Students Cheat: Enforcing Academic Integrity in the Internet Age

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Students cheat. They have the means, motive, and opportunity to receive credit for work done by others.  Internet sites will do their assignments for a fee. Others reward students for sharing exam questions and assignment solutions. Learn what you can do to discourage and detect this widespread practice?


Paul has taught computer science, primarily computer programming, at the community college level since 2002. Before that, he worked as a software developer and manager for 20 years. He worked for a variety hardware and software companies including, Harris, Rational, and Hewlett-Packard. At Tarrant County College he served as department chair for three years. He has become the Northwest Campus Blackboard guru, and technology mentor. He has chaired TCC's eLearning Faculty Advisory Council. He is a frequent conference and professional development speaker on online learning and learning management systems. Paul was a member of Blackboard's Product Development Partnership and an exemplary course reviewer. For the third year, he is serving as a reviewer for OLC Accelerate.

Extended Abstract

In surveys of over 71,000 undergraduate students conducted by the International Center for Academic Integrity from 2002 to 2015, 68% admitted to cheating on a test or written assignment. Sites like Chegg, CourseHero, HWSolutionOnline, and JustAnswer provide “tutoring” services that frequently amount to doing the student’s work for them.

More than ever, our students are willing and able to cheat by submitting work that they didn’t do.  They live in a world which encourages “winning” by any means necessary. Their high school teachers are often too overwhelmed and too ill-equipped to discourage and discover plagiarism. As a result, too many college students know they can “get away with it.” The best thing we can do, when our students cheat, is to catch them. In the long run, our students do not benefit from getting away with it and neither does the rest of our society.

The internet provides new ways for students to purchase papers, projects, and assignment solutions. Often these are disguised as “tutoring” services. Sites like reward students for sharing their work, so that other students can copy it.    

Plagiarism detection tools like Turnitin are helpful in discouraging and detecting plagiarism in essays, but they are not as useful for other kinds of documents like computer programs. They also miss documents that lurk behind walls in the internet that require a credit card to access.  Essay mills, like, guarantee that the essays they sell will not be flagged by Turnitin.  

Some effective approaches to discouraging cheating include,

  1. Personalizing assignments
  2. Breaking large projects into smaller pieces so that no single part seems overwhelming
  3. Incorporating a question session into the assessment process so students know they will have to defend their work from the beginning.
  4. Specifying in the syllabus that you are looking for plagiarism  

This session will look at the internet resources our students have that many instructors are not aware of. Participants will engage in discussions about how teachers can discourage plagiarism in the first place and detect it when it happens. They will receive a handout with references to articles and ideas to take back to their campuses.

Bring your challenges, ideas, and success stories. Let’s reverse (or at least resist) the tide of cheating on our virtual campuses.