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Jann in TX

Academic integrity and smart devices (cheating)...

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I'm in the last rounds of grading my finals for the year... and this year I have had way too many students (all homeschoolers!) cheating-- and doing a poor job of it too (aka-- too obvious!).

It really saddens me to see such a high percentage of students taking the 'easy way' out by using these apps.  I'm wondering if it is because they are so easy to access-- just take a picture and POOF your problem is solves step by step for you (but notations may not be what your teacher wanted!!).  Maybe we are pushing students too hard-- not every student needs to take Calculus in high school in order to go to college OR if it is lack of parental oversight-- wanting our high school students to work 'independently' so leaving them unchecked/unsupervised  (I homeschooled for 13 years and the last 5 I had teens and a baby/toddler to wrangle so I do understand) OR-- something else....

My classes are online-- I give instruction and even offer no cost tutorials-- still I cannot sit by the student and watch them do their homework and tests.  I do know of a few providers who insist students video themselves taking tests-- I do NOT want to go to that extreme-- but...

This problem is not limited to homeschoolers-- my youngest dd is in PS and she says it is all over the place there as well... her school had to block ALL phone and internet access to students because it got so out of hand... funny because they also require teachers to have students use technology-- including the use of digital texts that require internet to access assignments!  My dd's math teacher ended up testing with only word problems to help reign in the teaching... not very practical at the lower levels of Algebra when you are teaching mechanics...

Please discuss this issue with your students. 

Besides the obvious hit to academic integrity-- if the habit continues into college and the student gets caught most institutions have automatic expulsions-- and it may be impossible to transfer to another with that on your permanent record.

Thanks for reading my vent-- feel free to chime in with your thoughts.

Jann

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As a college professor I have seen this problem increasing.  The cheating now goes way beyond "wandering eyes".  It is very easy for a student, even in a classroom with a proctor, to quickly snap a picture of an exam, send the copy of the exam to someone half-way around the world, have that person answer the questions for them and transmit answers back.  Once you move into work outside of the classroom, the issues multiply.  

Unfortunately, I think our schools have played a role in teaching kids to do this.  Emphasis has been placed on innovation and the use of technology at too young of an age, IMO.  

 

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I do think part of the contributing factor is that teens just want to be done with schoolwork so they can do something they enjoy more. Also the pressure of the high school GPA (on the parents) means that kids would submit homework and do quizzes because their parents  would know on the parent account if their kids didn’t do the work. 

My kids have taken classes that are high school level but they aren’t taking them for academic credit. My kids and I have the understanding that those classes are interest classes and they just do their best (even if it means a C/D/F) and try to make it for all online sessions. I can see a kid depending on those classes for a grade to go the by hook or by crook route if he/she has no interest in the class.

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I imagine there would be too many students to handle the demand, and student vicinity limits access, but I’m wondering if there’s some way to utilize existing secure testing centers for final exams, like at a community college or university. 

ETA - if anyone needs a small business idea to jump on, I bet this might flourish - independent testing centers with contracts with schools. Something to brainstorm about, anyway. 

Edited by Seasider too
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6 minutes ago, Seasider too said:

I imagine there would be too many students to handle the demand, and student vicinity limits access, but I’m wondering if there’s some way to utilize existing secure testing centers for final exams, like at a community college or university. 

 

DS14 takes his midterms and finals for two of his online courses at the testing center of our nearest state university. It costs us $70 to $100 for each 3hr exam depending on whether he took the full 3 hours to finish the exam. We are paying $1,500 per course so the extra $200 in proctor fees are painful but not a hardship.  Since OP is offering a math course to homeschoolers, I don’t know if parents are willing to pay for proctored exams. 

Edited by Arcadia
Edited for clarity

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19 minutes ago, Arcadia said:

 

DS14 takes his midterms and finals for two of his online courses at the testing center of our nearest state university. It costs us $70 to $100 for each 3hr exam depending on whether he took the full 3 hours to finish the exam. We are paying $1,500 per course so the extra $200 in proctor fees are painful but not a hardship.  Since OP is offering a math course to homeschoolers, I don’t know if parents are willing to pay for proctored exams. 

 

I understand the cost - but it might just have to be rolled into the price of distance education. It’s up to the teaching institutions to demand that academic integrity has a high value.

Sadly, I’m not sure our wider current culture would agree. 

