Academic Integrity

Prepared by Philip A. Pecorino, Ph.D.

Professor, Philosophy

 Electronic Cheating

A recent article in the NY Times draws attention to the problem of the new forms of cheating.  It is: Colleges Chase As Cheats Shift To Higher Tech  By JONATHAN D. GLATER,NYT,May 18, 2006(see below)  There was another that appeared earlier: Students' New Cell Phones Make High-Tech Cheat Sheets  - From Contra Costa Times

In case you did not know it already, faculty need to watch for cell phones and Palm Pilots (or the equivalent) in their classrooms when conducting assessments.  Some folks have cell phones that also work as a camera. Such devices can have the entire textbook, a set of cheat sheets, or any number of essays right there with the press of a button!  Such devices can send photos of the questions to others outside of the room and await text messaged answers or simply alert others (perhaps in another section of the same class) to what is on the exam.

So what to do?

Some simple ADVICE:

Students entering this college are arriving from high schools in which all surveys indicate there is a high incidence of violations of academic integrity.  The culture of high school appears to accept, if not condone, such violations.   Despite this most students in this college do not accept that such violations should be accepted as they think it is basically unfair that some students gain advantage over others by their willingness to violate academic integrity in any one of a number of ways.  These students, in the majority, work hard to attend college and work hard for their grades and do not want faculty to accept or promote or aid or abet such violations through which others achieve grades that are not earned.  Faculty need to be vigilant to guard against condoning such violations directly or indirectly.

Tape players, ipods,mp3 players, cell phones, calculators, pda's and indeed any electronic devices that carry or store information in any form are capable of being used in a variety of ways that violate academic integrity.

Unless a student  is certified by the office for services for students with disabilities to have need of such an electronic device, such devices should not be  permitted within the testing or assessment exercise environment.  Even if such certification is presented, the assistive device should be checked by the office for services for students with disabilities to insure that it does not also provide for communication of information that would give the user unfair advantage in the assessment exercise: quiz, test, examination, etc..

Students can record and play back chapters of information on their tape players, ipods, mp3 players, pda, calculators and through cell phones. Students can take photos of examination materials and transmit them to others within 15 seconds with only 4 to 6 clicks on their keypads.  The exams and quizzes received through cell phone transmission can be downloaded and printed and distributed within minutes and made available to others outside of the assessment room while the assessment is still going on.

What is to be done? It is within the right of the instructor to prohibit from or restrict within the assessment environment such devices.  The rules must be made clear and enforced strictly and uniformly.  The rules and restrictions should be made known prior to the assessment exercises and presented in the course syllabi at the start of the semester.

What if a student, despite the well expressed and communicated restrictions, brings such a device into the assessment area? The instructor is not permitted to remove personal property from a student.  To do so would be a violation of law.  Should an instructor learn that a student has such a device in violation of the expressed restriction the instructor may:

1. prohibit the student from participating in the assessment and grade them accordingly.  This result should be made known prior to the exercise and presented in the course syllabi at the start of the semester.

2. ask that students place such devices away from their persons in another location within the assessment area.  The instructor must make it clear to the student that neither the instructor nor the college takes any responsibility for safeguarding their personal property in that location.  This disclaimer should be made known prior to the assessment exercises and presented in the course syllabi at the start of the semester.

What if a student claims that the cell phone is needed because persons dependent on them may be prone to a health or other emergency? Such devices were not available until recently and so to have them present within the assessment area was never a right to which learners were due.  If the instructor wants to accommodate a request to have such devices available within the assessment location then the instructor may observe (2) above.

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From the NY TIMES

Colleges Chase As Cheats Shift To Higher Tech 
By JONATHAN D. GLATER (NYT) 1118 words
Published: May 18, 2006

LOS ANGELES - At the University of California at Los Angeles, a student loaded his class notes into a handheld e-mail device and tried to read them during an exam; a classmate turned him in. At the journalism school at San Jose State University, students were caught using spell check on their laptops when part of the exam was designed to test their ability to spell.

And at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, after students photographed test questions with their cellphone cameras, transmitted them to classmates outside the exam room and got the answers back in text messages, the university put in place a new proctoring system.

''If they'd spend as much time studying,'' said an exasperated Ron Yasbin, dean of the College of Sciences at U.N.L.V., ''they'd all be A students.''

With their arsenal of electronic gadgets, students these days find it easier to cheat. And so, faced with an array of inventive techniques in recent years, college officials find themselves in a new game of cat and mouse, trying to outwit would-be cheats this exam season with a range of strategies -- cutting off Internet access from laptops, demanding the surrender of cellphones before tests or simply requiring that exams be taken the old-fashioned way, with pens and paper.

''It is kind of a hassle,'' said Ryan M. Dapremont, 21, who just finished his third year at Pepperdine University, and has had to take his exams on paper.

''My handwriting is so bad,'' he said. ''Whenever I find myself having to write in a bluebook, I find my hand cramps up more, and I can't write as quickly.''

