Introduction to Cheating in Online Courses


Welcome to Understanding Cheating in Online Courses. My name is Bernard Bull and I’ll serve as your tour guide for this course. I use that word “tour guide” intentionally because it’s not really like a traditional course. Consider this to be more like a journey that we’re going on together� a little bit of a scripted journey where I have established some of the sites we’re going to visit, but I’ll try to point out a few things here and there along the way. The real key to this course though, is our interaction with one another. So let me just take a moment and tell you about this course. First of all, let me give you a bit of background, or explain the purpose of this course. The purpose is really to help us explore together how to best cultivate a culture of academic honesty and integrity in online learning environments. The course title, *Understanding Cheating*, is certainly something we’re going to explore, but more than just talking about cheating, I’d like for us to consider the opposite side, the positive side, how to promote honesty and integrity in learning environments. Now the course actually grew out of my own personal research on the subject. I’ve been studying topics related to cyber-ethics and education in online environments for many years, but more recently, I became curious about the students who cheated in online courses, but they never got caught. I started to define that as “successful cheating.” I’ll describe this further in a few weeks in the course, but I refer to “successful cheating” as people who cheat. They have a low chance of getting caught. Their grade is likely to be higher with cheating than without and the cheating requires minimal effort. Now I’m not saying it’s successful in the sense that it’s good, but it’s successful for the cheater if those three conditions are met. So I conducted a study to see, to learn more about that population of students who do those three things and accomplish those three things in a consistent manner. The study revealed some findings that weren’t really that exciting to me. I didn’t find a lot of high-tech, or earth shattering strategies for cheating, but I did have some insights that came out of it that I’m excited to share along the way as we explore this topic together. So that’s where the course came from. Now let me just tell you about the way that this online learning experience is designed. So it’s an eight week online experience and we have activities organized on a weekly basis. So you’re watching this video likely as part of the introduction as we’re getting started with week 1. You’ll notice on the homepage of the course, if you were to scroll down, you’ll see a schedule. That’s the place that you can go to find pretty much everything you need for the course. You can click on a week, then it will bring you to a page that links to all the other activities and the instructions, and so forth. So when in doubt, just go to the top left hand corner and click on that home-link. It will take you right back to the homepage and you can get to the schedule and find your way around. The other thing you’ll notice, when you go to each week, it’s consistently structured the same way. At the top, there will be an introduction, sort of an attention-getter, or a hook, or a way of introducing the topic of the week that maybe connects it to previous content or a previous week. It’s a way to just get us thinking about the subject, to sort of priming a our brains for what we’re going to be exploring that week. Below that then you’ll notice that we have an essential question or a driving question and a learning objective. That’s one that I proposed for us to use as a guide for that week, however, this is a collaborative learning journey so I encourage you to come up with your own questions each week to explore them with one another in the social media outlets and other places, for example, Twitter. The hashtag “cheatmooc” (#cheatmooc) is the one that we’re going to be using to explore these topics out on Twitters. You’re welcome to do that, so come up with your own questions, and your own objectives, and ideas. Now if you go down a little bit further on each weekly page of instructions, you’ll then find that I’ve pre-selected some suggested readings and possibly some videos or other resources that help us to explore the topic. Now not all of those readings are of � like a peer reviewed academic quality, not all of them are especially current, so you’ll actually find some articles that are 6-7 years older, but they have been hand selected because I consider them great resources to get us talking and thinking about the subject. So I encourage you to use them sort of like, kindling that we might put on a fire. The kindling maybe burns up, but the kindling really didn’t exist to last forever. It existed to kind of cause the fire to start, and the fire in our case is the discussion, the interaction with one another where we explore this topic and get to know it better and more deeply. So that’s the content part. If you scroll down a little bit further then, you’re going to see a series of suggested experiences, and the experiences have three different names. The first one is called, “the mission.” A mission is something that challenges you to go out and to do something, to create something, to contribute to something. For example, you’ll notice in week one we have what’s called an “anonymous cheating confessional,” it’s a mission. It challenges you to stretch yourself a little bit. So that’s one thing. The second, you’ll notice, are things that I’m calling “activities.” Those are more traditional learning activities, the kinds of things you might more typically see in an online course. And then the third, are listed as events. Now one event that I’m encouraging on a weekly basis, is an ongoing event. It’s not a specific time, but it’s scheduled to run for each week and that’s on Twitter. So I encourage you, if you don’t, create a Twitter account and to follow that #cheatmooc, and I will propose a series of discussion questions that we can explore with one another who are in the class, and with people who aren’t necessarily taking this class together. So I encourage you to take advantage of that event, but in addition to that, there will possibly be other events scheduled for each week. Even as the course is starting, I’m scheduling some new events as people connect with me and they have things they want to share. So some of the other events will be per-recorded interviews with experts in the field, and also possible live events. We’ll be using Google on Air, and there will be instructions provided in the week to tell you about the specific time and the link where you can go to watch and participate in those live sessions. Now I realize that we have people from around the world, so if the time doesn’t work for you, we’re going to plan on recording each of these events so that you can always watch them, review them later. We are going to try something a little bit differently, now