Episode 006: Dr. Amy Smith and Dr. David Emerson


The Score

February 10, 2022

The episode features Dr. Amy Smith the Chief Learning Officer for StraighterLine and a leader in online education and Dr. David Emerson who is an associate professor and faculty advisor at Salisbury University. Emerson and his colleagues released a ground-breaking research report on the motivations for academic misconduct, linking academic cheating to fraud. His research has some sobering implications for how institutions deal with the issue. Smith has been outspoken on the need to fight cheating to protect the value and quality of online learning. She wrote a piece for the Hechinger Report in 2020 on this topic.

Please contact us if you would like the full transcript.

Show Notes

High points of the conversation follow.

Dr. Amy Smith (03:01): [another] thing I think universities really owe students are accountability systems that are clear, that are well defined, and that are consistent. We often see in the research, and the literature shows us that a lot of times, a faculty member, for all the right reasons, will help a student out or try to manage or monitor cheating, and not really report it for a variety of reasons, and I’m sure we’ll get into that much throughout this podcast, but that also goes around the actual accountability system the university sets up. So, universities, different colleges, different majors, different fields report incidents differently, and then that makes inconsistencies in the accountability. So, if I’m a student and I don’t know how I’m going to be held accountable, like what’s going to happen to me, I don’t make a fully informed choice when I do make choices of how to navigate my education.

Dr. Amy Smith (16:05): So, let’s talk a little bit about deterrents, let me expand on that. So, take these 45,000 students. We have three things at StraighterLine that we set up to monitor or to prevent cheating, like you just have to try to prevent it. I’m going to go back to Dr. Emerson’s opportunity, you just don’t make it opportunistic. It isn’t available. One way we do that is everything you turn in at StraighterLine, you have to turn in through turnitin.com. So, we have a mechanism to check, “Hey, is Amy’s paper really Amy’s, or did Amy borrow Catherine’s paper, because it was a little bit better, and she submitted Catherine’s sections as her own?” We definitely do that.

Dr. Amy Smith (16:43): The second thing we also do is all final exams are live proctored. I mean, your browser will shut down if there is any hint of suspicious behavior in any way, while somebody’s watching you take your exam. So, that’s the second part. And the third thing that we do at StraighterLine is there’s actually a team in the academics side of the house that watches postings, watches online constantly. This is their job, right? This is what they do, is make sure that Amy didn’t decide to post a quiz somewhere online, and then everybody’s got the answers to a StraighterLine course. So, we have preventative measures, which are, we feel, deterrents, but humans are humans, and that’s actually what Dr. Emerson’s talking about, that decision making that really happens. I’ll pause with that. Dr. Emerson, thoughts about what I just said?

Dr. David Emerson (17:34): I agree completely. I mean, it sounds like you’re doing everything right within the online arena, right? Is denying them that opportunity, and like I said, we did find that these online real time lockdown browsers, and continuous monitoring, and proctoring of live exams, it is going to be effective, absolutely. I mean, the cheating behaviors I was referring to were unmonitored, unproctored, and the experiment that we did, when we implemented an online proctoring service, the incidence of cheating went down 87%. It went from about half, down to about 5%.

Dr. David Emerson (18:27): So, it didn’t eliminate it, but it greatly reduced it, because the problem is when you’re using an online assessment integrity tool, it only works on a machine on which you’re taking the assessment. There’s no preclusion that prevents them from looking up the answer on a different device. Now, you state that you’re not finding StraighterLine materials on other websites. Have you gone to Chegg to look to see whether or not the answers are there?

Dr. David Emerson (20:40): The students don’t like [exam monitoring] because it starts with a presumption, like Amy was saying, that everybody’s cheating. Well, they are, to a large extent. If you’re taking a class, especially if it’s a class you don’t care about very much, and your professor gives you a quiz directly out of the publisher’s textbook, out of their test bank, and you go online and take it. If you’re able to just copy that answer or question out, go over to your browser, go to chegg.com, and instantaneously the correct answer is there. And many times, from my publisher, I found the exact question with a test bank identifier attached to it, and with the correct answer immediately displayed.

