Do Students Cheat More in Online Classes?
Say you’re a university intent on building up its stable of star athletes. Schools have a financial incentive to do this—hugely successful college sports teams are big earners for universities. So you go out and find the best star athletes, and you recruit them. They’re not being recruited for their study skills—many are below-average students—but even so, you give them a “scholarship.” Athletes get to attend your university for free or at very low cost, because after all, they’re bringing so much to the school when they win games.
Of course, athletes have to meet minimum scholarship requirements to stay in the game. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in intense pressure on professors, colleges and coaches to pass students and to look the other way when cheating occurs—or even to encourage cheating.
At Florida State University, a particularly large cheating ring was exposed in 2007. Almost two-dozen student athletes were found to be cheating on tests. The interesting thing about this case? The tests were administered online, and a student tutor was taking the tests on behalf of the athletes. This is a type of cheating that wouldn’t be possible in a traditional classroom.
So the question is this: does the online classroom make cheating easier?
And are online students more likely to cheat as a result?
Are Virtual Classrooms Designed for Academic Cheating?
A weaker rapport between students and teachers - If a student really likes a teacher, he or she will be less likely to cheat on tests and assignments—right? If your professor is an email message that shows up in your inbox from time to time, it’s less likely you’ll feel that bond—and possibly more likely that you’d be inclined to cheat.
Less on-site supervision - As an online student, you do almost all of your assignments—and sometimes your tests—unmonitored. Who’s to say it’s really you sitting down to take that test?
More online savvy - It’s possible to argue that online students are even more at home in the virtual environment than traditional students—and that they know exactly where to find materials to plagiarize.
Online Cheating: Not as Common as You’d Think
Friends University ran a 2009 study to test the question of whether students actually do cheat more in online than in traditional classrooms, and the results were surprising.
According to their findings, both students and teachers perceived that cheating was more frequent in virtual classrooms. But self-reported instances of actual cheating were significantly higher among traditional students than they were among online students. This is despite the fact that the number of online students interviewed for the study was almost three times as many as the number of traditional students.
The study’s scope didn’t include reasons for these findings—but the researchers speculated several possible causes:
Self-reported instances of actual cheating were significantly higher among traditional students than they were among online students.
Online students are older - Online learning typically attracts older nontraditional students, who may be more mature and thus less likely to cheat.
Online students get more preparation time - The researchers speculated that many traditional students engaged in “panic” cheating—in other words, they decide to cheat on the spur of the moment rather than planning it out. Online students [may cheat less because they have more time to prepare.
Online faculty is perceived as more savvy - There is a perception that online cheating is more prevalent—so perhaps online students are dissuaded from cheating because they believe their professor is more likely to be on to them. In addition, professors may design assignments and tests that are
tougher to cheat on because they believe their students are more likely to try.
Online students are more motivated - Nontraditional students, for a variety of reasons, are seen as more motivated than traditional students. Perhaps that motivation and increased engagement in the learning process cuts down on cheating.
No matter whether you’re learning online or in a traditional classroom, nobody is hurt more by cheating than the cheaters themselves. When you cheat, you not only put yourself at risk of serious repercussions, including expulsion—you also cheat yourself out of the opportunity to learn.
Friends University: Point, Click and Cheat: Frequency and Type of Academic Dishonesty in the Virtual Classroom
Chronicle on Higher Education: Do Students Cheat More in Online Classes? Maybe Not
USAToday: Nearly Two Dozen Florida State Athletes Accused of Cheating
Distance-Education.org: How to Build Rapport With Online Teachers
Distance-Education.org: Are You Cut Out for Distance Education?
More About Good Study Habits
- Standardized Tests for Grad School: Which One Do You Need to Take?
- How Do You Learn Best? How to Tell
- Online Education - Learning Strategies for Success
- Studying Under Stress: Six Ways to Study Smarter, Not Harder
- Five Tips for Breaking Bad Study Habits
- Six Steps to Learning Faster & Better While Attending an Online College
- Six Tips for Making Time and Space to Study in a Busy Household
- The IPad For Online College Students: Pros and Cons