Volume 4, Issue 1, January 2020
An Empirical Examination of Student Cheating in Online Courses and the Effects on Academic Integrity
Author: Roland Sparks
Students cheating their way through college is a growing concern for academic institutions. Ask any university professor if they think the rate of academic dishonesty is increasing and they will say an emphatical “Yes!” Unfortunately, all previous research work to measure academic dishonesty rates and the effect on academic integrity use self-reported student data making the results tainted. This research used a blind study to measure student cheating and its overall effects on achieving course outcomes.
The methodology measured two online graduate level business student classes (n=53) at a major university over one-term. The instrument was a three-part assignment that required both analytical skills and analysis. The incorrect solutions were available on Course Hero for the progressive assignments. Students who followed the course instructions, and did the required analysis, would see the Course Hero solution to be incorrect. Students that cheated, and did not understand the material, submitted the incorrect solutions from Course Hero.
The results showed 56.6% of students cheated on the first part of the assignment. The students received individual feedback that their solution was not correct or supported by their work. However, they were not notified of the cheating. The second part of the assignment required correction of the first part and further analysis. Of the cheating group, 10% dropped the course, 50% continued to cheat and 40% stopped using Course Hero and completed the work.
The overall class results showed that 24.5% of the class cheated throughout the class with 18.9% or the students earning a passing grade that should not have passed the class. The success rate for cheaters was 62.5%. A t-test of means showed that cheaters earned an average grade of 5.8 percentage points (p=0.03) less than honest students.
This is the first study to examine online student cheating using an independent instrument. The results show that about 18.9% of the students passing online courses are not meeting academic standards. With over six million students taking online courses, this is a major issue for academic integrity in the online educational system.
Keywords: Academic Integrity, Online Education, Cheating