Dr. David Emerson (26:34): What we believe is that each of the phases of the ethical decision-making framework, which is the Fraud Diamond, opportunity, motivation, and rationalization, can be targeted to help minimize the cheating behaviors by emphasizing those aspects of the decision-making process to minimize ultimate cheating.

Dr. David Emerson (29:00): One of the ways to decrease their motivations to cheat is to counter the incentives that are provided, through disincentives, right? The cheating decision is made under the presumption that it’s a rational calculus of, “What do I get as a result of this activity?”, versus “What are the costs, if I’m caught?” So, one of the ways you can disincentivize this activity is to make sure that there is a heavy cost for every incidence of academic misconduct, regardless of the level of severity.

Dr. David Emerson (29:58): So, if they know what is expected of them, it goes to Amy’s point that they have to be acutely aware of, these are the rules, and if you break those rules, you are going to be harshly and swiftly punished, to the point that it is a disincentive that you do not want to pay.

Dr. David Emerson (30:47): Now, I do not want to do this. It is a royal pain to go through the process to charge someone with academic misconduct, but it is the only thing, now, based on lots of research, that a harsh, severe, and certain negative outcome works, but you have to be consistent in applying it across all students, regardless of level, and regardless of the level of severity.

Kathryn Baron (33:40): And does that seem to reduce cheating in your classes, when the other students see what the repercussions are?

Dr. David Emerson (33:49): Well, that’s hard to say. One would hope, right? Because I mean, one of the ways that academic honor codes work is through peer pressure. If you can inculcate a culture where cheating is not acceptable, then presumably, peers will disincentivize them from engaging in that activity. But people are always going to be motivated, they want that diploma, they want the rewards that go with an education, but they don’t want to work for it. They will do whatever they need to do, and this is especially true more on the psychopathic end of the spectrum, where they’re there maybe because their parents want them to be there, they don’t have that intrinsic motivation.

Episode 005: Dr. Karen Symms Gallagher and Dr. Mark Biggin


The Score

December 21, 2021

This episode features Dr. Mark Biggin and Dr. Karen Symms Gallagher (@USCRossierDean). Biggin is an affiliate of Biological Systems and Engineering Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. And he created a tool – Q-SID that can detect collusion which is he has offered to faculty for free. Gallagher is a professor and Veronica and David Hagen Chair in Women’s Leadership at Rossier School of Education at University of Southern California. As dean of the Rossier School, Gallagher was an early adopter of online education opportunities beginning in 2010.

Please contact us if you would like the full transcript.

Show Notes

High points of the conversation follow.

Kathryn Baron (02:30): Dr. Biggin, … what happened that revealed this dark side [of cheating] to you?

Dr. Mark Biggin (02:41): Oh, oh, direct experience from a class I was teaching. During the lockdown, suddenly we were giving exams that were unproctored online as opposed to proctored in person. I assumed that if we just told the students to follow the honor code, they would do that. I didn’t imagine many students would cheat, but the readers, for the first time I was doing this, pointed out they found two students who obviously had copied their answers. They were very similar.

Dr. Mark Biggin (03:08): From there, being me, somewhat an analysis person, I started doing a statistical analysis and I found that some of the students had very usually similar question scores. They got the same scores for many questions, and so the greater scores. When we looked at the written answers of those students, we found that many of those had cheated and the students that we challenged, most of them confessed.

Dr. Mark Biggin (03:30): Through some iterative process, we kept finding more and more students who cheated. We eventually found that in that particular class, it was the worst case we had actually. 19% of the students in the end, we found had cheated. I was floored. I kept saying, “Oh, I found say five or six groups, 15/17 students.” Said, “Oh, well that must be most of them.” Then one of the students who cheated said, “Oh, no, no, no, I bet there’s more than that.”

Dr. Mark Biggin (03:58): That student was right, and just kept going. That was my entrée.

