On cheaters

A while ago somebody pointed me to this article at the Chronicle of Higher Education purportedly written by somebody who makes money writing term papers and theses for students.  About the only thing that I found surprising in this whole article was that this person used the title of my blog, and referred to himself as an “academic mercenary”.  I really didn’t want my reputation and good name sullied in that manner, so  I sifted through the reader comments with the intent of leaving a clarification, and there was the usual lot of condemnation, shock, horror and awe.  Several commenters pointed out the terrible state of the academic industry, arguing that if professors were only better, more diligent, and worked harder to establish personal relationships with their students more of these rogues would be caught.  To those writers, I give a hearty two fingered salute and a round of “bite me.”   Naturally others were laying the blame on the economics of academia in general, poor standards, commercialism, the market economy in education etc. etc.

So here’s the thing: we can dig for the answers all we want, and go around assigning blame, but the fact of the matter is that cheaters are going to cheat.  I like to say that detecting plagiarism is one of my superpowers, and it is.  I’m very good at spotting it.  I also work hard to try to design assignments that will be less easy for students to plagiarize.  I make them complicated, I like including creative elements, and opinion sections.  But if a student is going to pay somebody to actually log in and take my class, yes, that is going to go entirely unnoticed.  Frankly, under those circumstances, the student wins.  Or loses.  Of course I think they lose, because I like to think that one gains something through the educational enterprise, but not everybody is as idealistic as I am.  Frankly, I accept that, and I realize that my students are there to get a qualification not because they are deeply in love with the Humanities.  If I can make them love the Humanities or Anthropology by the end of the term, fantastic!

You will always have students who will pay to get out of work, who will go the extra mile to plagiarize and cover their tracks, to have somebody else log in and take a test for them.  When I suspect something is fishy, if I can catch them, then great, justice has been done and I go after them with no quarter.  But at this stage in life, I have come to accept that are unscrupulous people out there who do not share my values, and there’s only so much that I personally can do about it.  If somebody chooses to cheat, I’m not going to take that on board as a personal failure as a professor, and shame on anybody who tries to leverage that sort of accusation on the hardworking academics out there today.  I suppose if it’s every other student all the time, you might wish to consider your teaching strategies and engagement, but in general, people cheat because they are dishonest and taking the easy way out.  It’s always been like that, and it always will be. If, through my teaching, I can get my students to feel confident about their abilities and responsible to me and their classmates, then they might see my class as less of a hoop to jump through and more of something they feel personally invested in, and that just might make a difference.

2 Responses to “On cheaters”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    Hi! I am an online adjunct as well. I have noticed several web site that allow students to pay for discussion posts. These sites are so infuriating. I caught one of my students using them. It seems to be more and more common. We always have to stay one step ahead.

  2. Amy Says:

    Wow! I didn’t know about those sites. I’d love to hear more about your experiences with them. can you give me an example?

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Online Educational Specialist