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My dc saw this in both high school and college.  The issue is the struggler didn't get anything out of class...usually it was over their head, but sometimes the prof was incomprehensible.  My kid that tutored a class in college saw a huge uptick in students seeking help one semester; the supervisor got right back to the prof and dept chair and changes were made.  In his high school DE calc though, it was all people who were in over their head...very good memorizers or social promotion (here they let the dc stay in accel math by allowing them to take the test and get half credit for rework - ie a 80 becomes a 90)..the class is gated, with an 85 in both preceding class and Regents Exam for Algebra 2/Trig required.  Clearly the bar isn't high enough, but the admin forces the teacher to take the top 45 students.  She then begs all who struggle to get in the next lower class, year long Calc 1 where she has the time to get them up to speed.  So basically, social promotion combined with weak study skills. There is also a problem in high school with being scheduled so tightly that there isnt enough time for tutorial plus reading the textbook/notes, reworking the problem sets, and studying...most students don't realize they need to put in six hours outside of class per week....just can't keep up.

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My husband is working on his MBA online. In many of his classes he has to take his tests using a lockdown browser which prevents access to anything else on his computer. In his class last semester, the professor video recorded them via the lockdown browser. Apparently the software alerts her if the students aren’t looking at the screen enough or if they appear to be using other devices. 

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In one of the classes my dd took at the cc last semester, she had multiple people ask her to *help* them when they were getting ready to take exams. The first time she was asked, she agreed to *help*, not understanding they were asking her to cheat. She honestly thought the girl wanted her to help her study or understand the material on another day until she kept following her around the room during the test (it was a lab). It put a lot of additional pressure on her and it was kind of shocking.

I think it can get easy to get complacent at home and to think our students would never do such a thing. One of the coops we participated in started to require the parents to turn in their Apologia teacher’s guide because so many students were cheating. I think the temptation can be great when the answer key is just sitting right there in the room with them. 

Jann, do you let the parent know about the cheating? No one wants to hear their child has cheated, but it could really save them down the road to know the consequences. On the other hand, I would not think it would be easy to prove and lead to having to deal with a lot of conflict.

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I TA for a college history course and proctor the exams. It's amazing how many students do not understand put your phone in your backpack. We make them take off baseball hats, watches, and nothing but drink containers on the table (even allowing that one is questionable to me). They also have to leave extra seats between them when we test in the lecture hall. By nature of the exams, it's harder to cheat, but you can sometimes see who studied together when grading. 

Plagiarism on papers is my nemesis. 🤬

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I used to cheat on homework and exams in school. It had nothing to do with being behind or not knowing the material.  It was more of a I don't really care attitude.  For the classes I was interested in and enjoyed I put in the effort to learn and aced everything.  For the classes I found boring or just didn't care about, like history because all the teachers were awful and boring,  I saw zero point to the class and did what I needed to do to keep my grades up.  With homework, I just found it pointless for most of my classes.  I didn't need to spend 2 hours doings pages of Calculus problems a night because I already knew it.  So, doing a few and then copying off of friends who already knew the material as well but didn't want to waste time just made sense to us. 

Now as an adult I can fully understand why I shouldn't have cheated, however, I don't think I cheated myself out of an education in any way by doing so.  I am very much opposed to the way education is set up in this country and the pressure that children are under so I do not fault any of them, whether they are underachievers or overachievers for cheating.

One of the reasons I chose to home school is because of my experience with how pointless 80% of my school years were. 

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10 hours ago, Jann in TX said:

Please discuss this issue with your students. 

Yes, this!

I think a lot of parents assume that their kids are "good kids" and that they "get it." Please be explicit, especially about these apps. I think for a lot of kids, they don't get it. They think calculators are okay after a certain level and that these are just calculators. Same thing with some of the plagiarism stuff... they don't understand where the line is from using things that help to using things that violate the rules. It's become less clear. To us, as non-digital natives, it seems obvious. It's not obvious to them. And that's not because they're not smart. It's because we assume they'll see things that we see as adults and people who didn't grow up with these technologies. They can't - not if we're not super explicitly clear.

I also totally agree with your point about how we push kids to do too much and that's part of it.

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Is it made explicitly clear what they are allowed to use, and what not?

 

 

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I teach science at a public high school and cheating is rampant. We had a total of 9 sections of physics. I had the very last section. By the time my class took any of the tests, they already knew the answers. We tried doing two versions of the tests, but that wasn't good enough. I finally committed to writing additional versions (completely different from each other, not just scrambled answers for the multiple choice part, but completely different) so that we had 4 different versions. That took care of most of the issues with cheating on the tests. There were just too many to have a good chance of having the version you had memorized.

