Addressing Academic Dishonesty in the Age of Ubiquitous Technology
by: Berlin Fang (taken from: Educause Review Online)
- Technology can help fight cheating that is itself based on technology, especially with tweaking of assignments and assessments in a way that makes it difficult to cheat.
- Students should be made aware of resources such as university writing centers and tools such as Endnote.
- Training about copyright, plagiarism, and time management can help students succeed without feeling that they have to cut corners.
- Relevant codes and policies should be clearly stated in communications such as orientation
materials, student handbooks, and course syllabi to establish expectations and reduce confrontations between instructors and students.
Academic integrity can seem like a nebulous concept, though it is probably better understood through its opposite, academic dishonesty: that is, “…anything that gives a student an unearned advantage over another.”1 It involves our understanding of ethics, culture, pedagogy, and even technology. Ethical lapses during one’s education may carry over into a person’s career and personal life. With the growing number of corporate scandals, educational institutions could increasingly be held accountable for providing training in ethical behavior. Improving academic integrity not only preserves the integrity of an assessment, a class, or an academic program but also serves as part of an ongoing education that enables a person to grow as a learner, an employee, and a public citizen.
William Astore, a professor of history at Pennsylvania College of Technology, dismisses the division between an “academic world” and a “real world.” Professor Astore argues that “education is indeed a real world, every bit as vital and true as the world of work.” I have worked both in the corporate and academic settings myself. While working for universities, I found them to be places where people work, learn, relate, and grow as much as (and often to a greater extent) they do in other work settings. Insisting on academic honesty helps students learn to take greater responsibility for their learning and personal conduct, which is “real world” in every sense of the phrase.
Confronting academic cheating can ultimately help students grow. Initially they may be less concerned about academic ethics than about peer, parental, and financial pressure to succeed, and although the nature of these pressures may vary from culture to culture, they are to some extent present everywhere. Higher education institutions must help students understand that embracing academic integrity is a necessary part of achieving success.
Is Technology the Culprit?
Technology is sometimes blamed for “causing” academic dishonesty at the present time. Students can easily use computers to plagiarize from Wikipedia or copy and paste from Google with just a few clicks. Online classes in particular lend themselves to this type of cheating.
Web-based resources have enabled students to change how they consume knowledge. Comments A. Nicole Pfannenstiel of Arizona State University:
In the age of blogs, mashups, smashups and Wikipedia, traditional notions about academic and educational integrity and appropriate acknowledgment of sources seem altogether out of synch with everyday, creative or artistic research and writing practices.
At Oklahoma Christian University (OC), we provide every student with an Apple laptop and another electronic device such as an iPhone, iPod, or iPad. The entire campus is covered by a wireless network. With our infrastructure, technology use is increasing, yet cases of reported plagiarism are decreasing. So ubiquitous technology appears not to be the controlling factor.
Because I work with educational technology, I often get involved in cases concerning academic integrity. In fall 2009, OC had 49 reported cases of academic dishonesty. In 2011, the total dropped to 19. In fall 2011, there were 14 reported cases. Our experience offers some thought-provoking ideas about the socio-technological aspects of academic honesty.