Students utilize Internet technology to find new ways to cheat in classes

GW student perception of academic cheating has changed as different methods of cheating develop and stress levels remain high, University officials said.

A recent national study that shows about 84 percent of university students believe they need to cheat to get ahead.

The U.S. News and World Report study cited parental pressure, peer pressure and the availability of new technology as the leading reasons students gave for cheating.

The number of GW students charged for cheating has risen from 42 in 1996-97 to 59 last year, according to statistics from the Office of Academic Integrity. So far this academic year, the OAI found about 23 students in violation, but the number will probably increase when final exam pressure begins, said Tim Terpstra, executive coordinator of OAI.

The OAI statistics do not reflect the severity of the problem, OAI committee members said.

I do think cheating has increased, and probably more than we have realized, said Debbie Cohen, a business professor who serves on the OAI committee.

I’m sure there are some hard-core cheaters that never get caught, Terpstra said. If everyone charged someone when they had a reason to believe a student cheated, they’d spend more time with it than grading papers.

Who’s cheating

According to OAI statistics, about 60 percent of cheating cases each year involve international students. These cases usually involve either collaboration with other students on assignments or plagiarism on papers, Terpstra said.

Sometimes the definition of cheating might be a little murky to (international students), Terpstra said.

International students sometimes have trouble understanding what constitutes cheating because, in some cultures, working together or sharing information with other students is common practice, Terpstra.

The office has begun to investigate the cultural factor to cheating on campus, Terpstra said.

Steven Bennett, assistant director of International Student Services, said the University offers orientations to familiarize international students with academic expectations at GW. But a good number of international students do not attend these sessions, he said.

Internet plagiarism

The majority of OAI cases involve Internet cheating, a practice which has become more prevalent in the past few years, Terpstra said.

Students are increasingly relying on the Web as the source of their plagiarism because many people believe the language from Web publications, which number in the hundreds of millions, can’t be traced, said Scott Stebelman, group leader for education and instruction at Gelman Library.

Term paper mills are a large source of Internet plagiarism, Stebelman said.

There is a big market for term paper mills, he said. Some of the owners of these sites are motivated by profit.others are motivated by a sort of perverted idealism – American education is inept or corrupt, and plagiarism is a method of effectively undermining it.

Students can purchase pre-written papers or customized papers on some Internet sites.

We offer you the opportunity to concentrate on studying, while we take care of your term papers, according to www.academictermpapers.com.

Pressure and ambiguity

GW students cheat because they feel pressure to attain high GPAs or are not educated about the University’s Code of Academic Integrity, Terpstra said.

I don’t think it’s a problem, I think it’s stress, said a sophomore, who was caught cheating on a business exam last week. The student, who asked to remain anonymous, said she looked on a friend’s exam because she was consumed by stress from having two mid-terms that week.

Catching students

Professors who do not take incidents of cheating through the proper channels hurt the University’s ability to change students’ lax perceptions of cheating, Cohen said.

When cases of cheating are properly reported, professors are more likely to have an open dialogue about handling the problem.

Some professors fail to report incidents of cheating because they do not want to get involved with the process.

The whole process of catching a student cheating has such an unsavory flavor, Terpstra said.

The process involved with charging a student for cheating can be time consuming and upsetting to professors, Cohen said.

Under GW rules, professors must prove more likely than not that a student cheated to charge him or her.

The burden of proof rests with the faculty member charging the student, Terpstra said.

While this rule exists to protect students from a teacher that might be biased, some professors do not like the policy because they may not always have evidence, Terpstra said.

They don’t like it if they don’t have the proof, he said.

Other professors choose not to report cheating because they do not think policing students’ behavior fits their job description, Terpstra said.

Professors also get little help from students in catching cheaters. No student has filed a charge with the OAI against another student in the past two years. Howver, one-fifth of the cases presented to the OAI began with students informing their professors of dishonesty.

Unlike university honor codes, such as the University of Virginia’s, GW’s code of academic integrity does not require that students report cases of cheating they witness.

Amy Hall, a graduate student who serves on the OAI committee, said confronting students about cheating is an issue that people would rather avoid.

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