from

http://www.uoc.edu/digithum/10/dt/eng/jones_reid_bartlett.pdf

Moten, J., Fitterer, A., Brazier, E., Leonard, J. & Brown, A.C. (2013) Examining online college cyber cheating methods and prevention measures. EJEL.11(2). Retrieved from http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CDEQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ejel.org%2Fissue%2Fdownload.html%3FidArticle%3D241&ei=dCN9VM3mEMSvogSJr4CwCw&usg=AFQjCNECjMIZ0HOawaKsL-NE7OYxyuO3NA&bvm=bv.80642063,d.cGU&cad=rjaoncordia University, Austin Texas, USA

 

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