By the end of the schoolyear, they would start to groan as soon as they saw my multicolored stack of tests/quizzes (each version a different color) and complain that it made it too hard to cheat.

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A One online school we have used requires exams to be proctored. In one class, tests were taken in real time in class, the parent had to be visually present for the entire time. In others, the student could take the exam when they and their parents wished, but the parent had to sign the exam paper to verify that they proctored. In all cases, a password was sent to parent email only so that only the parent could unlock the exam. 

Not convenient when you have younger kids, but I think it’s completely reasonable. Of course it is still possible to cheat, by parent enabling or kid blatantly getting around all the obstacles, but less likely. I treat all exams the same whether I have to sign something or not. We print or open up on the computer, with all books, notes, and devices in another room, and I sit right there for the duration. I suppose it would possible to cheat on regular work for online classes just as it is for school; I can’t realistically monitor every bit of their work that closely. But at least it would be pretty evident on testing if they were doing that. And of course we have conversations about academic integrity. It’s not about doing the right thing only when someone is watching.

Edited by Penelope
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I deal with this every year, too.  This year I had a student copy and paste a correction that I had made in a previous assignment as a test answer.  I know because their answer had been off-base and I corrected with 2-3 from a list of 6 things (A, B, C, etc) which would help them find the correct list in their notes/the book.  The answer that they gave on the test was 'A, B, C, etc,' with the etc included.  In my platform, I can look to see if they 'clicked away' but that doesn't solve the problem of them looking things up on a different device and then just typing in the answer that they find.  They seem surprised that I recognize the first few sentences from wikipedia about most topics.  I try to ask questions that aren't easily searchable, but there is only so much that you can do with mitosis and meiosis.  🙂  I have also had students cut and paste info from articles, leaving the hyperlinks in place.  If I taught history I might be able to get around it by asking about interpretation, but in some science questions, there' s just one right answer.  I sometimes console myself with the fact that at least I won't end up writing recommendations for the cheating students...and I actually make that point at the start of the year.  I can write a good recommendation that talks about all sorts of desirable traits - work ethic, pleasant to work with, conscientious, etc - for a B or even C student, but there's not much that I can say when there is cheating.  

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My son did on line high school.  It was very easy to cheat, but he learned early on that won't serve you well on down the road.  You have to understand concepts.  In his first year of cc he has had 2 courses in Calc.  He had to take intro A/B together because his ACT was one point too low but he was able to breeze through it and then Calc one was also fairly easy for him BUT he did his homework faithfully and used online tutoring to go over a type of problem until he got it.  

So cheaters are only hurting themselves in the long run.  

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When I did extramural courses someone had to sign to say they supervised.  If you require a parent to sign off on the test might that help? Or do they already?

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TBH, I think it's really important for you to alert the parents that their kids are cheating. They can't fix what they don't know is broken. 

Further, I'd suggest you consider making it a "class requirement" that exams (or at least certain ones) be "proctored" by a parent or other adult designated by the parent. I think that'd be doing the kids a favor by removing temptation. 

I personally try to structure exams for my kids' online classes so that my kid has less temptation to cheat than s/he would if I didn't pay any attention . . . I don't proctor them, though, because that feels like I don't trust them since the teacher doesn't require it . . . (or even suggest it, so far as I know). I just have the expectations that no other materials are out during exams, they are done at the otherwise-empty table, etc. When I taught classes with exams myself to my kids and their friends, I generally DID proctor the exams because I wanted them to feel "real" to give them practice in testing situations. But, when it's an online class, I feel hesitant to "proctor" when not required. So, anyway, it'd be a FAVOR to me and my kid if the online teacher required proctoring for at least major exams -- enough to keep the kid honest -- so maybe at least monthly or so? (And the first exam or two, to get them off to a decent start . . .)

I'd have the parent have to send an email from their OWN email addy attesting to proctoring the exam and/or submit the exam via their own email. Or some such thing. I know some parents would flake and not do it. Fine. Maybe just offer 2 types of grading, "regular" grading, and grading with an asterisk and the word "Unproctored", If the parents don't care, there's nothing you can do about it . . . 

 

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I'm not new to online teaching-- I was one of the first online math teachers-- I'm starting my 17th year! 

