Tags: Cheating | Students | Caught | Web | Deceit

Cheating Students Caught Up in Web of Deceit

Thursday, 10 May 2001 12:00 AM

The possible expulsions are all in the university's physics department and have highlighted a growing problem in assessing the educational progress of school and university students across the world as they turn increasingly to the internet for research - and sometimes for plagiarism.

With students now routinely preparing their essays on computers and submitting them electronically, opportunities for plagiarism have become almost limitless. And with coursework counting for large parts of the US educational assessment system, American high school and university students have substantial opportunities for cheating if they can get away with it.

The problem was unearthed last month when physics professor Lou Bloomfield responded to allegations by an unnamed student by designing a computer program to hunt out common phrases in more than 1,500 papers submitted electronically by students over a period of several months.

"It was a little more common than I had hoped," Prof Bloomfield ruefully told the Washington Post this week.

He uncovered dozens of examples of sometimes large scale cutting and pasting from internet websites and from one another's essays. The upshot is the largest investigation into cheating in the history of an institution in which Jefferson planned for "the illimitable freedom of the human mind to explore and to expose every subject susceptible of its contemplation".

Among the 122 accused students are several who have already graduated from the university and others who are due to receive their degrees at ceremonies in the next few weeks.

The cases are now being examined by the university's "honour committee".

The cheating scandal at Virginia is far from an isolated one. Last year a survey of 2,200 students at 21 American universities found that one in 10 admitted lifting chunks of academic material from internet sites.

An inquiry by the neurobiology department at the University of California at Berkeley discovered that 45 out of 340 students had used lifted material and submitted it as their own.

Teachers and professors have long been aware that the system is increasingly vulnerable to dishonesty.

"Technology has made some of the easy ways out very seductive and blurred the lines between what's acceptable and what's not," Prof Bloomfield said in his interview.

The problem has spawned a variety of commercial and homemade programs which are designed to enable teachers to pinpoint students who are dragging material off the web - or from one another's essays - simply with the click of a mouse.

"Technology really is a double-edged sword when it comes to cheating. The means for detecting cheating are catching up with the means for cheating," Thomas Hall, chairman of the University of Virginia's honour committee, told the Post.

The case "will send a wake-up call to those students who have forgotten what the community of trust is about", said David Gies of the university's Spanish department.

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The possible expulsions are all in the university's physics department and have highlighted a growing problem in assessing the educational progress of school and university students across the world as they turn increasingly to the internet for research - and sometimes for...
Cheating,Students,Caught,Web,Deceit
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2001-00-10
Thursday, 10 May 2001 12:00 AM
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