Dr. Mark Biggin (04:29): Well, it’s important to say these were online exams which were unproctored. They were actually open books, so students were allowed to look at lecture notes, but that wasn’t sufficient for some of the students. What they do is they first go through and answer all the questions they can answer and then they collude by just literally sending an email with … or in some way, a text, whatever, literally the entire exam that they’ve written.

They copy those answers from their colleagues that they didn’t know the answer to.

Dr. Mark Biggin (05:24): It’s just wholesale copying. When you look at some of the copied answers, so a chemical structure, they copy it minutely. It’s not that they … They’re really just blindly copying. This is not an intellectual collaboration. This is blind copying.

Dr. Karen Symms Gallagher (10:40): In the last couple of years, we’ve had over a thousand cases that have been referred to SJACS, [ the student run process for academic integrity cases at USC] not exclusively for cheating, but between the fall of 2019 and the fall of 2020, there was 115% increase in cheating, reported cheating by faculty. Most of it was what we call contract cheating. It was collusion, looking up answers during a test.

Again, a lot of unproctored tests. It was, like many universities, we rapidly went into online education through Zoom, and we saw this increase of reported cheating.

Dr. Karen Symms Gallagher (12:10): We know the saying, there’s an app for that. Well, when it comes to cheating, there are hundreds of apps for that. That is because contract cheating, which really is outsourcing answers or essays for an exchange of money, is very lucrative. In the last 10 years alone, there have been a sizable investment by venture capitalists in apps that clearly are cheating apps. I mean, they say they’re for homework help, but they’re inexpensive.

Dr. Karen Symms Gallagher (12:49): They’re like signing up for Netflix so it’s possible for almost any student to use these apps. Now, be clear, we’ve had cheating like this. We’ve actually had what you call contract cheating, but it was usually something that students who had the resources, either the money or the ability to find people have used. But with these apps … And as an aside, I’m not naming any of them. I don’t think that’s the important part on this.

Dr. Karen Symms Gallagher (13:22): It’s just that it is very lucrative for these for-profit ed-tech companies. They advertise on social media so that students are inundated, whether on Facebook or Twitter they get advertising for this. It’s in a kind of advertising that appeals to students about how overworked they are, how awful COVID is, let us help you.

Dr. Karen Symms Gallagher (13:53): We can not only help you with your answers to your math problems and your … in the STEM fields, but also, we can write that essay for you with little as a couple of days’ notice. In exchange of money, we can have someone write that five-page paper for you, all the way up to we can have them write your research paper. Again, it’s the number of commercial cheating apps out there and their ability to advertise in places that they’ll find students.

Dr. Mark Biggin (17:49): We get a median of 4% of students cheating across all the exams we’ve looked at, but it varies greatly by class. Some classes seem to have a more persistent problem, probably because they’re considered by the students to be high value because they’re important. One that I teach is required for medical school and that’s one we’ve had the biggest problem with. That speaks to … I think is telling you to some extent why students are doing this.

Dr. Mark Biggin (18:52): I think academics are to some extent a little naive at ignoring that [economic] incentive. It’s an enormous effect. As to the harm done, we’ve already discussed I think the … If students know that other students are cheating, although only a minority cheat, the rest of the student body are aware this is happening, particularly during the pandemic. But if you have a lot of online courses or those courses where people can cheat and do cheat, the other students know.

Dr. Mark Biggin (19:19): If the administration, the faculty aren’t making what are perceived to be sufficiently effective attempts to mitigate and stop that cheating, it creates a pall over the environment. Sort of the sense of trust and comfort with the system is corroded somewhat.

Dr. Mark Biggin (20:30): Well, because most classes the students are judged relatively to the other students, for every student who goes up a grade, an honor student who didn’t cheat goes down a grade. 10% of students cheating, that’s 20% of the grades are inaccurate. 10% got a grade too high and 10% a grade too low.

