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A University course to understand why students cheat

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The course wants to get a more in-depth understanding of cheating.

Cheating by students is being investigated in a university course dedicated to understanding the hidden world of academic deception. The course, being run online, is for academics who usually have the task of preventing cheating. It includes a "cheating confessional" to admit to forms of cheating.

Course leader Bernard Bull, from Concordia University Wisconsin, says there is more cheating going on than universities likely to admit. "It´s fair to say that more than half of students have cheated, even if only in some quite small way," said Dr Bull.The rapid rise of online university courses has raised questions about how to prevent students from cheating when they are studying and taking tests from home.

This course, on the Canvas online learning platform, wants to dig deeper into how and why people are actually cheating and find ways to organise courses in a way that will make cheating less likely.

Dr Bull said that there could be a simplistic view of cheating, based on what he called "poor cheating", which was usually characterised by students getting caught.

This typically involves copying material from the internet and trying to pass it off as the students´ own work. Dr Bull, based in the university´s education department, said people liked to imagine sophisticated "bank robberesque" ways of cheating, but in practice it was much more likely to be cutting and pasting from the internet or relying on someone else´s work.

Often students would have been better to put their efforts into studying, he said, rather than trying to get around plagiarism-detecting software used by universities.

There is also evidence that making students publicly commit to not cheating can be enough to make a difference. In the US, universities can require students to keep these so-called "honour codes".

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