As long as there have been schools, one problem consistently has confronted students and teachers: cheating. In the past, students have resorted to looking at each other’s papers, getting questions ahead of time and making cheat sheets. Without a doubt, that was considered cheating. But now that teachers have different academic integrity policies, the line between what is cheating and what isn’t is blurred more than ever.
What makes the idea of cheating most difficult to understand is that everyone has a different view of what cheating is. Professors need to clarify, at the start of each semester, what exactly they consider cheating to be. What is acceptable for one professor might not be acceptable for another. One professor may give out the questions before a test so that students know what to study, but the next professor might think that a student having the answers ahead of time is cheating. Professors with different views complicate the situation and make it harder for students to understand what is considered right and wrong.
These gray areas need to be sorted out so that appropriate punishments for cheating can be established. For example, let’s say that two students have the same class and same professor, but at different times, and they have a test. Student A, who has the test first, tells Student B a few things that were on the test. Some might consider that to be cheating because Student B is getting an advantage over the rest of the class. But some people might not, because even though Student B has been told some of the questions, he probably doesn’t have time to take advantage of this information. If Student B doesn’t consider that to be cheating, but he gets caught, is it still fair to punish him for doing something that he honestly believed wasn’t wrong?
On the other hand, some professors’ reluctance to come down hard on their students is understandable. Confronting a student about cheating can be emotional for the professor as well as the student. But a little more enforcement will go a long way to reduce the small, but widespread incidents of cheating at Rider.
In order to help, professors should be proactive when preparing tests. Looking at someone else’s paper is perhaps the oldest form of cheating and is still a popular way to get answers from another student. The temptation is always there, and professors need to realize that every student wants to succeed and get ahead. In order to stop this, different versions of a test should be given out so that no student has the exact same questions in the same order as the people surrounding him or her. If a student wants to look at another student’s paper, it will be impossible to get the right answer if the person on either side of him or her has totally different questions. While this would be more work for the professors to create extra tests, it would be easier to tell if students actually understand the material, or not.
Professors can design unique assignments for each student, break larger projects into separate parts that can be supervised, or use technology, like turnitin.com, to verify that students have actually written what they submit.
If students learn what is considered to be cheating and professors make it harder for students to cheat on assignments, then the gray areas on the entire subject will slowly begin to fade.
This weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News editorial board and is written by the Opinion Editor, Angelique Lee.