It should go without saying that as technology has advanced, so has the use of such technology for less than noble purposes. In education, cheating by students now routinely involves the use of some type of technology. As Waters (2013) wrote, “More students than ever are using information technology in ways that break the rules of academic integrity.” The practice is known as “high-tech cheating” and it has been described “variously as a trend, an epidemic, and a plague” (Waters, 2013).
As Rochman (2012) reported, “more than 1 in 10 kids between the ages of 6 to 10 already have their very own cell” and the average age at which most children have personal access to such technology is age 12 (Rochman, 2012). In addition to the proliferation of technology, there is growing access to and use of social media tools by students. Such an environment is causing increasing confusion among some students as to the appropriate use of technology in their school assignments and academic pursuits (Rochman, 2012).
For example, as Lang (2012) noted, the traditional definitions of plagiarism are “confusing to students who must abandon their normal habits of Facebook sharing or re-Tweeting in order to conform to the complex rules of scholarly citation.” Furthermore, a growing number of students don’t even recognize they’re cheating because they so frequently use social media and other tools and resources to collaborate with fellow students (Waters, 2013).
As Waters (2013) wrote, “They swarm over shared Google Docs, interact on assignment-related Facebook pages, and coordinate team efforts via text message. For digital natives, some have argued, sharing information is so natural and so often encouraged that lines that were once so bright and clear are blurring.”
Nowhere is the issue of high-tech cheating more of a concern than in online education. Operating outside the traditional confines of a classroom, online education raises specific concerns regarding verification of student work and testing. At MIT, they are utilizing electronic fingerprinting, employing facial recognition technology and developing programs to specifically identify and verify student’s writing styles (Young, 2012).
As Young (2012) reported, some colleges and universities are “using products such as the Securexam Remote Proctor, which both scans fingerprints and captures a 360-degree view around students, and Kryterion’s Webassessor, which lets human proctors watch students remotely on Web cameras and listen to their keystrokes.”
Despite such concern over high-tech cheating, there was actually very little attention given to this issue during the drafting of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. As Kolowich (2013) reported, “Federal official specifically avoided detailing proctoring requirements for online education and instead chose a minimum standard for compliance—a secure login and password—that has left online programs largely to their own devices.”
Some educators, however, are not concerned with this lack of oversight by regulators and instead suggest that the best way to curb high-tech cheating is to improve the overall quality of coursework and curriculum. As Lang (2013) stated, “Poorly designed assignments, like poorly designed classes, will engender dishonest work in any environment, from traditional to online.” As such, many educators today advocate efforts that encourage active engagement of students in the classroom, promote more creative teaching approaches and call for increased efforts to inspire students to focus on mastery of subject matter not simply academic performance (Lang, 2013).
While efforts will undoubtedly continue to address high-tech cheating, the reality is that ever-changing technology and the nature of students in general may make eliminating such cheating impossible. As Lang (2013) proclaimed, “We’ll always have some small degree of cheating; that’s just human.”
Waters, J. (September 9, 2013). From Texting to Plagiarism, How to Stop High-Tech Cheating. The Journal. Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/articles/2013/09/02/from-texting-to-plagiarism-how-to-stop-high-tech-cheating.aspx
Rochman, B. (August 20, 2012). What’s the Right Age to Give Your Kid a Cell Phone? TIME Magazine. Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2012/08/20/whats-the-right-age-to-give-your-kid-a-cell-phone/
Lang, J. (2012). Why the hottest trend in online education already has a cheating problem. The Daily Dot. Retrieved from http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/lang-MOOC-cheating-online-education
Young, J. (June 3, 2012). Online Classes See Cheating Go High-Tech. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Cheating-Goes-High-Tech/132093
Kolowich, S. (April 15, 2013). Behind the Webcam’s Watchful Eye, Online Proctoring Takes Hold. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Behind-the-Webcams-Watchful/138505/