Dr. Karen Symms Gallagher (21:47): Yes. I agree very much with Dr. Biggin, that we have to do something as the administrators and as faculty. We cannot let students prosper from cheating. In the long run, if we erode the belief in the academic integrity of a college, a school, a department, we all suffer.

Dr. Karen Symms Gallagher (22:19): That is probably the most insidious part of cheating in general, but these contract cheating, these companies, these websites, these applications that are flagrantly selling cheating kinds of services. It is up to us. I think we, both administrators working with faculty and working with students, because the other students … I mean, it’s right. Other students don’t want the cheating to go on.

They know it not only harms them on a grade, but in the end, it can harm the value of the degree that they get.

Dr. Mark Biggin (25:06): Well, the physicists are always telling us if you haven’t measured it, you haven’t understood it. The first thing you have to do is measure the amount of cheating, the different forms of cheating that are occurring and know when and where it’s occurring.

Dr. Mark Biggin (26:55): We’ve been able to reduce cheating by about twofold, by informing students in advance of the method, and actually showing them the website and the website has a specific page addressed to the students explaining that our goal is not to catch them, but to dissuade them and to tell the honor students, “We’re doing this. Don’t feel threatened. We’re doing this to make sure you get the grade you deserve.”

Dr. Mark Biggin (27:20): I assumed cheating would plummet. It dropped about twofold. I still had 7% in my class this last summer collude, even with all that information and telling … The website explained to them, “You’ll be caught if you cheat.” And they cheated. In fact, one of those students had been caught in the term before in the class, was failed, took the class again, cheated again, and was caught again.

Dr. Karen Symms Gallagher (32:08): I really want to pick up on this notion of measuring it. I found out about the 115% increase in SJACS at USC through a student publication. We do not publish what’s going on at USC in our handling of student disciplinary actions, nor do most universities. In fact, I went through several student newspapers to find that there’s been this increase since the pandemic forced most classes to be online.

Dr. Karen Symms Gallagher (32:44): Well, if you don’t know what’s going on, you’re both unaware, but also there’s not much we can do about it until we recognize it is an issue. Measuring it, that is seeing again reported issues. A lot of cheating does not get reported because faculty members say, “I’m the bad person if this happens. Students will give me bad reviews on my end of the semester.” It destroys the teacher-student relationship.

Episode 004: Eren Bilen and Dr. Alexander Matros


The Score

November 30, 2021

On this episode, we’re speaking with Eren Bilen (@Ernbilen), Assistant Professor of Data Analytics at Dickinson College and Dr. Alexander Matros, a professor in the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. Both are chess players and in their September 2020 study, online cheating, amid COVID-19, they examined the connection between cheating and online chess and the extent of online cheating in universities. The report describes how the International Chess Federation and the Internet Chess Club deal with cheating and suggests what universities can learn from that.

Please contact us if you would like the full transcript.

Show Notes

High points of the conversation follow.

Eren Bilen (05:08): Yeah, the 2020 AP exams were the first time that these AP exams were given online because of, this was basically because of COVID. And so, what happened was this, so if you look at Google searches, and this is public information, you can just access this information, easily. What you see is this, so the 2020 AP exam for the math subject was given on May 12. This was in the afternoon Eastern time. So, we had 2:00 PM on May 12. And so, if you look at some of the keywords related to math concepts, such as derivative, integral, critical points, inflection point, things like that, you’ll see a spike, exactly 2:00 PM, and then following 3:00 PM, and so on, the spike basically disappears.

Eren Bilen (06:03): And so, the next day, on May 13, it was the English literature subject. If you do a similar study, so you check, this time instead of checking math related keywords, you check literature related keywords. So, you can do imagery, literary techniques, diction, things like that. You get the spike, exactly at 2:00 PM on May 13. This is again the time of the test.

Eren Bilen (06:29): And then last, you can even check physics, for example, this was the next day on May 14, but this time not 2:00 PM, it was 4:00 PM in the afternoon. And you get this spike on physics related keywords at exactly 4:00 PM on May 14. So, it looks like students basically do some Google searching in order to find the answers, was this helpful? Yes, no, we’re not sure, but at least students tried.

