Cheating in college


Annie Goodman/The Lion's Roar

From accidental plagiarism to blatant copying, professors have witnessed different forms of cheating in their classrooms.

According to a study done by the International Center for Academic Integrity, 39 percent of undergraduate students admitted to cheating on tests, and 62 percent of them cheated on written assignments. Whether it is homework or a test, cheating is present.

Amy Acosta, instructor of English, shared that for introductory courses, she understands common mistakes that students make.

“If a student makes an honest attempt to try to cite something or they’ve cited things throughout a paper but clearly some information has come from somewhere that they haven’t cited, I tend to be forgiving of that,” said Acosta. “When I have freshmen, especially 101, the first instance, I certainly go through the protocol that we’re supposed to follow for plagiarism, but I’ve also tried to be tolerant and forgiving and try to teach that student how they might avoid that in the future.”

Dr. Lara Gardner, associate professor of management and business, discussed that the most common form of cheating she has seen is when students try to look at another’s exam. Gardner shared a story of a student that she is certain cheated on a make-up exam.

“I gave him the same exam that the other students had completed, except the questions were in a different order,” explained Gardner. “When he took the make-up exam, he bubbled in the answers that would have given him a perfect score on the exam his classmates had taken, but his answers were not the correct answers for the exam in front of him since I had rearranged the order of the questions.”

Gardner believes that a student taking the original exam took a picture or wrote down the answers and gave them to the student taking the make-up exam.

As someone who has instructed an online course, Gardner shared that professors face the task of creating a course that is very difficult to cheat through. She explained two approaches she has taken for creating online exams.

Gardner stated, “One, keep everything online except the exams, which students are required to complete on campus, or two, make the exam timed and full of very applied questions, which require the student to apply the concepts and tools from the class to solve problems. If the exam is timed, students feel more pressure to prepare for the exam before opening it.”

Acosta said that cheating may need to be redefined, and she shared her thoughts on what gaps are in the educational system.

“We worry a lot about assessment,” explained Acosta. “We worry a lot about grades. Everybody does, and students are the victims of that. Our assessment tools don’t really show a lot of concern for what a student has learned, right? And so, if we’re giving tests and assignments that students can cheat on, then we should maybe question what it is we’re teaching and what we want them to learn.”

Gardner believes that students who get away with cheating will not be prepared when going into the work force.

Gardner stated, “If students cheat and do not learn the material in their classes, they will not be as prepared to successfully answer questions during a job interview and/or to understand the content and tools needed to successfully complete the tasks demanded by their employer.”

As technology becomes more advanced, Acosta explained that the love of learning has started to fade away in students and not completely through their own fault.

“In some regards, our educational system is pretty antiquated,” explained Acosta. “It hasn’t caught up with what technology can do and the knowledge it stores. I think it’s important that students learn how to learn, and part of education is learning how to learn. It’s not necessarily what you know, but how you come to know it, and I don’t know how much we assess that.”