The internet and smartphones have made it easier for students to cheat in exams, a new report into academic misconduct at the University of Sydney has found. The report followed investigations into ways to prevent and detect academic dishonesty and misconduct among students at the university.
The Academic Misconduct and Plagiarism Taskforce completed a number of investigations during May and June 2015, including interviews with representatives from each of the university’s 16 faculties ::::
The report, ‘An Approach to Minimising Academic Misconduct and Plagiarism at the University of Sydney’, states, “The problem of cheating in exams is not trivial — a study on multiple choice exams within the university revealed an average level of cheating of about 5 percent”.
The report found social media helps students share stolen exam papers and questions quickly, with several cases of this reported across the university.
“Computer security breaches where exams can be stolen are also not uncommon, and any exam that is not changed constantly should be assumed to be in the public domain.”
The authors of the report found exam supervision must be rigorous, devices should be confiscated and recommended a solution be found to prevent students using toilet breaks to search the internet for answers.
The report also looked at other forms of fraud and dishonesty, such as fraudulent medical certificates and other methods used to obtain special consideration.
“This can occur in relation to any assessment task, but a large area of concern for faculty is in relation to exams, particularly where students who have attended an exam subsequently claim illness and apply to re-sit the exam at a later date.
“Where the medical certificate has indeed been issued by a medical professional in good faith, there is little that can be done, even if the staff member suspects fraud.
“There are also cases where such certificates are faked or even sold.”
The report stated the major forms of academic dishonesty involved plagiarism, collusion, recycling and ghost writing. There were also a few instances of academic dishonesty specific to certain disciplines, such as the use of a pre-prepared tooth in a simulation exam in dentistry.
The report made a number of recommendations covering education, assessment, record keeping, coordination, support and policy changes.
Among the recommendations was a suggestion to incorporate at least one tutorial or lecture session in the first year of every course for training in academic honesty matters. The report comes on the heals of last years havoc caused by foreign students caught cheating via MyMaster website.
University of Sydney Setting-up Taskforce to Tackle Ghost Writing
April 13, 2015 :: The University of Sydney set up the taskforce to investigate academic misconduct in the wake of new methods of cheating, including students using essay writing services. The university’s vice-chancellor, Dr Michael Spence, said he will personally head the taskforce.
“Academic misconduct has no place at the University of Sydney, and the overwhelming majority of our students adhere to our high standards of academic merit, intellectual rigour and ethical behaviour,” Dr Spence said in a statement.
Sydney University was among 16 tertiary institutions affected by an essay cheating scandal involving students paying the MyMaster company to ghost write assignments and to sit online tests.
“This is not a problem unique to a single faculty or cohort of students – or indeed a single university – but one with which the entire education sector must contend,” Dr Spence said.
Dr Spence said a small number of students had tried to flout the system using new technologies and the taskforce would consider new methods to detect plagiarism and other misconduct.
“Our assessment processes are designed to minimise the opportunity for misconduct, but we know that the advent of new technologies has led to increasingly innovative methods for students to use,” Dr Spence said. “And sadly, a small number continue to try and use them instead of applying such innovation to their studies.
Major Universities Crack-down on MyMaster Essay Writing Service
April 16, 2015 :: Several Sydney universities caught up in a cheating scandal that includes students using essay writing services say they are responding and cracking down on the new cheating method. Students from 16 different universities have been identified as using the service.
It’s understood that the University of Sydney is now looking at how to overhaul the ways students are assessed, to minimise the opportunity for students to cheat and abuse the system. One option being considered is having more “in-class exams” to make a comparison with the work students submit in online assessments.
The University of New South Wales – UNSW – said so far, 19 students had been identified as involved in the cheating scandal. A spokeswoman said some of the cases are at the active investigation stage and others are being decided on or are under appeal.
UNSW is the only university involved that would not expel a student if they were found to have been involved. The maximum penalty is an 18-month-long suspension. Forty-three current and recently graduated Macquarie University students have been referred to the university’s disciplinary committee, with hearings to be held over the next few weeks.
The university’s deputy vice-chancellor Professor John Simons said the university took matters of academic misconduct extremely seriously.
“We will leave no stone unturned in establishing whether or not cheating has occurred,” Professor Simons said.
The University of Newcastle has so far penalised 31 students over the cheating scandal. It said other students who graduated last year but were yet to respond to cheating allegations risked having their degrees revoked.
The University of Technology in Sydney said 15 students had been identified at cheats so far, with about 60 others still under investigation. A spokesman said the potential penalties ranged from a minimum of a zero mark for the subject to permanent exclusion from the university.
“The most common penalty would be suspension from the university for a semester, which would be noted on the student’s academic record,” he said.
Macquarie University Cancels Degrees and Fails Students Involved in Cheating Scandal
May 20, 2015 :: Two Macquarie University graduates were stripped of their degrees for cheating after they submitted essays they had bought from the ghost-writing service. Another 10 students have been prevented from graduating after they failed subjects they were found to have cheated in.
The students were understood to be caught-up in the MyMaster scandal. The university conducted an internal investigation after allegations of cheating in 17 Australian universities and tertiary institutions. 56 students were referred to disciplinary hearings and two graduates had their degrees formally withdrawn.
“Thirty-six students were found responsible for use of the MyMaster website in violation of both the University’s Academic Honesty Policy and Student Code of Conduct,” a statement from the university said. “The committee imposed fail grades for each student in the units for which they submitted ‘ghost-written’ assignments, and instructed them to complete an ethics assessment assigned by the university. All 36 have been placed on academic probation until the completion of their studies, with 10 students prevented from graduating, as they no longer meet the academic requirements for their degree. Two graduates attended disciplinary hearings and were found responsible for using MyMaster to obtain their degrees. Both were given fail grades for the relevant units and advised that as they no longer met the academic requirements of their degrees, the degrees would be formally withdrawn. Neither student appealed this decision.”
In March this year the Independent Commission Against Corruption – ICAC – urged universities to step up their protocols to stamp out cheating among international students, following revelations students at 17 institutions had used the service.
The MyMaster website was written in Chinese and targeted international students. In a paper released after a meeting with university representatives, the ICAC identified several areas at risk of corruption and 12 key initiatives to help universities manage them, it’s believed the website has been taken down, the domain name seems to be up for sale.
Macquarie deputy vice-chancellor John Simons said a minority of students practised cheating and the university would continue to work hard to prevent and penalise it.
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