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Academic Integrity and Tech Cheating

July 2012

By Sari Wakefield, Manager, Digital Communications, AACSB International

In 2007, Donald McCabe and Gary Pavela published ten guidelines for establishing academic integrity in "Principles Pursuit of Academic Integrity."1 The list included:

1. Affirm the importance of academic integrity.
2. Foster a love of learning.
3. Treat students as ends in themselves.
4. Promote an environment of trust in the classroom.
5. Encourage student responsibility for academic integrity.
6. Clarify expectations for students.
7. Develop fair and relevant forms of assessment.
8. Reduce opportunities to engage in academic dishonesty.
9. Challenge academic dishonesty when it occurs.
10. Help define and support campus-wide academic integrity standards.

The list still holds true today, except one area should be added. That is, communicate the difference between sharing and cheating. With the rise of social media and mobile connectivity, dishonest sharing via technology has become a major problem on many college campuses. Faculty members are dealing with students taking photos of exams and posting them on Facebook, tweeting exam questions to classmates, uploading term papers to online forums, and reusing portions of papers from students at other colleges. For admissions officers the problem is similar, except prospective students are cheating on applications to programs, or even worse, on entrance exam score reports. For example, in February 2012 Forbes discussed how, "cheating on college apps is a complex problem confronting the U.S. and other parts of the world."2

Even more problematic, according to several studies, is business students are one of the groups most likely to cheat. For instance, in one study of business and engineering students, 85% of the students surveyed responded "cheating is necessary to get ahead." And, 90% responded "they don't believe that cheaters will be caught." The infographic that was produced from this survey showed a classroom with students taking an exam. Each student had a method of cheating listed above them. For example, "pull out a cell phone during the test to check notes saved on it."3 In a second study, 87% of undergraduate business students admitted to cheating on their exams, a self-reported rate significantly higher than that for other disciplines on campus.4

So, are our students outsmarting us? Possibly ... Although, one study doesn't seem to think the data suggests so. It suggests this innovative cheating behavior has been going on for "hundreds of years" just in different forms. But, the study does predict one very important thing, "long-term consequences for society."5 After all, if students discover they can get away with 'sharing' in business school, will they share insider stock information when their company goes public?

The most important thing that business schools can do to take a stand against social and tech cheating is to integrate it into your academic integrity policy. It's not just about plagiarizing papers or falsifying data anymore, it's about using technology unethically as a substitute for working hard. Second, make the consequences for cheating very harsh. Do more than give a zero score on an exam or failing grade for a class. Make sure students clearly understand that the school has a zero-tolerance policy, and that they are out of the program if they are academically dishonest—even if they are caught using their devices and networks dishonestly. For example, students usually do not attempt to cheat on the Gao Kao, China's collegiate-level standardized exam. Why? As one student says, "If caught, very severe penalties; future gone."2 Universities should set this ton at every level, from the classroom to entire institution. The students may not appreciate it now, but they will in the future. Especially if it instills a sense of ethical responsibility that prevents students from losing their jobs, or worse, ruining their professional reputations.

1. (2007). McCabe, D. and Pavela, G. "Principles Pursuit of Academic Integrity."

2. (2012, February 13). "College Apps Cheating Scandal is a Learning Moment for China." Forbes.

3. Greenburg, M. (2012, May 8). "Engineering and Business Majors are Most Likely to Cheat." In The Capital.

4. Williams, S., Tanner, M., and Beard, J. (2012, July/August). "How to Cure the Cheating Pandemic." BizEd.

5. Tyler, D. (2012). Link Boxers: Crisis Communications with a Non-Crisis, Web 2.0 Cheating, and iPhones as Far as the iCanSee."