Fighting cheating, one baseball cap at a time

A fascinating article in the New York Times looks at some of the more unusual measures taken to fight cheating at the University of Central Florida and other US institutions.  Approaches range from the unremarkable (Turnitin) to the ‘I would never have thought of that in a million years’, such as banning baseball caps from being worn the right way round in case answers were written on the underside of the brim.  Firmly technological approaches include overhead cameras which record any ‘suspicious’ behaviour by a student at the same time as recording what is happening on their computer for later investigation.

Such a paranoid approach to student integrity, although apparently very successful, does start from the assumption that all students are out to cheat, an attitude that both students and institutions can find unacceptable, and the article cites one institution that felt the use of Turnitin was inconsistent with their own policies and  honour code.

As anyone who’s ever marked written work will know, there are grades of cheating and of plagiarism, and much  of what is identified as plagiarism is not an intentional attempt at cheating but often the result of weak academic or communication skills, or bad time management and study practices.  It’s very encouraging to see that educating students about what constitutes plagiarism can have a substantial impact on rates of plagiarism – not all those who ‘cheat’ are actually setting out to do so.  As for those who are: some of the examples here will certainly astonish…

3 thoughts on “Fighting cheating, one baseball cap at a time

  1. Hi Rowin,
    Interesting post. I think this runs in parallel to many issues in the ‘security’ domain, wherein purely technical solutions are never sufficient, and it is dangerous to rely on them as a sole strategy. Services like Turnitin are a bit like a spellchecker – the squiggly underlines are convenient, but no substitute for being able to spell. The equivalent of ‘being able to spell’ in this case is for teachers to be skilled at setting appropriate assessment tasks, and recognising when answers feel like they may be pasted direct from somewhere.
    However, what I think is most important is the way this relates to institutional culture, as I think you imply here. Students should ‘buy in’ to policies adopted by the institution. Most students have a strong vested interest in feeling secure in the knowledge that others are not cheating, so should be happy to engage with this agenda. In contrast a ‘paranoid approach to student integrity’ is clearly likely to alienate students. Thanks for a thought-provoking posting…

  2. Pingback: Rowin’s blog » Is there anybody there?

  3. Pingback: Deterrents don’t deter « Rowin’s Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>