In Week Five of Understanding Cheating in Online Courses, we are investigating the methods used to cheat in online courses. One of the recommended readings is an article on Inside Higher Ed, written by Alexandra Tilsley, September 21, 2012, called “Paying for an A.” Out of curiosity, I checked out the websites mentioned in the article, looking for the answers to two questions. (1) Do they address the question of cheating, and if so, how do they justify what they are doing? (2) Who do they employ?
A couple of the sites mention cheating in the FAQs. BoostMyGrades.com encourages potential clients to check honor codes at their schools. They claim they can be considered “a supplement to your own studies and work.” I wonder if this eases the consciences of the employees. WeTakeYourClass.com claims to merely be helping by providing answers; submitting those answers is the student’s choice.
As a perpetual student who often wishes I could take classes for a living, I wanted to know more about who these sites employ. (No, I’m not seriously considering employment with a site like this! I wouldn’t want to damage my own reputation as an ethical person and an academic by working for such a business.) However, I was curious…
NoNeedtoStudy.com is hiring! They advertise for undergraduate students and college graduates with GPAs of 3.7 or higher. They give preference to students from prestigious colleges, presumably by being flexible about the GPA. They also advertise for graduate students with any GPA. Applicants must provide copies of transcripts and ID.
I was amused to see typos and grammar mistakes on these websites. For example, NoNeedtoStudy.com’s employment application form requests information about your “Exucation Background.” WeTakeYourClass.com states: “Once we release the answers, its up to you to submit those answers.” Classic its / it’s grammar mistake. Grammar and spelling mistakes on a website could lead the reader to several conclusions. The authors of the websites might not be very detail-oriented. They might not proofread their work, including the work their clients pay for, such as research papers. They might not be very reputable. They definitely shouldn’t be hired to take your English class for you!
As a perpetual student, I am always looking for courses to take, certificates to earn, maybe another Master’s (though probably not a PhD). My wallet doesn’t keep up with my academic dreams, so I am taking MOOCs, massive open online courses. I just started one that seems not only fascinating but also quite relevant to my other two personas of certified librarian and born teacher: Understanding Cheating in Online Environments taught by Dr. Bernard Bull (or perhaps he would prefer I say “guided by” or “facilitated by”). The premise is that by understanding academic dishonesty, we can better address it, particularly with an emphasis on encouraging and fostering academic honesty.
During Week One, we have focused on definitions. We aren’t just talking about cheating, because that’s too simplistic. We are talking about impersonation, sabotage, multiple submissions, scientific misconduct, etc. There are so many ways to cheat, it’s ridiculous. As a librarian, the one that is most interesting to me is plagiarism, and I hope to learn ways that librarians can help encourage academic honesty. The obvious idea that comes to mind is information literacy. Librarians help students find information to use in their assignments, and that creates a teaching moment: “When you use this information, this is what you need to do to avoid plagiarism….”
There was some discussion of second language speakers (students whose first language is not English) having a particular problem with plagiarism. As an ESL teacher, I have a great love for immigrants, refugees, and international students, and so this particularly caught my attention. One possible reason for international students having a problem with plagiarism is different culturally-based definitions of academic dishonesty. In other words, what American professors consider plagiarism is not considered so in a student’s home country. Another possible reason is that second language speakers do not have an English vocabulary rich enough to paraphrase. (Still, there is the issue that even if you are not a particularly good paraphraser, you can still cite your sources, which brings us back to culturally-based definitions of plagiarism). I hope to focus on these two ideas while I take this course: the librarian role in preventing plagiarism and the issues specific to international students and plagiarism.
Week One Reading List
10 types of plagiarism. (2012, November 16). Video retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EF5eFeJMplA
Barnbaum, C. (n.d.). Plagiarism: A student’s guide to recognizing it and avoiding it. Retrieved from http://ww2.valdosta.edu/~cbarnbau/personal/teaching_MISC/plagiarism.htm
DePauw University. (n.d.). Types of academic dishonesty. Retrieved from http://www.depauw.edu/handbooks/academic/policies/integrity/types/
Robillard, A. E. (2010, January 7). How metaphors change our approaches to plagiarism. Retrieved from http://www.slideserve.com/kaili/how-metaphors-shape-our-approaches-to-plagiarism
TurnItIn. (2012). The plagiarism spectrum: Tagging 10 types of unoriginal work. Retrieved from http://turnitin.com/assets/en_us/media/plagiarism_spectrum.php
University of California, Berkeley, Center for Student Conduct. (n.d.). Definitions and examples of academic misconduct. Retrieved from http://sa.berkeley.edu/conduct/integrity/definition
Wikipedia. (2013, April 30). Academic dishonesty. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_cheating
York University. (2012, August 26). Academic integrity tutorial. Retrieved from http://www.yorku.ca/tutorial/academic_integrity/acaddishforms.html