Cheating Using Technology
In today’s world, the level of success of a person is measured by how educated they are. A lot of learners undergo extensive pressure to achieve in their academic endeavors. Education is thus an essential ingredient in a person’s life. The grades surpass the education in necessity even in the employment sector. This pressure is especially experienced by learners in high school and colleges. As expected, most students are overwhelmed and thus turn to cheating to achieve or maintain a decent grade. This is a trend quite common amongst the less motivated and academically capable learners.
Today, the world has also gone global, extending the use of technology to make life easier. However, the same technological devices have also been utilized in a negative way to aid cheating in examinations. Technological devices such as cell phones, ipads, computers and text messaging systems are quite common and accessible. These devices have successfully been used by desperate students in a bid to achieve a better grade. The devices are used to connect to the internet which enables one to access vast academic resources. As technology advances, cheating also becomes high tech. This issue can only be solved by analyzing the reasons behind cheating, and how to mitigate this harmful vice. The rate of cheating among high school and college students is increasing perchance due to the introduction of technology, which is making it easier to cheat easier amongst student in addition to more importance being placed on grades rather than education.
What Is Academic Cheating?
It is of necessity to define cheating in order to fully comprehend cheating in schools. Cheating in academics is also known as academic dishonesty or plagiarism. According to Brandt (2002), plagiarism is an intentional presentation of someone else’s work as own. This is a serious academic offence that has landed several people into trouble. Basically, there are four main types of plagiarism identified from the current copying practices. The first type is known as intra- corpal plagiarism that occurs when one student copies from another one. Copying can also be done from an external source, and this is known as extra- corpal plagiarism. When one cites their own work, and they do not acknowledge, then this is known as auto- plagiarism. The last kind of plagiarism occurs when a group of people copy mutually (Larkham, 2003).
Using Technology to Cheat: The Current Situation
Cheating has been a common exercise as of the conception of examinations in school. In fact, it is estimated that the practice has been normal since the first schoolhouse was built. The exact date is still debatable as it is impossible to collect data from non- existent people. Evidence from recent and past surveys suggest that cheating it has more than doubled in the last few decades. A report by Kleiner and Lord (1999) shows that cheating increased by about sixty five percent (65%) between the year nineteen ninety and nineteen ninety five. A recent survey by Briggs (2013) also shows that the percentage is now quite high at eighty percent (80%). Some schools have been forced to hold emergency meetings to discuss the way forward.
Over the past few years, technology has fully infused the lives of human beings. Notably, it has been introduced in most schools and homes. In fact, these days, it is almost impossible to perform some daily tasks without the use of technology. As such, interest in this field has led to the instauration of new and better technologies. Many scholars attribute this advancement and spread of technology to the increased rates of academic dishonesty. These technologies give learners better and high tech alternatives on copying work done by another person. Technology avails the access to the internet. The Internet contains vast materials for research and further knowledge. Students are taught how to access these resources mainly for purposes of broadening knowledge, and for research. However, students are now using these high tech means to cheat in exams and assignments (Hunt, 2004).
An instance depicting the strength of technology in cheating has been cited in Abolins (2007). Frank Abagnale Junior has been considered as the most notorious cheat in the history of America. He utilized his skills in heinous crimes. He even managed to impersonate a pilot, a lawyer and a doctor in those syndicates. He also managed to forge checks worth six million dollars in his lifetime. In an interview by ComputerWorld, he was asked “Suppose you'd been born in 1990. How much of what you got away with 40 years ago do you think you'd be able to get away with as a 17-year-old today?" (Abolins, 2007). His answer was quite simple, “It would be 4,000 times easier to do today, what I did 40 years ago, and I probably wouldn't go to prison for it. Technology breeds crime -- it always has, it always will” (Abolins, 2007). Technology is still to blame for the high rates of cheating in academic institutions of higher learning.
How Students Cheat
Initially, cheating or academic dishonesty was simply done through looking at someone else’s paper, scribbling notes on a sheet of paper or even asking a friend (Doning, 2007). Those were the periods when technology was not so advanced, and the internet was a rare treat. Many teachers and examiners are now finding it difficult to identify students who are cheating. This is because the devices are quite advanced. Currently, students receive answers to their questions via messaging, picture messaging, downloaded notes and research papers on the internet. The internet has made it so easy to cheat on a paper. Students have access to companies willing to do their papers at a small fee or even prepaid access to properly done research papers. The trend suggests that further advancement in technology implies a parallel increase in cheating.
Reason behind the Alarm
Lathrop (2000) suggests that the rate of cheating in schools is affecting the quality of education. As such, immediate means of curbing this practice should be put in place. Literature is abundant with incidences where a number of students have admitted to academic dishonesty. David Ehrich, a teacher at Roosevelt High school, affirmed this sentiment. He suspected that a student had presented an Internet cut-and-paste job. The student confirmed this and even showed the teacher how it was done (Thompson, 2005). Upon further investigation, the teacher was able to identify a number of students who had perfected a similar act. The sentiment is echoed all over the world. As a result, education is lacking its meaning. With this trend, it is possible to have quacks standing in as professionals endangering the lives of other people. In simple terms, cheating may simply imply the end of the human generation.
Reasons for the Increase in Rates of Cheating
As many educationalists agree, the meaning of education has changed from knowledge to grades. As Carroll (2002) explains, people do not ask one the kind of knowledge he or she has, rather the grades one has achieved. For one to have succeeded academically, certain grades have to have been achieved by this individual. Initially, education was all about knowledge and what one has done. People like Winston Churchill were recognized for their knowledge rather than their education. The situation has changed, such that even the employment sector requires certain achievements from an individual. This is probably why most individuals would cheat in order to gain the required grades. This will then make them notable people in the society. The pertinent question still remains on why advancement in technology has coincided with an increase in academic dishonesty.