I do require parents to proctor-- I tend to get 'Yes, I proctored Johnny's test-- he was at the table and I was just in the other room doing ___' 

My students absolutely know that they are not allowed to access other devices or other people-- on some tests a basic calculator is acceptable (non graphing non programmable).  I ask that smart phones and devices are not used instead of a calculator as there are too many problem-solving apps as well as apps that hide these apps from view!

The students who tend to 'cheat' the most are the ones with parents who are too hands off-- who never check assignments to see if they are actually worked/graded.  I have a dd in PS and I check on her work/progress...  Online classes provide instruction-- but just as in PS, parents should be involved enough to make sure their student is working to their potential.

I also get parents who let me know upfront that Johnny had access to notes and text and other online help DURING the test-- and they want me to validate the grade???  This is not what working to mastery means!

The best response to a test question yet was, "Mrs P., I could not work problem 18 and Grandma could not work it either"  -- UH why was Grandma working your test?

**As technology advances it provides homeschoolers so many options (a GREAT THING!) it also provides more options for students to cheat...

 

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My kids' online classes require a proctor who is not a relative. The proctor's name and contact info has to be submitted beforehand, and the school sends them an access code that is needed for the student to start the exam. When the exam is submitted, the proctor has to verify again that he/she was there.

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On 5/31/2019 at 2:42 PM, Rachel said:

My husband is working on his MBA online. In many of his classes he has to take his tests using a lockdown browser which prevents access to anything else on his computer. In his class last semester, the professor video recorded them via the lockdown browser. Apparently the software alerts her if the students aren’t looking at the screen enough or if they appear to be using other devices. 

My dd had two online CC classes that required exams to be proctored. She had to go to the school proctoring center for Statistics and her Biology professor used the lockdown browser with video recording.

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On ‎5‎/‎31‎/‎2019 at 11:05 AM, Jann in TX said:

I'm in the last rounds of grading my finals for the year... and this year I have had way too many students (all homeschoolers!) cheating-- and doing a poor job of it too (aka-- too obvious!).

It really saddens me to see such a high percentage of students taking the 'easy way' out by using these apps.  I'm wondering if it is because they are so easy to access-- just take a picture and POOF your problem is solves step by step for you (but notations may not be what your teacher wanted!!).  Maybe we are pushing students too hard-- not every student needs to take Calculus in high school in order to go to college OR if it is lack of parental oversight-- wanting our high school students to work 'independently' so leaving them unchecked/unsupervised  (I homeschooled for 13 years and the last 5 I had teens and a baby/toddler to wrangle so I do understand) OR-- something else....

My classes are online-- I give instruction and even offer no cost tutorials-- still I cannot sit by the student and watch them do their homework and tests.  I do know of a few providers who insist students video themselves taking tests-- I do NOT want to go to that extreme-- but...

This problem is not limited to homeschoolers-- my youngest dd is in PS and she says it is all over the place there as well... her school had to block ALL phone and internet access to students because it got so out of hand... funny because they also require teachers to have students use technology-- including the use of digital texts that require internet to access assignments!  My dd's math teacher ended up testing with only word problems to help reign in the teaching... not very practical at the lower levels of Algebra when you are teaching mechanics...

Please discuss this issue with your students. 

Besides the obvious hit to academic integrity-- if the habit continues into college and the student gets caught most institutions have automatic expulsions-- and it may be impossible to transfer to another with that on your permanent record.

Thanks for reading my vent-- feel free to chime in with your thoughts.

Jann

I teach at a community college and in homeschool co-ops and cheating is rampant everywhere, unfortunately.  At the community college where I teach, I give essay and written short answer questions only on my proctored exam to reduces the effectiveness of cheating, and I have multiple versions of any given exam, but I still have people try, and preparing and grading those exams is very time-consuming.  I can not imagine what high school kids are thinking - I mean, their lack of capability on a math SAT will become obvious if they cheat their way through math class.  I do think that the college-for-all is part of the problem because we have students going to college who are not there to actually learn, have no real interest in being there, and are just looking for a diploma-mill degree in order to get on with their life.

Edited by Reefgazer
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On ‎5‎/‎31‎/‎2019 at 5:05 PM, elegantlion said:

I TA for a college history course and proctor the exams. It's amazing how many students do not understand put your phone in your backpack. We make them take off baseball hats, watches, and nothing but drink containers on the table (even allowing that one is questionable to me). They also have to leave extra seats between them when we test in the lecture hall. By nature of the exams, it's harder to cheat, but you can sometimes see who studied together when grading. 