Mr. Dapremont said technology had made cheating easier, but added that plagiarism in writing papers was probably a bigger problem because students can easily lift other people's writings off the Internet without attributing them.

Still, some students said they thought cheating these days was more a product of the mind-set, not the tools at hand.

''Some people put a premium on where they're going to go in the future, and all they're thinking about is graduate school and the next step,'' said Lindsay Nicholas, a third-year student at U.C.L.A. She added that pressure to succeed ''sometimes clouds everything and makes people do things that they shouldn't do.''

In a survey of nearly 62,000 undergraduates on 96 campuses over the past four years, two-thirds of the students admitted to cheating. The survey was conducted by Don McCabe, a Rutgers professor who has studied academic misconduct and helped found the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke.

David Callahan, author of ''The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead'' (Harcourt, 2004), suggested that students today feel more pressure to do well in order to get into graduate or professional school and secure a job.

''The rational incentives to cheat for college students have grown dramatically, even as the strength of character needed to resist those temptations has weakened somewhat,'' Mr. Callahan said.

Whatever the reasons for cheating, college officials say the battle against it is wearing them out.

Though Brian Carlisle, associate dean of students at U.C.L.A., said most students did not cheat, he spoke wearily about cases of academic dishonesty.

He told of the student who loaded his notes onto the Sidekick portable e-mail device last fall; students who have sought help from friends with such devices; students who have preprogrammed calculators with formulas. Some students have even deigned to use the traditional cheat sheet, he said.

''One of the things that we're going to be paying close attention to as time goes on is the use of iPods,'' Professor Carlisle added, pointing out that with a wireless earpiece, these would be hard to detect.

The telltale iPod headphone wire proved the downfall of a Pepperdine student a couple of years ago, after he had dictated his notes into the portable music player and tried to listen to them during an exam.

''I have taught for 30 years and each year something new comes on the scene,'' Sonia Sorrell, the professor who caught the student, said in an e-mail message.

At the Anderson School of Management at U.C.L.A., the building's wireless Internet hotspot is turned off during finals to thwart Internet access.

Richard Craig, a professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at San Jose State, who caught students using spell check last year, said that for tests, he arranged the classroom desks so that the students faced away from him but he could see their desktop screens.

''It was just a devilishly simple way to handle it,'' Professor Craig said.

At the University of Nevada, Professor Yasbin, the dean, was not the only one upset by the camera phone cheating episode there, which occurred in 2003; honest students were appalled, too. They suggested that they police one another, by being exam proctors.

''The students walk around the classroom, and if they see something suspicious, they report it,'' Professor Yasbin said.

Amanda M. Souza, a third-year undergraduate who heads the proctor program, said her classmates had decidedly mixed reactions to the student monitors.

''The ones that aren't cheating think it's a great idea, '' she said. ''You always see students who are really well prepared covering their papers. But the ones that aren't prepared, probably don't like us.''

At Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, N.J., students must clear their calculators' memory and sometimes relinquish their cellphones before tests. At Brigham Young University, exams are given in a testing center, where electronic devices are generally banned.

In some classes at Butler University in Indianapolis, professors use software that allows them to observe the programs running on computers students are taking tests on. And some institutions even install cameras in rooms where tests are administered.

To take a final exam last week, Alyssa Soares, a third-year law student at U.C.L.A., had to switch on software that cut her laptop's Internet access, wireless capability and even the ability to read her own saved files. Her computer, effectively, became a glorified typewriter. Ms. Soares, 28, said she did not mind. ''This is making sure everyone is on a level playing field,'' she said.

Several professors said they tried to write exams on which it was hard to cheat, posing questions that outside resources would not help answer. And at many institutions, officials said that they rely on campus honor codes.

Several professors said the most important thing was to teach students not to cheat in the first place.

Timothy Dodd, executive director of the Center for Academic Integrity, said creating a ''nuclear deterrent'' to cheating in class, and perhaps implying that it is acceptable elsewhere, ''is antithetical to what we should be doing as educators.''

Photo: Prof. Richard Craig caught students trying to use spell check in an exam partly testing spelling ability. (Photo by Theo Rigby for The New York Times)(pg. A26) 

 Copyright 2006  The New York Times Company

Students' New Cell Phones Make High-Tech Cheat Sheets  - From Contra Costa Times

Teachers thought they had seen it all when it comes to cheating. A tiny cheat sheet tucked up a sleeve. A math formula saved on a calculator. An essay pulled off the Internet. Now, sneaky students have found a new way to covertly ask friends for help on tests.

Students can send silent questions and answers to one another, right under teachers'
noses, on cell phones with built-in cameras and text messaging.

Jan Bunten, a math teacher at College Park High in Pleasant Hill, Calif., was shocked last fall when a student showed her a picture on his cell phone of a test question sent to him by a friend in another class. She has heard of students taking pictures of tests

and posting them on the Internet... 

For the full story, visit:

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