First, the technology allows one the privilege of anonymity. Mobile media (2008) explains that people always have a guilty conscience which is magnified with the rate of being identified. However, behind technological devices such as computers, phones, I pads and even lap tops, one has an immensely low chance of being caught. Unless a teacher or instructor identifies plagiarism, then the student may as well go scot free.
Before the invention of the internet, going to school was a privilege. People who had succeeded in education were held with high esteem, especially because each person understood how difficult it was to have attained such education. As such, people who underwent education in such a manner respect each other’s work and are academically mature. However, the simplicity accorded to education these days has made people to lack courtesy. Most students assume that everyone must have copy pasted from the internet like they do. People do not hold the work of others with esteem. Consequently, they do not feel any shame or remorse by plagiarizing it (Webley, 2012).
In her survey, Thompson (2000) inquired from several teachers why technology is a fueling factor in academic dishonesty. A tutor from Edmonds Community College explained “Students often resort to cheating because they can, not because they have to," (Thompson, 2000). With the availability of the internet, it is possible to copy work in a second. The difficulty placed by text books in these instances is what deterred student from copying. In a text book, it is exceedingly difficult to find a direct answer to a whole essay or a term paper. However, through technology, this can be done in an instant. The various search engines like Google enable this. As such, students can easily print out a whole document from the internet. Lazy and unmotivated students are known to do this quite often. The internet has provided a simple system known as open and shut.
Through technology, came the birth of the social media. While this is useful, it is one factor that fuels peer pressure. Most students express themselves freely on social media especially since they are not forced to use their real names in these places (“software cannot stop cheating”, 2005; Dorning, 2007). Their cynical attitude enables them to provide intricate details on how to cheat and not get caught. Furthermore, in such sites, learners share the negative experiences they have in school. This compounds to the problem of cheating as learners believe that everyone else is doing it. Cheating has been ostensibly stated as a ‘cool’ thing to do pushing learners further into this vice.
How to Curb Academic Dishonesty Mediated By Technology
Several suggestions have been made in order to deal with cheating in schools, especially those mediated by technology. Brandt (2002) explains that it is impossible to get rid of technology in schools, especially since it is an effective teaching and learning resource. Taking away a student’s phone or technological device during an exam is a temporary measure. This is because it does not deter the student from copy pasting a term paper or homework done in the absence of that teacher. This is an extremely shallow way of dealing with the problem. Better means are to be employed if this heinous crime is to be dealt with fully.
The strictest and worst punishment ever invented for academic dishonesty is stripping a person of a title. For example; taking away a degree, a certificate or a diploma from a person is bound to evoke feelings of remorse in a person (Schneider, 1999). There are quite a number of scholars who have undergone such humiliating punishment. This is not only meant as a lesson to the current cheats, but it is also aimed towards preventing recidivism.
Hunt (2004) suggests the creation of an honor code or something akin to that. An honor code can be defined as agreements where all students, learners and teachers can monitor each other, and met out severe punishment to those who do not follow the rules. Each member of the code will be required to understand the meaning of plagiarism and report any suspects who practice this heinous vice. Every student body in all institutions can create and manage such a code. The tradition should also be passed through all generations in the institution. This will reduce peer pressure and instead increase trust amongst students.
Institutions of higher learning should also enforce policies and pedagogies in their rule books. This appears to deter cheating. During every examination or assignment offered to students, the teachers should reinforce the strength of the rules by announcing that cheating will not go unpunished. The University of Minnesota has succeeded in reducing cases of cheating using this means (Glenn, 2001). Furthermore, all students in learning institutions should be required to sign a pledge against cheating of any kind. Ardito (2002) suggests that the pledge should be renewed every time to enhance the rule. If some of these measures are to be put in place by every institution, then academic dishonesty will become a thing of the past.
Over the years, there have been zero rules against cheating in most institutions. Glenn (2001) suggests that this is the reason why many faculty members have been reluctant to punish students who are caught cheating. There is the possibility of a law suit that would subject such teachers and instructors to adversarial proceedings, unending court appearances, and unfamiliar rules of evidence, aggressive behavior from the community and even disgusting phone calls from parents. Such unpleasant instances stop any vigilant teacher further encouraging cheating. Enshrining laws against cheating in the school rule book, and forcing students to sign against them will be overly utile in changing such a practice (Carroll, 2002).
Since technology has enabled cheating, Briggs (2013) suggests that a number of software should be employed to catch the cheats. A variety of such exist including grammarly, paper rater and copy- scape among others. However, they have not been fully implemented around the world. Most institutions do not have access to such services. Therefore, each school should be required to invest in such software if their certificate or degree is to be recognized worldwide. This will deter students from taking advantage of the lack of such software. Lastly, teachers and parents should direct their efforts in encouraging learners to gain knowledge rather than grades. Placing importance in knowledge will reduce the overwhelming pressure most learners experience in trying to please their parents, and teacher’s using good grades.
Concisely, the problem of plagiarism has been on the increase especially with the advancement in technology. It is also impossible to survive in this global world without technology. Each activity and task encompasses the use of technology. In fact, even educational materials are accessible through technology. However, there is a need to address the problem of cheating using technology, especially since it is affecting the quality of education. In order to do this effectively, the effort should be inclusive of all learning institution without any exceptions. Making an anti cheating law compulsory in every rule book will go a long way in curbing this act. More importantly, parents, teachers and the society should start focusing on the importance of knowledge and not grades.
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