Plagiarism on papers is my nemesis. 🤬

I caught a student cheating who had a Dasani water bottle on the table.  He had removed the label and reattached it with notes written on the inside of the label, which he read through the water. 

Edited by Reefgazer
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1 hour ago, Reefgazer said:

I caught a student cheating who had a Dasani water bottle on the table.  He had removed the label and reattached it with notes written on the inside of the label, which is read through the water. 

Kids have pulled out notes from the barrel of a mechanical pencil, too. That is why you can’t use mechanical pencils on the AP or SAT. 

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1 hour ago, Reefgazer said:

I caught a student cheating who had a Dasani water bottle on the table.  He had removed the label and reattached it with notes written on the inside of the label, which is read through the water. 

What happened to that student? What he expelled? It used to be that all the schools had strict honor codes and if you were caught cheating, there were huge consequences. I assume that must no longer be the case or there wouldn’t be so many cheating.

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1 hour ago, Mom0012 said:

What happened to that student? What he expelled? It used to be that all the schools had strict honor codes and if you were caught cheating, there were huge consequences. I assume that must no longer be the case or there wouldn’t be so many cheating.

When I was in private high school and at a selective state university, cheating resulted in an  F on the assignment and immediate expulsion. 

What is typical now?

Edited by ScoutTN

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42 minutes ago, ScoutTN said:

When I was in private high school and at a selective state university, cheating resulted in an  F on the assignment and immediate expulsion. 

What is typical now?

In my daughters religious  private school, it was a 0 on the assignment and after 3 or so, it was considered an offense that you could be expelled for.  But.....private schools are by nature 'for profit' and what I saw over the years, was more lax than that. Teachers seemed like the honor code was not the highest priority. One of dd's lax math teachers went so far as have each student review/grade their own assignments in class, and then they could rework the problems for full credit if they wanted to. Needless to say, it was obvious when it came time for state testing, which students actually did their own work and which did not. 

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3 hours ago, ScoutTN said:

When I was in private high school and at a selective state university, cheating resulted in an  F on the assignment and immediate expulsion. 

What is typical now?

At my high school, consequences can either be a reduced grade or disciplinary, but not both. After trying the disciplinary route, I gave up on that one. The disciplinary route just meant that the grade-level principal talked with each of the students and they all said they absolutely didn't cheat and they nothing happened at all. As far as the grading consequences go, I can give them a zero immediately, but I am required to offer them a retake. I can cap the retake score at 70 so that their maximum possible grade is 70. Generally they don't manage any higher than 50 on the retake.

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4 hours ago, ScoutTN said:

What is typical now?

I am not so sure of what is typical, but I can speak with authority as to what happened to a student who was a junior in college and got caught cheating on a final computer science project.  The student's final grade was dropped from a B to a D.

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On 6/7/2019 at 4:57 AM, kiwik said:

When I did extramural courses someone had to sign to say they supervised.  If you require a parent to sign off on the test might that help? Or do they already?

I was going to suggest something similar for both parent and student. Ideally, I would have it pop up on the screen right before the test with a digital signature required. Like they do for college applications - those things got our heart rates up every time, and we were being as honest as possible, lol. "You're going to be living in a world full of sorry if you are lying on this document, so think twice before hitting that submit button." 

So the student would sign that they didn't cheat, use other devices, or ask for help. Parents would sign that they proctored the test by being in the same room and actually supervising the student. People don't like to directly lie, even seasoned liars prefer to lie by omission or assumption, so make it impossible for them to cheat/not proctor unless they tell a direct lie. 

Edited by katilac

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12 hours ago, Sue in St Pete said:

I am not so sure of what is typical, but I can speak with authority as to what happened to a student who was a junior in college and got caught cheating on a final computer science project.  The student's final grade was dropped from a B to a D.

I minute academic misconduct hearings at a university in the UK.  Proven cheating results in a zero for the assignment or the module. It would have to be a blatant repeat offence for expulsion.  Most people who cheat are, I think, in over their heads. One case concerned someone who didn't think petty rules applied to him, I believe.

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23 hours ago, ScoutTN said:

When I was in private high school and at a selective state university, cheating resulted in an  F on the assignment and immediate expulsion. 

What is typical now?

I think it varies quite a bit. I don't think immediate expulsion was typical years ago, it was just your experience. A public high school would not be able to expel a student for one instance of cheating. And my guess is that 'immediate' would have to mean immediately after proving it, yes? Like through honor court or similar system? 

