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New Study: 75% of College Students Admit to Cheating
Plus, crackdown on cheating sites in Australia is "imminent." Plus, KQED should retract this story.
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That Special Edition
If you missed the Special Edition of “The Cheat Sheet” on Friday, including nearly 25 minutes of audio from me, here it is:
Research: 75% of Students Admit to Cheating, Only .005% are Caught
To start, I admit I am behind in my research reading and I have not read the entire document of this offering from February of this year.
To clarify, the research is from February, though I just found it recently. But either way, these sections are from the summary and overview and as I get to the full report, I will share it as well.
Until I do, the research is by Baylee D. Jenkins, Jonathan M. Golding, Alexis M. Le Grand, Mary M. Levi and Andrea M. Pals of the University of Kentucky. The main points are important if not entirely new and, at a minimum are worth repeating often.
The research team found:
The results showed that the COVID-19 pandemic increased first time cheating, cheating in online classes was higher than that of in-person classes for most types of graded materials, and students are adept and adaptive at dealing with faculty attempts to combat cheating.
Yup. Say it again for the folks in the back.
I particularly like that this uses the term “for most types of graded materials” as opposed to just tests or assessments. Most anything a student is asked to do can be - and is - cheated. And yes, students invest heavily in not getting caught.
In reviewing the research and existing data, the authors say:
With more and more universities offering remote learning, college cheating has only become more rampant.
Honestly, I strongly recommend reading the literature review in their paper. Start at the top and end at the paragraph which starts, “In this present study.” It’s long but really good, accurate and unmerciful - a great primer on what we know, and it ought to be required reading.
Seriously, if I had a highlighter, that entire section would be yellow. Including:
If the likelihood of getting caught is relatively low, cheating is likely to occur.
And they get even more bonus points for mentioning Chegg - which for a company that totally is not a cheating company, does get mentioned an awful lot in cheating research. Odd.
Anyway, the research survey covered 214 college students with psychology majors or minors. The survey asked about cheating in a variety of graded material and about efforts to circumvent anti-cheating measures, which is great.
Keeping in mind that surveys that rely on self-reporting incriminating behavior tend to under-count it, the new research found:
The percentage of participants who reported cheating was 74.8% (n = 160) across all types of graded materials (58.4% exams, 61.2% quizzes, 60.7% homework, and 13.6% project/paper).
We should note that the high levels of cheating were also reflected in the percentage of participants who cheated on more than one type of graded material. While 20.1% (n = 43) of participants cheated on only one type of material, 22.4% (n = 48) cheated on two types of material, 24.3% (n = 52) cheated on three types of material, and 7.9% (n = 17) cheated on all four types of graded materials.
Then there’s this:
As for being caught cheating, only one person out of 205 (0.005%) who answered this question reported being caught cheating.
No snarky comment from me can do more than that.
I’m not going to repeat all their findings but here are just two or three more. One:
Overall, 46% (n = 98) of our sample reported cheating for the first time after COVID-19. Of those that reported cheating for the first time after COVID-19, 65.3% (n = 64) cheated for the first time on an exam, 60.2% (n = 59) cheated on a quiz, 37.8% (n = 37) cheated on homework
85% of students (n = 182) reported that their instructors used software to prevent them from using online resources to cheat. In addition, 16.5% of students whose instructors used preventative software reported trying to circumvent this software.
It’s not clear in the summary what “preventative software” this was, but it’s interesting that more than one in seven students tried to bypass it.
Put another way, college students are particularly savvy about when they cheat—it is not a simple case of cheating versus not cheating.
We’ve seen this before too. For many or most who engage in misconduct, the choice is rational, calculated and “savvy” (see Issue 64).
Australia Regulator Promises “Imminent” Crackdown on Cheating Sites
News this week from Australia is probably - may be - big news.
Actually, there are several interesting parts to this story. But the first, potentially biggest is that Australia’s regulatory authority:
said it was finalising investigations into some of the most visited cheating websites and action against the providers was “imminent”
That’s possible and encouraging because Australia has banned cheating services and even advertising them. And the country has a regulator in place - The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency - with the power to act. As more countries move to ban cheating (see Issue 119 or Issue 129), what they do with their new laws is to be seen. As such, whatever Australia does may be important.
