As long as tests are given, students will cheat.
Last week a new chapter fell from the sleeve of cheating history at the University of Central Florida. Approximately 200 of the 615 students in Professor Richard Quinn’s senior level business class were accused of cheating on a four-day midterm exam.
Quinn noticed scores were more than a grade above normal and found a chain e-mail with a “study guide” was circulated by some students. The study guide was actually a test bank, a set of potential questions produced for instructors by the textbook publisher.
Every student had to retake the exam, and those accused of cheating were given the opportunity to come clean and take an ethics seminar as punishment. Without confessing, students could be expelled and lose any credits earned from UCF.
Since this story broke, the media and Internet have blown up with arguments for both sides. As far as I can tell, this incident is like most others—there is plenty of blame for both sides.
Students should not have acquired and distributed the test bank, and Quinn should have written his own questions for the test, as he claimed to do in the opening lecture of the course.
But I think this opens an interesting discussion about how students and professors deal with cheating.
My 16-year academic experience has taught me that students everywhere cheat and in a variety of ways. One of my high school classmates used to wait for one of the best students in our class to turn in her test, pretend to turn in his and instead escort her exam to the bathroom to copy it.
Now, I do not want to inspire or out any cheaters, so I will not go on to list more examples—even though some sort of top-10 list would be fun. It should be sufficient to say that cheating in some form or another is as sure to occur as the sun is to shine.
Quinn provides a valuable lesson about cheating. Reasonable steps, like creating your own tests, should be used to prevent cheating—but let’s not install cameras like UCF. And when cheaters are caught, smaller penalties can be better punishments. An ethics seminar can teach the same lesson as expulsion without the career-ending side effects.
Students should remember that cheating is not the answer. Hopefully, you are paying to take classes that have enough value you actually want, (or will at least use) the information you are getting. Besides, a bad grade is not nearly as bad as what can happen if you get caught cheating.