I haven’t quite figured out how this is going to work, so this is an experiment with a large group of people, but each week I do have set-up, a badge. It’s a way to sort of recognize your participation in the exploration for that week, so the first week is called research assistant badge. In order to earn a badge, you have to gain 100 experience points. If you look at the different missions, activities, and events, you’ll notice that some of them have “0” experience points associated, and others have a certain number of experience points. Just because it says “0” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate, it’s just, it may have simply been that I wasn’t able to figure out the best way to measure your participation in that event. But there will always be enough activities, events, missions, for you to earn 100 or more experience points. If you get 100 experience points, then you’re eligible for a badge. I’m still working on the best way to distribute those badges to a large number, so again, please be patient with me as we work through this together. One last thing I’d like to take you through in this introductory video is a quick over-view of what we’re going to be exploring. So it’s an eight week course. Each week has a different theme question, topic. The first week is about getting to know the vocabulary of cheating. So sometimes when we look at a new topic, if we don’t know a lot about it, we don’t have much of a vocabulary for it. For example, my wife loves gardening and she can name lots of different plants, and trees, and flowers. I look at a flower, I call it a flower, but she can describe the different types of flowers because she has a richer vocabulary, and that richer vocabulary also allows her to notice things that I don’t notice, to appreciate nuances that I don’t necessarily appreciate. That’s our goal in week one: to explore the vocabulary around academic honesty and integrity, and we’re going to explore it with a number of different themes and topics. The second week then, we’re going to move on a little bit and we’re going to address a very common question, which is: Do students cheat more online or face to face? Now, I’m not sure that we’ll walk away with a definitive answer to that question, but it’s a worthwhile question to ask because many are asking it in educational environments and we’ll explore that together during week two. During week three, we’re going to become cheating philosophers and we’re going to specifically focus on this idea of metaphor. So we often describe ideas using metaphor and when it comes to cheating, there is often this, sort of criminal metaphor. We talk about people getting caught cheating, the punishments for the crime and those are all words that associate, again, with the criminal metaphor. We’re going to look at the possibility of alternative metaphors for thinking about academic integrity and honesty. We’re going to grapple with which ones may be most helpful for us as educators and in our unique learning environments. Then we’re going to move from the philosopher, to the next week, the *cheating psychologist*, and what we’re going to do as psychologists is explore the conditions and factors under which people are more or less likely to cheat. We’re going to look at, sort of, the human side of cheating and that might give us some insights on how we can minimize it or reduce it. Once we’ve done that, in the middle of the course we’re going to have an interesting week because the next week is actually a chance for you to practice cheating. Now of course I’m not really encouraging you to cheat and the assignment is to cheat, so is it really cheating if you’re asked to do it? So what we’re going to do though is, I’ll set-up a couple of assignments online and you’ll be given the task to try to do it using the three criterion for successful cheating: minimal effort, your chances of a grade higher is better with the cheating than without it, and you have a low chance of getting caught. At the end of the week, or as we progress, you’re going to have a chance to disclose your cheating strategy with one another. So we’re going to kind of crowd source the discussion about cheating by trying different efforts and sharing them with one another. We will see if we get any good and interesting strategies that we can then use to try to minimize it in our own learning environments. After that week, we’re going on to the exploring instructional design and how the design of our learning environments, our courses, our learning experiences has a huge impact on people’s behaviors and the emotional responses. That’s a consideration sometimes we don’t take into account when we think about cheating. We often just focus on rules and policies and restrictions and things to kind of, boundaries to try to prevent cheating, but we’re going to talk even more holistically about the role of instructional design. After that, we then move on to the next week where we talk about the teacher’s role as well as the institution’s role in helping to minimize cheating and instead promote a really positive, engaging culture of honesty and integrity. We’ll explore a wide variety of topics. As I mentioned, we have guest speakers scheduled for various weeks. We’ll likely have a guest speaker during that week. Those events will be in the announcements and they’ll also show up in the weekly instructions. After we’ve done all of that, then we’re going to have a final culminating week where we get to reflect on all of the things we’ve learned and also begin to build and design some plans and strategies for our own learning environments; how we want to take some of these ideas and share them in our own institutions. Now as we go through this course, I�d like to share one last suggestion. I’d like to encourage you to be a co-learner and a co-teacher with me in this course. Please take the opportunity to share what you’re learning on Twitter, on Facebook, LinkedIn, if you have a blog, please blog about what you’re learning as kind of diary of your experiences and share it with other people. My dream is that at the end of this course we would all know more and have a greater understanding of how to promote honesty and integrity in online courses, but I have another goal, and the goal is that collectively we would create new knowledge and resources and share it on the web. If you do a Google search about the topic of cheating in online courses, there are journal articles and there are some resources out there, but not many that get into the kinds of themes and perspectives that we’re going to talk about in this course, like the metaphors of cheating, and the psychology of cheating and so forth. So maybe we, collectively, can create some new resources that will benefit others. I am so excited to go on this journey with you! We’ll have some bumps along the way, things may not work perfectly. I ask for your patience and your assistance in trying to make it a great learning experience for everyone.

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