After speaking to an audience of approximately 100 professors at Georgia Perimeter College earlier this week (Georgia’s largest 2-year academic institution), a blog post had to be written about the word cheating. Cheating has ruined academic careers, tarnished reputations, and created indescribable amounts of humiliation for students. Yet, students still risk their future to take the easier route to academic success. If you don’t think cheating is rampant, guess again. Out of all the students asked to withdraw each year from Harvard, nearly a quarter of them are a result of academic dishonesty.
If cheating was black and white, there wouldn’t be a need for academic honor councils or student disciplinary committees, but of course it’s not that simple. OpenStudy team members have met with hundreds of students and professors in recent months and the communication divide within both circles is astonishing.
Georgia Perimeter College Professors
Why Students Cheat?
Before we can even begin to define cheating, let’s take a look at why students do it. The obvious reasons come immediately to mind: pressure to compete, compensating for lack of effort, or because it’s the norm. The number one reason I believe students cheat is because they don’t think they are doing anything wrong. “Technological detachment phenomenon” is what California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo professor Trevor Harding attributes to the high amounts of cheating. He believes students think that “As long as there’s some technology between me and the action, then I’m not culpable for the action.”
The Divide – “Unauthorized Collaboration”
Each professor, class, college, and assignment has a different gray area. As a result, students have different perceptions of what’s “okay,” and what’s not. For example, some professors don’t care if you “work together” on homeworks or even take-home tests. The reasoning behind this nontraditional approach: if the student doesn’t learn the material, they’ll end up failing the exam when they don’t have anyone except themselves. Inversely, there are professors on the other side of the spectrum who take dramatic steps to punish anyone who sniffs the possibility of getting help.
According to one of the most recent surveys from the Center of Academic Integrity, approximately 22% students have cheated on a test while 43% have performed some type of “unauthorized collaboration.”
These numbers pale in comparison to Rutgers University’s Donald McCabe, who found that “a whopping 95 percent of high school students say they’ve cheated during the course of their education, ranging from letting somebody copy their homework to test-cheating.”
How can students keep up with what is appropriate and what isn’t when their professors have different restrictions on each type of evaluation method?
An even better question is how can students keep up with each restriction on every assignment when 40% are not attending class?
According to OpenStudy’s experience (remember how many students and professors we talk to), cheating is any work done with others that the professor has made clear shouldn’t be worked on together. This “unauthorized collaboration” ranges from professor to professor, university to university, and assignment to assignment — good luck Joe Student!
Besides, one doesn’t want to put your friends in position to decide your fate a la Matt Damon and Brendon Frazier in School Ties.
The number one concern educators have with OpenStudy is that we will be used as a crutch for students’ educations rather than a walking stick. It’s true, OpenStudy places a greater responsibility on the student to learn the material because now they have a resource where studiers of every subject can organize and collaborate in real time.
We won’t be able to keep tabs on each student’s intent when coming to OpenStudy, but we can guarantee users will have the opportunity to learn from others who are studying the same material.
OpenStudy Makes Learning a Meritocracy (If you have a computer with Chrome, Safari, or Firefox)
Fortunately, the ones who work the hardest, learn the most, and give back by teaching the material will win. Why? The hardest workers and most inquisitive users will get the most out of this new resource and that is awesome.
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