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Online Cheating By The Numbers [infographic]

Some students will go to great lengths to cheat, as indicated by the recent story of students from the University of Kentucky climbing through the ceiling to steal an exam. Instructors today, however, are less likely to catch students with Sharpie™ notes on the bottom of shoes and more likely to find students sharing quiz answers online.

Some believe that cheating on college campuses has drastically increased. A 2012 Business Insider article argues that technology allows students to cheat more. A similar trend has been observed in U.K. universities, with the Guardian suggesting that there has been a “42% rise in cheating cases involving gadgets such as mobile phones and hidden earpieces since 2012”. The Boston Globe reported that the rate of students who admit to cheating has been consistent since 1963, when the first study assessing the degree of cheating in higher education was conducted. This suggests that while the internet and ready access to technology may provide more avenues and options for cheating, the incidence of cheating has not increased.

In a previous post, we discussed the potential pitfalls of online resources as they relate to academic integrity. A deeper issue touched on in this post relates to changing student attitudes towards what constitutes cheating. While it may be difficult to discern students’ motivations and rationalizations for cheating, key statistics from empirical studies provide some insight into the scope of the problem.

Download the Infographic:

  • According to a 2009 poll by Common Sense Media, 35% of teens reported using a cell phone to cheat during a test at least once; 52% reported using the Internet to cheat.
  • The Josephson Institute of Ethics’ 2012 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth found that 32% of high school students admit to copying an Internet document for a classroom assignment.
  • The Educational Testing Service’s Ad Council Campaign to Discourage Academic Cheating reported the founder of SchoolSucks.com, Kenneth Sahr, stating that the website receives over 8,000 hits a day. The site is often referred to as an online paper mill, through which customers can purchase term papers.
  • Results of 2001 survey study by Donald McCabe reported that 52% of high-school students and 10% of college students surveyed admit to plagiarizing from the Internet.
  • David Tomar, a former paper mill author, highlighted that high school and college students copy content from Wikipedia more than any other website, which is echoed by a 2012 study by Turnitin, a plagiarism-detection software company.

These data indicate that cheating behavior begins long before students enter college. Moreover, the Common Sense Media poll mentioned above also suggests that this is a known problem, with 76% of parents reporting that cheating occurs at their child’s high school. As such, Stanford University recommends promoting “a climate of academic integrity in K-12 schools”.

Want to explore ways to put an end to cheating in your class?

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