Cheating in the Age of the Internet


Cheating With Internet TechnologyWhile browsing a local website dedicated to job listings, I recently came across an ad recruiting high-quality, college-level writing. When I clicked on the link, I found myself on a website dedicated to “helping” college students write academic papers. At first glance, the original posting looked like a legitimate job, but when I followed the links, it became all too clear that the website was dedicated to recruiting people who would write college-level papers for other people, rather than really tutoring and helping students write on their own. My experience is just one of a myriad of examples of how cheating is evolving in the age of the internet.

Of course, as long as school has been around, cheating has existed, but the ease and versatility involved today are simply astounding. A friend once bragged to me that her boyfriend would simply E-mail her assignments when he had an essay test to complete in class, and she would complete the assignments and send them back in real-time for him to submit by the end of the lesson. That simply could not happen before internet, laptops and mobile devices were so readily available. Whereas students used to have to find creative ways to scribble answers and formulas onto their hands, desks or inconspicuous pieces of paper, today they can have the world at their fingertips by simply sneaking a mobile device into an exam.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to cheating via the internet. In the past students might need a friend to copy from, or someone they knew who was willing to complete an assignment for them. Today, they can access unlimited resources online when they need to get an assignment done quickly. Websites like Studypool allow anyone to access help for any kind of question from tutors who will bid to win their business. This sounds like a great idea for a student who is stuck at four in the morning the night before a test, but it also offers a whole new route to cheating.

On-demand tutoring websites offer great incentives for tutors who want to make money in their free time and for students who don’t have the resources to hire a professional in their area. However, it also puts the tutors at the mercy of the students, as popularity is usually related to ratings. Tutors have complained that clients give them low ratings when they won’t agree to cheat for them. Once a tutor has negative ratings, it is obviously harder for them to generate business, so the tutors have reason to cooperate with cheating clients. This is a big problem for the online tutoring industry, as well as the classroom teachers. With the increasing popularity of online submissions, for all sorts of assignments, on any level, it is even easier for a student to recruit someone who will not only do their homework for them, but also submit the assignment with almost no effort or input from the actual student. That is a truly frightening scenario.

So how can we ensure that students are really doing their own homework, writing their own essays and solving the equations? We can’t. But there are plenty of creative ways to ensure that at least part of the work is done by the person whose name appears on the top of the paper. First of all, in addition to giving graded assignments as homework, educators can give in-class assignments, which are completed in a device-free setting. Oral presentations are another idea which requires students to take an active role in the assignment. Specifically requesting handwritten submissions, which show drafts or steps in the completion of a problem is another possible solution. There is no perfect way to ensure that there is never any cheating, but all of these suggestions can at least ensure that students are taking some ownership of their work.

What has your experience been with online tutoring websites? How can we prevent or at least discourage cheating in the age of the internet? Please leave your responses in the comments below.

2 Responses to Cheating in the Age of the Internet

  1. Jane says:

    I was working with a McGraw Hill online curriculum that had a “review” feature thatballowes students to check answers. One kid recorded the answers on his phone. Later when he passed the test in record time, I was accused of giving him the answers and was disciplined. How do you like that??LOL

    • Erit says:

      Thanks for your input Jane. Your story added a whole new dimension to the discussion. When using someone else’s curriculum, it can be even more difficult to prevent students from cheating. While it may seem like an easy solution to just write all of our own tests, some schools prefer to have streamlined assessments which are included with the textbooks, and that makes it much more difficult to ensure that students don’t have access to test questions and answers online in advance.

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