Kathryn Baron (06:57): At least they tried to cheat. So, was this an unproctored online exam?

Eren Bilen (07:06): That is correct. It was unproctored.

Eren Bilen (10:21): Sure. Yeah. So, in the data, so we were quote on quote, “lucky,” in the sense that we had one special tool that enabled us to basically pinpoint what’s going on, what’s going on? The issue was this, so we looked at the time the students took to answer their questions. So we gave them basically a test with 20 questions. And these questions were not multiple choice. So, the students had to basically enter numbers using their keyboards. And what we saw was that some of the students had very strange timings.

Eren Bilen (11:02): So, for example, on a question that you will expect a student to take on average, let’s say five minutes, the student gave an answer in seven seconds. You can say, “Okay, this is one occasion. The student just input a random number or something.” That was not the case. That was the correct answer. So, for example, the correct answer was let’s say 347. So, a student was able to pick that number 347 in less than 10 seconds. And this kept going and going. So next question. Similar. Third question, again, somethings similar. So, it kept on going for 20 questions.

Eren Bilen (11:40): So, the overall time the student took to complete the exam was about 10 minutes.

Kathryn Baron (12:30): But Eren, in seven seconds, how did they cheat, could they actually look something up online that quickly?

Eren Bilen (12:36): So, you cannot do this in seven seconds. So, what we believe that students had was that they had the answers from other students who volunteered to take the test before they did, and they gave them the correct answers. And then you basically had a list in front of you with question names and then the correct answers. They basically looked at this test, the answer sheet, and it probably took them on average, 10 seconds to be able to figure out that was the question that they were seeing on the screen. And basically, they inputted the correct number using their keyboards. So, looks like this on average takes 10 seconds.

Kathryn Baron (15:51): You earlier and mentioned fairness. And it does seem that this issue raises some huge ethical issues around fairness, because a student who works very hard to get good grades could very likely do worse in a class because that student didn’t cheat. And even though teachers and professors know from say homework assignments and classroom participation, which students are studying, what can they do when the test results don’t reflect that because of cheating?

Dr. Alexander Matros (16:21): Yeah. I think in a sense, you ask very, very important questions. So, in a sense, during this pandemic during the whole year, so we had some expectations, we had some, you can call this social norm, so what we expect. So, let’s say people would come to a class and they would take a test and then you can rent them based on these results. And everything is from this point of view, more or less fair.

Dr. Alexander Matros (16:45): Now, if you take a test at home, especially if it’s not proctored, so nobody knows who took this test. And then the situation now is such that we have another social norm when if you have these expectations if you have these beliefs that everybody else is teaching. So, this immediately puts you in situation when just, you might be the best student, but you feel that you have no chances to compete with this, as a students, unless you cheat as well.

Dr. Alexander Matros (17:15): And we just move from what is called, maybe [inaudible 00:17:18] When you have these expectations, these are self-fulfilling expectations. And now if everybody cheats, everybody expects that. And then they play according to this morals.

Dr. Alexander Matros (20:06): So, if you put a little bit of effort trying to check them, so maybe they would just abstain from this kind of behavior. And then this even simple monitoring can remove a lot, a lot of cheating. So, it would definitely not remove all cheating, but it would remove simple ones. So, for students like you describe, so who would actually prepare their rooms, you cannot eliminate that, but they put so much effort. So, if they would study instead, they would do so much better.

Dr. Alexander Matros (22:38): But online, you have some clues, it’s never direct evidence. It’s only like indirect evidence. So, you can say, “okay, so the student took a test and finished this test in 5 minutes or 20 questions. It was multiple choice. And their answer is perfect.” But then is it possible? Yes, it’s possible. Because again, you can also win a lottery, so you just put the number and then you just like and you won. So, a student had a good day, so answer everything correctly. So, and then it’s possible. So, you cannot say this was impossible. So, student guess correctly, so perfect.

