Digital technology leads to digital cheating

By Adam Ehrenberg

Cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), iPods, blackberries. They are a fundamental part of the way today’s college students grew up, with most of them owning one and using it in their daily lives. But there has been a growing concern at some colleges about the use of these devices to cheat on exams.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, about two years ago, 12 students at the University of Maryland at College Park were found guilty of cheating during the final exam of an accounting class using their Internet-enabled cell phones. They all received a grade signifying “failure due to academic dishonesty.”

Since then, the problem there and at other large colleges with students using electronic devices such as cell phones, PDAs and even Internet-connected laptops to cheat during exams has been growing. With a cell phone or PDA, students can use text messages to exchange answers with other exam takers or even get answers from someone outside the class. Some professors and administrators at these colleges have tried to deter this problem with such solutions as creating multiple versions of tests for each class, disabling Internet connectivity during tests, or even completely banning the possession of a cellphone or PDA during tests, with the student automatically failing the test if seen with one.

However, the problem may be more severe at larger colleges, possibly because cheating may be more difficult to detect in the larger classes. Perhaps this is why no instances of cheating of this nature have been reported at Flagler College. With smaller classes, students at Flagler may feel reluctant to attempt any kind of electronic cheating knowing they might be noticed.

Donald Parks has been the assistant dean of Academic Affairs at Flagler College since October.
“In my experience, I’ve certainly been aware of the possibility of students engaging in this, but I have yet to encounter an incidence of that here at Flagler,” Parks said.

According to a recent survey by Jason Stephens, a research assistant at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, about two-thirds of high-school students admit to at least minor cheating on quizzes and tests, and he estimates that college students are not far behind.

The punishment a student will receive at Flagler for cheating of any kind also most likely serves as a deterrent to any kind of academic dishonesty at Flagler. According to Flagler’s academic dishonesty policy, reprimands range anywhere from an F for the work in question to expulsion from the college.

Although there have apparently been no occurrences of “digital cheating” at Flagler, the cell phone has another use that has begun to cause concern. Because phones can be used to take pictures, rules are in the process of being established at Flagler regarding “digital imaging,” in an attempt to prevent an invasion of privacy of a person who might be oblivious to having their picture taken.

“Because of cell phones that take pictures and digital cameras, and the places that they can go, people are having their pictures taken when they haven’t given their authorization,” Dean of Student Services Daniel Stewart said. “Our concern is that someone will pop these things in a locker room door and take pictures of naked people without them knowing it. We’re trying to address this problem before that happens.”

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