Academic Dishonesty and Distance Learning: Student and Faculty Views

By Kennedy, Kristen; Nowak, Sheri et al. | College Student Journal, June 2000 | Go to article overview

Academic Dishonesty and Distance Learning: Student and Faculty Views


Kennedy, Kristen, Nowak, Sheri, Raghuraman, Renuka, Thomas, Jennifer, Davis, Stephen F., College Student Journal


Cheating is a major concern on many college campuses. For example, Davis, Grover, Becker, and McGregor (1992) reported that between 40% and 60% of their student respondents reported cheating on at least one examination. The 1990s also witnessed the unprecedented growth of distance learning and Web-based courses. Because students and faculty do not interact directly in such classes, they offer a unique venue for academic dishonesty. The present project explored student and faculty views concerning cheating and distance learning. The results indicated that both faculty and students believe it is easier to cheat in distance learning classes. Additional factors that impact the perceived ease of cheating in these classes are evaluated.

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Cheating is becoming a major concern on many college campuses (Fishbein, 1993; Haines, Diekhoff, LaBeff, & Clark, 1986; Singhal, 1982). Jendreck (1989) and Davis, Grover, Becker, and McGregor (1992) indicated that between 40% and 60% of their student respondents reported cheating on at least one examination. McCabe and Bowers (1994) corroborated these data at nonhonor-code institutions, but they found that students at institutions having honor codes had lower self-reported cheating rates. In addition, Davis et al. reported that students at small, private liberal arts colleges reported lower cheating rates.

The 1990s have witnessed the unprecedented growth of distance learning. According to Rubiales, Steely, Wollner, Richardson, and Smith (1998), "Distance learning is the process whereby the education of a student occurs in circumstances where the educator and the student are geographically separated, and the communication across this distance is accomplished by one or more forms of technology, typically electronic, such as television and computers ..." (p. 32). Because students and faculty do not interact directly in distance learning instruction, this situation offers a unique venue for academic dishonesty. The present project explored student and faculty views concerning the relation between cheating and distance learning. Such issues as type, rate, and methodology of cheating were examined via questionnaires administered to students and faculty. The acquisition of demographics facilitated a variety of comparisons based on subgroup membership.

Method

Participants

Student sample. One hundred seventy-two students (127 women, 44 men, 1 undeclared) enrolled at a medium-size, regional, Midwestern university served as participants. The students ranged in age from 18 to 70 years (M = 32.30, SD = 11.85). Eight students were freshmen, 7 were sophomores, 24 were juniors, 35 were seniors, and 95 were graduate students (2 did not list their classification). Twenty-five of the men had completed an electronic course, whereas 19 had not. Eighty-four of the women had completed an electronic course, 42 had not.

Faculty sample. Sixty-nine faculty members (36 women, 33 men) from a medium-size, regional, Midwestern university served as participants.

Survey Instruments

Two survey instruments, one for the students and one for the faculty, were developed for this project. These surveys are described separately.

Student survey. In addition to demographic items (age, sex, academic classification), the student survey consisted of six questions. The first two questions dealt with whether the respondent had cheated at least once, the frequency of cheating, and whether the person had been caught cheating in high school (Question 1) and college (Question 2). The remaining questions determined: (a) whether the respondent felt cheating improves a person's exam score (Question 3), (b) whether the respondent had taken an electronic class (Question 4), (c) whether the respondent felt it would be easier to cheat in an electronic class (Question 5), and (d) what methods the respondent would use to cheat in an electronic class (Question 6). …

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