Kathryn Baron (24:39): But do your colleagues feel that there is a lot of cheating going on in their classes or do they feel that their students, I’m just wondering is there a consensus that, “Yeah it’s going on,” or are they sort of in the dark about it?

Dr. Alexander Matros (24:54): No, I think this is clearly a consensus that was cheating and what people will do. So they would try to find like some ways how deal with that.

Dr. Alexander Matros (26:14): In my first 10 years, I had zero cases. And during pandemic yeah, I did report several cases

Eren Bilen (32:33): Yeah. We have to move from a bad equilibrium room to a better one absolutely. I absolutely agree. In order to do that, we need to use some sort of proctoring. So, it could be in person proctoring, it could be live proctoring, but with the use of proctoring, we can basically move from those bad equilibria to the better ones. Because in a bad equilibrium basically, you give an option to student to cheat, but if you’re using proctoring, then hopefully 99% of the time, student won’t be able to cheat. So that’s the key takeaway that I want to point out.

Episode 003: Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant


The Score

November 2, 2021

Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant (@tbertramgallant) is Director of Academic Integrity at UC San Diego, and Board Emeritus of the International Center for Academic Integrity. She’s co-editor of the upcoming Jossey-Bass book, Cheating Academic Integrity, Lessons from 30 Years of Research, which is due out in March 2022. On this episode of The Score, we’re speaking with Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant about what schools, colleges, and universities are doing and can do to reduce cheating. It may not be what you think.

Please contact us if you would like the full transcript.

Show Notes

High points of the conversation follow.

Kathryn Baron (02:13): I’d like to start with asking you, how has the scope and type of cheating changed with remote learning due to COVID-19?

Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant (02:22): Difficult question to answer, because COVID-19’s still ongoing, and some schools are still in emergency remote teaching. Although a lot of us have come back, or we’re trying to do hybrid. We don’t have a lot of data from that period of time. But anecdotally it seems that the contract cheating did increase during this time. In contract cheating, is the word, the phrase we use to define when students outsource their academic work to others. And so, there are websites that exist where students can post their exam question, or their assignment question, or their paper assignment, and somebody else will do the work for them. So that definitely increased during the pandemic, both because there were more opportunities to do so in terms of all of my assessments were now remote, but also, I think because of the stress and pressure the pandemic led students to take more risks and do more things that they wouldn’t have done in “normal times.”

Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant (03:34): We do know that from the research that establishing connection and community in the online environment is more challenging than in the in-person environment. And so when people feel disconnected from others, when they feel more anonymous, or their actions don’t matter, or don’t impact others, that can lead to all sorts of behaviors including cheating.

Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant (10:53): Well, our academic integrity office is quite unique in America. There’s a few universities in America that have either an honor system that’s student run, or an academic integrity office that tends to be staff run. And it’s odd that it’s unique, that you would think academic integrity is so critical to the essential teaching and learning mission that every university would have an office that focus on educating about academic integrity. And it’s common maybe in some other countries like Australia, but not here. And so my office, our mission is to promote and support a culture of integrity in order to reinforce quality teaching and learning.

Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant (21:14): Cheating knows no geographic boundaries. So it actually is pretty similar worldwide. You might get a study here or there that shows higher or lower rates in one country over another, but generally speaking, the rates are pretty consistent, and I’m talking self-reported rates of cheating. So these are students telling us how much they’re cheating. So some social desirability bias in there, which means that the numbers are probably higher than what they’re telling us. And it’s as low as 10% of students admitting that they cheat at least once a year, to as many as in the 40%, or even some studies have shown in the 70 and 80% range are admitting to it. So there doesn’t seem to be a difference by country. And I would say that if you talk to anybody like me in different countries, they would say our students are stressed, our students are pressured, because it’s a global education system at this point.

Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant (22:55): But as an organizational leadership theorist, we know that resources can be found for what we find to be important. And people judge what is important in a particular culture based on what the leaders are attending to, what they’re spending money on, what they’re saying. In the recent years we’ve seen this country in particular, the United States, trying to tackle racism, for example, in ways that haven’t been tackled in the past. And in particular, in higher education institutions, a lot of higher education institutions have done things like created if not an office for diversity equity, inclusion, at least a person who can keep the university focused on the goal.

There’s requirements in curriculum, there’s requirements in tenure and promotion for faculty that they attend to diversity, equity and inclusion. And that’s because the universities decided this is very, very important. And so universities can decide the same thing about academic integrity, that this is a critical piece of our teaching and learning mission. We must spend money on it. We must have symbols that we care about academic integrity. We’re known, myself and some others are known for saying that if we don’t do this, if we don’t attend to academic integrity in a very proactive, intentional way, we have the risk of all of us turning into essentially diploma mills, where we are not truly, honestly and fairly assessing and certifying knowledge and abilities because cheating is potentially out of control. That sounds very hyperbolic and very alarmist, and I’m not talking tomorrow, or next week, or next month, but there’s signs that cheating is becoming institutionalized in the periphery of higher education by all these companies that exist to facilitate cheating, if we don’t act in a way that counters those highly effective actors, then it can’t be good.

Kathryn Baron (25:45): What can we do, and what can the International Center for Academic Integrity do when there are these, as you mentioned, contract cheating agencies that are actually traded on the stock exchange? They’re just as embedded in the fabric of our economy right now.

Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant (26:01): Anytime that there’s big actors like that on one side, you need big actors on the other side. And the International Center for Academic Integrity, although is approaching 30 years old in 2022, is small and not well supported frankly. Every college university should be a member of ICAI to support its mission of cultivating academic integrity cultures around the world. Without that support, we just don’t have the resources to counter those other organizations directly. And so we’re left with working of trying to help universities and colleges and faculty, in particular, rethink, one, we have to counter their narrative as much as we can. So is there ways that we can, again, it’s insidious because students get text messages, they get emails, they get Discord server and WeChat message messages from these companies. How do we counter that? How do we say no, don’t do it?

Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant (27:02): It was easy if there was a flyer on campus, back in the day, again, if there was a flyer on campus saying, hey, post your questions, give your question to us and we’ll answer it. I could slap a sticker on there saying, don’t be a cheater. I could do direct messaging. It’s a lot more diff now. So we do need support. We need a national and international backing behind this, like for example, in Australia where the quality assurance agency, TEQSA, pushed and they now have a law against contract cheating. And, in fact, just one shutting down a company from advertising cheating services in Australia. So that’s the route that we have to take in addition to thinking about how can we teach differently? How can we assess differently? Given that it is the 21st century and the internet and all exists, and all of these other technological advances are going to keep coming. We have to keep evolving as an educational institution and as a curricula, to teach and assess differently than we did 30 years ago.

Kathryn Baron (28:11): Is integrity in some way a part of accreditation for colleges and universities?

Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant (28:16): Not in the United States. So it is in Australia. We do not have quality assurance in the United States, and we do not have a national approach, it’s regional. And there are not pressures from the accrediting agencies for institutions to attend to academic integrity.

Kathryn Baron (32:46): We’ve discussed this on a couple of other episodes in terms of the scope of cheating today. But what I’m wondering is, how new is cheating? Is this something that has evolved as higher education has become the North Star for getting jobs and getting ahead in life?

Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant (34:06): So cheating has always existed. Contract cheating has always existed. This is not new that people are getting other people to do their stuff for them, it’s just the internet and the business, the industry around it is new. It used to have to know somebody, it used to be more of a dark alley where you’d arrange to meet someone, and now you just get advertisements to do it. So it’s easier. Think about how hard it was for you to plagiarize back in the day. We would’ve literally had to read the book and type it, right now you can just copy and paste, but we don’t have any proof that students, individual people are cheating more or less than before.

