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eCheating: Students using high-tech tricks –

This fall, I resorted to using "anti-plagairism" tools for the first time in at least six years. One reason for this is that what I had been teaching at the University of Minnesota didn't lend itself to plagiarism. My technical writing students had to design a new toy or board game, create a prototype, and develop a product pitch. It's hard to steal another person's LEGO project that uses randomly selected bricks.

However, teaching a literature class I found that students either had problems with understanding citation norms or they simply assumed an instructor wouldn't check to determine if a passage was a copy-paste effort. I learned this is a great reason to have two mandatory drafts before a final paper, too. My department head and other colleagues were supportive and I'm now working on a reusable lesson module that will address citations. Student don't quite grasp that simply because you can copy-paste doesn't mean it is acceptable.

Back in the "ancient days" before personal computers, typing meant it was easier to paraphrase a source, summarize content, and cite only longer passages. I wonder how the move from typewriters and handwritten reports to word processing has affected paraphrasing skills. Summarizing was the most convenient way to use a source in the past, while now the easy way is to copy text directly.

The problem with citations aside, which I believe is something every writing instructor deals with, we now see a rise of "eCheating" thanks to ever improving technology. The following article only dealt with traditional classrooms, but I can tell you that online courses face even more challenges for instructors wanting to curtail cheating.

I recently discovered several websites that help students circumvent the secure browser feature our university uses for online testing. A well-produced video explained how to disable security or trick the system into giving you unlimited time for an exam. According to USA Today, the videos found aren't that uncommon. If you want to cheat, the how-to materials are on the Web.
YouTube alone has dozens of videos that lay out step-by-step instructions: One three-minute segment shows how to digitally scan the wrapper of a soft drink bottle, then use photo editing software to erase the nutrition information and replace it with test answers or handy formulas. The video has gotten nearly 7 million hits.
Imagine 7 million views of a video on cheating. Since I teach technical writing, I suppose the student creating the how-to video would receive credit for technical documentation and instructional video projects.

There is a small industry dedicated to high-tech cheating, sadly.
Several security-related companies, such as, will even overnight-mail a kit that turns a cellphone or iPod into a hands-free personal cheating device, featuring tiny wireless earbuds, that allows a test-taker to discreetly "phone a friend" during a test and get answers remotely without putting down the pencil.
When I read about small, wireless earbuds, I'm reminded of the television show Leverage. Spy tech comes to the classroom. Not a good thing, but again I admire the resourcefulness at work. Too bad the students don't invest this much effort in learning the assigned materials.

There is evidence that students simply perceive the digital rules differently.
Common Sense Media, a non-profit advocacy group, finds that more than 35% of teens ages 13 to 17 with cellphones have used the devices to cheat. More than half (52%) admit to some form of cheating involving the Internet, and many don't consider it a big deal. For instance, only 41% say storing notes on a cellphone to access during a test is a "serious offense." Nearly one in four (23%) don't think it's cheating at all.

But authorities are increasingly getting tough on cheating. Police in Nassau County, N.Y., on Long Island, this fall arrested 20 teens at five public and private schools in an SAT cheating ring. Five are accused of taking SAT and ACT tests for other students, who paid up to $3,600 for the service, authorities say.
I'm not sure what technology was involved in taking someone else's exam. I've been informed the SAT and ACT are now computer-based and adaptive. I suppose you could take the exam for someone — even while the "right" person is sitting at the keyboard. I'd be pretty suspicious if a student kept looking down at his or her iPod Nano "watch" during an exam. Or maybe I'd miss the cheating.

Psychologists suggest teachers simply don't see cheating, even when instructions have been told that cheating is occurring. If we can't see it, as is the case with online or some high-tech cheating methods, we assume it isn't happening.
Problems like detecting cheating boil down to what Nobel Laureate psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls "cognitive bias." If teachers can't see it happening in front of them, they're unlikely to believe it's happening and so they're less likely to try to prevent it. But Bramucci says educators "are lousy detectors at cheating."

To prove his point, a few years ago he brought in a group of students to take a mock test and instructed them to cheat in a handful of different ways, all under the gaze of South Orange professors, who watched and took notes.

"They didn't even get a third of the ways people were cheating, even when they knew they were cheating and it was happening right before their eyes," Bramucci says.
If we can't spot cheating in our physical classrooms, how do we combat cheating in online spaces? I do believe teachers should prevent cheating. The notion that students are "only cheating themselves" isn't true. Cheating, especially on tests such as the SAT, ACT, and GRE, affect the norming of scores. Cheaters can and do hurt other students.


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