Student cheating is expected

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No one should be surprised that large numbers of university students cheat on assignments and tests.

A CBC News story from last Tuesday presented the results from a survey of 54 Canadian universities that showed that more than 7,000 students were punished for cheating in 2011-12. The article also noted that surveys of students show that more than 50 per cent admit to cheating.

These results are completely predictable as the modern university environment virtually guarantees a substantial amount of cheating. Large class sizes mean that professors can’t accurately gauge the integrity of student work. Online quizzes induce cheating because students have virtually no checks on their behaviour when completing them.

When students are confronted with the menial labour of a first-year university course, they know that they’ll get little in terms of life experience or genuine education from studying. As a result, some often gain more real world skills in the collaborative process of cheating in concert with their classmates than they do from actually completing course work.

There are still other reasons that students are motivated to cheat. Some are simply unprepared or unsuited for university and should reconsider their choice to attend at all. Others are fully committed to their program but find it so competitive that cheating becomes an understandable remedy.

At a certain point, especially in particular faculties and classes and on particular assignments and tests, the notion that many people are cheating leads some to believe that not cheating will leave them at a significant disadvantage.

A modern university education is one that is often undertaken in order to build a resume. Moreover, students face constant reminders that the current job market is tough and high marks should be sought at all costs. There’s only so much selfishness that can be absorbed without it being taken to its logical conclusion — cheating.

Cheating has always been a part of the university experience, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if it’s on the rise. Structural changes like large class sizes, more online courses and greater competition should be understood as the cause of any increase in cheating.

— Journal Editorial Board

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