Kathryn Baron (35:14): One final question then, you’ve discussed quite a few, not necessarily controversial, but definitely unique ways of looking at how to address cheating instead of just being punitive about it. And I’m wondering what can be done from a policy regulatory perspective to help facilitate that? You mentioned somethings happening in Australia right now. Is there something that, say in the United States we could start to do?

Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant (35:44): Yeah. So 17 states do have education codes that prohibit essentially contract cheating. Those codes have to be enforced by somebody, usually an attorney general for the state, those 17 states could just actually start applying the laws as they are written. But really, I think we need a quality assurance and, or accreditation agencies to say, academic integrity is critical. You must be attending to it to be an accredited institution. And what does that attending to it look like? That has got to be done.

There should be a federal law. Look at the way the FBI went after the college admission scandal, they used mail fraud to go after people who were essentially contract cheating. Those people were contract cheating for their kids to say, give fake personal statements, or fake dossiers, or whatever. And they used federal law to crack down on that. That’s not happening. They’re allowing the contract cheating industry to grow up around us. And as you said, be publicly traded and gain legitimacy. And so we’ve got to start acting in the ways that the UK and Australia and Ireland are, and New Zealand, which says, this is not acceptable. This is undermining a fundamental enterprise of our 21st century, which is education. And we are going to do something about it. We are going to prohibit it, and we are going to go after those who continue to do it regardless.

Episode 002: Jarret Dyer


The Score

October 19, 2021

This episode of The Score features Jarret Dyer, former president of the National College Testing Association, test center administrator and co-chair of Academic Integrity at College of DuPage and a well-known, vocal expert on test administration, test security and academic integrity. He talks with host Kathryn Baron (@TchersPet) about who is most likely to cheat and how students feel about cheating. And shares an interesting story of how one student evaded a test proctor and says regarding research on cheating by students: “More than half the students admitted to cheating on tests.”

Please contact us if you would like the full transcript.

Show Notes

High points of the conversation follow.

Jarret Dyer (04:40): From our own research we found that students in essence think [cheating is] conditional, it really depends on if the institution has provided them with the ability to cheat, their words, not mine, or if there were preventative measures to keep them from cheating.

Jarret Dyer (09:17): We found that more than half of the students, so about 61% interviewed admitted to having cheating on tests. They do not do it very often and then generally do not think it’s acceptable, but here comes the but, but more than three quarters, so 75% do not consider all types of cheating that we presented them with as totally unacceptable. So, in other words, many students view academic integrity as conditional.

Jarret Dyer (10:32): Students are more likely to think that cheating is acceptable, even expected if a test is given without a Proctor.

Jarret Dyer (10:56): And what we’re finding, what previous research, prior to ours, really has shown is that there’s been a bit of a transition to an expectation for the institution to demonstrate the importance of why the action should not, why the cheating should not take place.

Kathryn Baron (13:16): And it’s frightening actually. I mean, I wonder, should we be alarmed because you mentioned engineering and nursing. I really don’t want to go into a hospital and have a nurse who cheated working on me, it just seems a little bit scary.

Jarret Dyer (13:52): But I have been at enough test security presentations by colleagues who usually start with a story of an individual who, I mean and terrifying stuff, an airplane crash, or a ship going off course or things of this nature, where it was shown that there had been either a large-scale cheating or particular cheating within a certain area. And you have to ask yourself, did one lead to the other? Was that pilot or that captain not capable of doing because of this?

Jarret Dyer (17:45): And really from our research, what we found, that there’s a lot of rationalization and that students really, they think about the cheating behavior and they state, they tell themselves that if an instructor did not want us to cheat, they would not make it so easy for us to do so. So, placing the blame back on either the faculty or the institution for making it so easy. And what’s again, alarming is you had said about that is on the flip side, previous research has shown that faculty don’t believe that as much cheating is going on as students do. So, if you’re seeing a V-shaped perspective here with faculty thinking that there’s less cheating going on, and students thinking that the faculty are making it easier for them to achieve, then that proliferation goes unchecked.