Other really important pieces from the Australia story include that the regulator:
has sent universities a list of more than 2000 commercial cheating websites, where students pay for others to complete their work, of which almost 600 are specifically targeting Australians.
Further, the article boldly and accurately says cheating is increasing. The very first sentence of the story is:
Cheating rates among university students have risen as institutions increasingly relied on online assessments during the COVID pandemic
NSW’s two largest universities, UNSW and The University of Sydney, both say they are seeing higher rates of contract cheating since 2019.
A UNSW spokeswoman said the pivot to online exams during the pandemic led to a higher level of communication and collusion during exams, with companies directly targeting students through social media platforms.
The article also says that:
Most cases involved unauthorised communication in an exam, including posting on Chegg.com - a study help website - and communicating using WhatsApp and WeChat.
A study help website - sure. Though seeing Chegg in the story gives some hope that it’s among the “most visited cheating websites” against which Australian regulators are planning to act. It ought to be.
The article also raises the frightening reality that cheating in written work is increasingly being done by AI:
James Thorley, regional vice president of plagiarism detection service APAC Turnitin, agreed that cheating via AI was already occurring at some level under the radar.
“In some ways it’s a natural extension of contract cheating except you’re cutting out the middle man and the cost is ultimately going to be a lot, lot lower or even free,” he said.
KQED, What Are You Thinking?
In education, KQED has been pretty well regarded. But it recently ran a long article on remote exam proctoring which shows they really don’t understand it at all and simply repeats much of the same, baseless anti-proctoring nonsense we’ve been seeing for years.
Frankly, it’s worse than that. The errors are abundant and embarrassing. It’s so bad, you’d think it was actually written by a cheating company.
For one, the authors quote not one single expert source on academic integrity, preferring to cite information from the absolutely nutty Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has no concept of proctoring and is wrong pretty much all the time. KQED linked to EFF three different times.
To try to undercut the fact that cheating is more common in online classes than in in-person settings, KQED links to a single, 12-year old study which even the authors have said has been misquoted in exactly the way KQED used it (see Issue 23).
It’s malpractice. That’s the study that cheating companies inaccurately use to try to convince people that online exams aren’t prone to cheating, to get people to turn off their anti-cheating systems.
KQED even screws up basic reporting sourced from their own stories. Consider this sentence:
The ability to take a test at home remains appealing to those who don’t want to commute to a testing facility; even the SATs will be offered online starting 2024 in the U.S.
I left the link in so you can see it sources a story from KQED from January on the digital SAT. That article says clearly:
Testing will still take place at a test center or at a school
That’s basic factual reporting. All they had to do was read their own coverage. It’s clear no one did.
The article also says - and this is the entire paragraph:
Given the near future of AI proctoring, students have reason for concern.
They do? KQED has weighed the evidence and decided. They haven’t quoted a single expert in either academic integrity or remote exam proctoring, but they’ve decided. Good work.
The article uses the term “AI proctoring” often and lists “popular AI proctoring systems” including ProctorU, though the company gave up “AI proctoring” more than a year ago. The story repeats the trope that remote proctoring is racially biased because a student:
had a feeling that the AI proctoring program was racially biased
Later, KQED presents that assumption as fact:
Because these software programs disadvantage Black and brown students…
And still later it says:
some students say AI proctoring has frayed the relationship between teachers and learners.
That is a line cheating companies use all the time. It’s not the cheating that’s “frayed” the teacher/student relationship, it’s the tools used to stop cheating that are the problem.
KQED even repeats the laughable idea that proctoring companies may not actually catch cheating. “There’s been no independent research that supports this claim,” KQED says, linking - of course - to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. For the record, there are plenty of independent studies that show this.
And, again, the ideas that trying to stop cheating is hurting the student/teacher relationship and that proctoring may not actually catch cheating - these are very, very common talking points from those who sell cheating services.
But the most egregious part of this story, by far, is the section that starts this way:
Teachers are finding a way to make tests totally cheat-proof
Nope. No such thing. Zero chance. What a joke. Seriously, and I don’t say this often, KQED ought to retract this article. It’s a joke - an embarrassing joke.
Harvard Names New Associate Dean of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct
According to a one line announcement in the student paper, Harvard College has a new Associate Dean of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct - Laura Peña Pantano.
Her LinkedIn page shows she was previously the Assistant Dean with the same title and was also Vice President for Student Affairs at NHTI, which is “Concord’s Community College.”