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2 hours ago, katilac said:

I think it varies quite a bit. I don't think immediate expulsion was typical years ago, it was just your experience. A public high school would not be able to expel a student for one instance of cheating. And my guess is that 'immediate' would have to mean immediately after proving it, yes? Like through honor court or similar system? 

Yes, through the honor system, but it was quick - a day or two at most. Every student had signed the honor code and was aware of the single sanction. No excuses accepted. Both schools were selective with many kids on the waitlist, so to uphold the standard of integrity didn't hurt them. 

Boarding school kids headed to Ivies or similarly selective colleges did NOT want cheating on their record. Drinking or other "disciplinary" troubles, ok, but no honor violations ir academic problems! 

Generally,  an accusation would not be made unless it could be proved. 

Edited by ScoutTN

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I remember during first year physics you were allowed to take in one A4 sheet of paper with whatever you liked on it.  It prevented the need for cheating but didn't help any if you hadn't studied.

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On ‎6‎/‎8‎/‎2019 at 10:53 AM, Caroline said:

Kids have pulled out notes from the barrel of a mechanical pencil, too. That is why you can’t use mechanical pencils on the AP or SAT. 

Ah, DD took the ACT today and when I read through the rules, I wondered about that restriction!

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On ‎6‎/‎8‎/‎2019 at 11:39 AM, Mom0012 said:

What happened to that student? What he expelled? It used to be that all the schools had strict honor codes and if you were caught cheating, there were huge consequences. I assume that must no longer be the case or there wouldn’t be so many cheating.

At my school, absolutely nothing of consequence; I gave him an "F" for the exam.  It is very hard to get a "conviction" for cheating; there has to be almost no other explanation for the behavior in question and directly observed.  Even then, a first offense is on the academic record, but no instructor is allowed to know a cheater's history, so if you catch them cheating and have a range of options, your instruct isn't to stick it to them good because you assume it's a first offense. (well, at least I do)

Edited by Reefgazer
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6 hours ago, kiwik said:

I remember during first year physics you were allowed to take in one A4 sheet of paper with whatever you liked on it.  It prevented the need for cheating but didn't help any if you hadn't studied.

 

6 hours ago, kiwik said:

I remember during first year physics you were allowed to take in one A4 sheet of paper with whatever you liked on it.  It prevented the need for cheating but didn't help any if you hadn't studied.

 

Edited by Reefgazer

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10 hours ago, Reefgazer said:

At my school, absolutely nothing of consequence; I gave him an "F" for the exam.  It is very hard to get a "conviction" for cheating; there has to be almost no other explanation for the behavior in question and directly observed.  Even then, a first offense is on the academic record, but no instructor is allowed to know a cheater's history, so if you catch them cheating and have a range of options, your instruct isn't to stick it to them good because you assume it's a first offense. (well, at least I do)

It’s so frustrating that almost all authority has been removed from teachers. I have to say I’m almost surprised you were allowed to give him an F on the exam. As long as this is the case, the problem is only going to continue.

And maybe an F on a paper is a reasonable response for a first-time offender. I don’t really have a problem at all with giving kids second chances. But when it just becomes a game and the students know there is very little risk for acting without integrity, it seems like the whole system falls apart.

Edited by Mom0012
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From BBC March 2019 http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20190329-the-essay-mills-that-help-students-cheat

“After studying in Singapore for many years, he’s now back in China where he writes essays and farms others out to a team of workers for student clients as far afield as Australia and the UK. His business can turn over as much as $150,000 a year.

It grew after that first student moved to Australia to do her master’s degree and passed his name on to other people. He writes at least one essay a week but, as a global studies major, farms assignments on subjects like business and finance out to his specialists. He charges about 1 RMB per word, so a 1,000-word piece would come in around 1,000 RMB (£115, $150).

Chris – who doesn’t want to share his surname – suggests what he’s doing sits somewhere between cheating and teaching.

“I tell [the students] every time: ‘You can refer to my essay, but you cannot submit it directly to your professor’. But what they do – I cannot control [that]. There are certain students who actually learn from me, so I think it is in a grey area.”

Sometimes, he says, he wants to say no. “I told myself I should quit because this is cheating – they didn’t learn anything from me. Then one month later they call me again, saying, ‘Could you please help me again because I need to pass this assignment in order to graduate’. Then I say OK, if that is the case, I will help just this last time. I really want them to learn but it’s just difficult.””

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