Scotland Considers Joining England and Wales in Cheating Ban
Plus, cheating update on "Call of Duty." Plus, "Quick Bites."
To subscribe to “The Cheat Sheet,” just enter your e-mail address below:
To share “The Cheat Sheet:”
If you enjoy or support my work, please consider chipping in a few bucks via Patreon:
Scotland Considering Legislation Against Contract Cheating
There’s news out of Scotland based on new research, which I have not reviewed but will get to soon.
The new research studied advertisements from essay mills and contract cheating providers. According to the article, the research authors say:
the contract cheating market poses a serious threat to universities and students alike.
The authors found hundreds of ads, many of which were “predatory in nature” and importantly:
The adverts used language that was empathetic and reassuring while offering individualised, affordable bespoke assignments, to alleviate some of the pressure faced by students.
In the article, the researchers also say that:
Less formal supervision arrangements, partly due to Covid, and increasing levels of anxiety and uncertainty may also have contributed to potentially increase contract cheating and other forms of academic misconduct.
Welcome to Euphemism City. “Less formal supervision arrangements,” probably means unproctored online exams. And - “may also have” - “potentially” - “contributed” to increased misconduct. Well, that’s not euphemism. It’s timidity.
In any case, the most important part of the article may be this line:
The Scottish Government is now considering legislation that will ensure contract cheating services won’t be driven out of England into neighbouring jurisdictions such as Scotland.
That’s a reference to England and Wales recently banning contract cheating (see Issue 119). If Scotland does, that’s great. The more countries that act to make contract cheating services and their tactics illegal, the better. And momentum is important.
More on Cheating in Call of Duty
In Issue 64, we noted that chronic cheating in the popular video game “Call of Duty” led the game maker to install anti-cheating software that monitored player activity.
At the time I wrote that widespread cheating on a video game more or less debunked the idea that lowering the stakes of academic assessments would reduce cheating. If players were willing to cheat on a no-stakes video game … you get it.
Now, the game maker has issued an update on their effort to crack down on cheats, announcing new interventions to keep dishonest players from using their ill-gotten advantages. In this new update, this quote jumped out:
[The game maker] says that since introducing the [monitoring] software, there have been significant drops in cheater activity, but it unfortunately regularly bounces back up.
Once again, there are lessons for academia there. If you act to stop cheating, you can have an impact. But diligence is important; the motivation to cheat - even in settings where no substantial benefit can be won - is strong.
Professor Writes on Assessments and Academic Integrity
Christopher Charles Deneen, a professor at the University of South Australia, wrote an article on assessment and misconduct for The Conversation. It does not cover much new ground and does get a few things wrong.
This, is not one of those things:
There are many accounts from the pandemic of widespread cheating in online exams.
That part is true. There were indeed.
But, as is often the case, Deneen wades into exam proctoring and makes some missteps. He says, for example, that:
many universities have embraced remote proctoring. This involves the use of artificial intelligence software to identify and monitor students during exams.
That’s not an encompassing view of remote proctoring. That is what some proctoring companies do, not what “remote proctoring” does.
Deneen gets credit for citing research showing that proctoring works but goes on to undercut that credibility by mentioning “emerging concerns.” He cites the New York Times story from May (see Issue 122) as evidence of universities being “uncritical” of “flagged cases” generated “by monitoring software.”
The problem is that, as I’ve pointed out many times, that’s not what happened in that Times story. In that case, the university did review the flag - at least twice, by two different people - and determined that the “flagged” conduct constituted academic misconduct.
It is a problem when professors or other school leaders don’t review test sessions where misconduct may be taking place. But that isn’t what happened in the case he cited.
After all that, Deneen offers the deep insight that:
cheating on exams is a serious, complex issue.
He goes on to suggest how academia can improve exams by, for example, “adopting good open-book exam practices.” This, of course, may make an exam better - or maybe not - but it will do nothing whatsoever to stop cheating.
Two key problems I have found in online exam practices are students using search engines to look up answers, and collusion. One way to resolve the first issue is adopting case-based approaches that use novel material generated specifically for the exam.
Collusion is a tougher nut to crack, but some people are adopting new approaches to doing so. These include running exams divided into sections, with collaboration an anticipated and welcome part of the process.
First - just two key problems?
Again, no. Using “case-based approaches that use novel material” will stop some forms of cheating but not others. Dropping a novel, case-based question into Chegg or Course Hero and getting a custom answer in minutes is still very easy and very possible. Discussing the novel, case-based question with classmates on WhatsApp is still very easy and very possible.
Running exams in divided sections doesn’t stop cheating either. To the contrary, there’s evidence it invites it. And I’m not sure what to make of collaboration being “an anticipated and welcome part of the process.” I just can’t imagine what that actually means in practice.
“The Cheat Sheet” Quick Bites
The Indian state of Karnataka has announced that, in order to curb cheating, it will video all test sessions for the state’s higher education admissions and placement exams. For perspective, Karnataka has more students than California - nearly 10 million to just more than 6 million.
Here’s another example of advertising disguised as an informative article - this one for a law firm seeking clients accused of academic misconduct. That’s a thing.
This article from Kuwait covers the recent proliferation of “headphones” designed to help students cheat on exams. They sell for about $15 or $20. The government said it caught 600 students cheating on college admissions and placement tests last year.