Misconduct Cases Surge at Two Canadian Universities
Reported cheating spikes at University of Toronto and University of British Columbia. Plus, Quick Bites.
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Misconduct Cases Continue to Grow at University of Toronto
News from the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) that:
Cases of academic misconduct increased significantly since the start of the pandemic
That’s probably not really news since we’ve seen the same thing at nearly every school about which we have information. What is new is that, according to the school’s academic integrity leader,
it’s no secret that UTM has experienced an influx of academic offence cases, and unfortunately, this influx has only continued to grow
The “continued to grow” part is problematic and telling. Most people assumed the wave of cheating would crest and recede. It hasn’t yet.
According to the reporting:
There were 1,799 cases of academic misconduct reported in the 2020–2021 academic year, which is more than twice the number of cases reported in years prior to the pandemic.
The most common type of infraction, the school reported, was “the use of unauthorized aids” which went from 379 cases pre-pandemic to more than 1,000. UTM’s administrator was attributed as saying:
There was an increase in the use of Chegg — an online, subscription-based, tutoring platform — and in the number of students purchasing custom essays from online essay vendors.
She also found that students have been seeking help with live assessments from third-party tutoring services.
Wow, Chegg. And “tutoring services.” Who could possibly have guessed?
It’s also worth nothing - though entirely consistent with what we know from other schools - that the “Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences” saw the most incidents of reported misconduct.
It’s important to recognize UTM for releasing their numbers. It’s good policy and reflects a seriousness in addressing the issue - a seriousness that’s also reflected in the school’s recent decision to sue a file-sharing, cheating provider (see Issue 117).
Misconduct Cases “Almost Double” at University of British Columbia
According to local reporting, academic misconduct cases at the University of British Columbia were up significantly in 2020-21:
The 2020/21 report found a total of 122 cases across both of UBC’s campuses between September 1, 2020 and August 31, 2021 — which is almost double the average number of cases reported within the last five years.
A few quick notes.
One is that cases of impersonation went from one in 2019/20 to 14 in 2020/21, which causes me to point out that if a school is going to have online courses and assessments, having a system to verify a student’s identity is not optional. It’s really the minimum standard of care.
Another note is that it’s no surprise to see cheating spike during the pandemic. It’s a very common storyline at this point. Nearly every school that has shared data has seen the same pattern and link between online learning and misconduct. The school’s associate provost told the reporting paper that the increase in cases,
is largely attributable to the shift to primarily online assessment methods for many courses during COVID-19.
That makes it intriguing that UBC is the birthplace of the very public legal sparring between a former learning technology specialist, Ian Linkletter, and online exam proctoring company Proctorio (See Issue 103 for the latest update). To summarize - cheating reports nearly double, a provost says it’s because of online assessments and a former employee is battling the company that proctors their online assessments. I find that interesting.
All that aside, good for UBC for releasing their data. I also love that they simply publish and post their annual reports. I wish more schools did. Frankly, I think schools should be required to do it, though I realize this may place even more pressure on professors and deans to not pursue formal cases. Still, good data is key to solving any problem, so, good for UBC.
Note: If your school publishes academic misconduct case data like UBC, drop me a note. I’d love to know about it.
Former Missouri Prosecutor to Head Academic Integrity Unit at WVU
West Virginia University has announced that Paul Heddings, a former prosecutor in Missouri, will head up the school’s Office of Academic Integrity.
What’s good about this is that WVU has an Office of Academic Integrity and someone who directs it and does not appear to split their duties or responsibilities with other school or student functions. Addressing academic integrity part time does not reflect the commitment that the subject merits.
Quick Bites, International Edition
Remember that story from India in which a medical student had a Bluetooth device implanted in their ear so they could cheat? See Issue 97 if you don’t. Anyway, it seems it was not one medical student, but two who implanted listening devices. They’ve been barred from taking exams for two years.
Authorities in Tunisia say they have arrested doctors for - wait for it - implanting devices in the ears of students so they could cheat. The newspaper says an education minister said that “techniques used for cheating in the tests were becoming more difficult to uncover” and that tests were shared on social media within minutes.
According to this news, China is cracking down on test cheats. Cheating, as well as facilitating cheating, is illegal in China and authorities say that “this year, they have handled 189 cases of producing and selling equipment for cheating and caught 990 suspects.” That may not include the 129 cases and 208 suspects they have caught actually cheating, I can’t tell.
In India, after a surprise visit to a test center by a university chancellor, a principal was fired and the center closed. That’s due to evidence of “large-scale exam malpractice.” The story says that “students were spotted indulging in malpractices with the help of … supervisors.”
A news outlet in Japan (account required) says that authorities arrested two Chinese nationals for cheating on a university entrance exam. An earpiece, an accomplice and requesting online help were apparently involved.