SolveYourProblem Article Series: Online Degrees
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How Do Online Universities Stop Cheating?

Just as the popularity of online universities is increasing, so, unfortunately, is the amount of students trying to cheat. Some students will continue to try and find the easy way out regardless of the situation. It is, however, becoming easier to monitor and catch students in the act. Here are some of the ways that your university of choice may be monitoring you to maintain honesty in the classroom.

Many professors will have a written honesty policy. Plagiarism is a legal issue and you can be sued or taken to jail for it. Follow all rules for citing sources correctly. If you are unclear on the policies, check with the professor for an explanation. Failure to comply can have serious consequences.

Some schools will monitor time online to help prevent cheating. This might include required log in times, certain classes where students must be logged in at the same time as the instructor, or monitored sites for testing purposes. Students who are not logged in often enough and yet still completing assignments could be earmarked as possible cheaters. Other schools require students to go to the campus for testing purposes, where staff can monitor them.

Other professors will make use of anti-plagiarism sites to monitor work. Since many online course assignments are turned in electronically, it is an easy matter for teachers to submit questionable material. These sites, either for free or for a small fee, will compare a paper to others or match like phrases. Or a simple phrase search in a search engine can bring up papers that are easily accessible on the web. These will help a teacher find possible sources of information. If you do quote another paper, make sure that it is done correctly.

Teachers are also informed of what is already readily available on the Web through paper mill websites. Just as any student has access to websites promoting purchasable term papers, so do the teachers. It is easy for them to then do a quick search of topics before assigning projects, and this will often be done prior to assigning a project to see what is available ahead of time.

Teachers will also keep a close eye on the quality of writing being submitted. Papers that are way out of the league of ordinarily submitted papers in writing quality, that quote an unusual number of sources, vary greatly in the assigned length, or do not sound like a student’s previous submitted works might be flagged as possible cheating.

Other teaches will keep files on their computer of past essays and projects from other students. If something sounds familiar to them, it is just a mouse click away to looking it up. Also, since everything is submitted electronically, it is easy to compare two papers submitted at the same time. Remember, project-selling websites do not care who buys the papers, so the same one might try to get passed off as an original at the same time. Too identical papers will obviously be a tip off to the professor, and result in action being taken against both students.

You might also find that the face of schoolwork is changing. Teachers are encouraged to make writing assignments specific. This might include a certain paper length and certain amount of cited sources. Required readings are focusing on more recent publications. Assignments might be required to be turned in with all steps from outlining to rough drafts to final product included. Active conversation in threaded discussions might be required for a grade. You might also find yourself writing more so that teachers become accustomed to your style.

Testing is also changing. You might see fewer multiple choice and matching tests for final exams. Tests are generally viewed as “open book” when taking them online, so questions become more in-depth. Students might not be given the same tests, and some teachers are getting rid of testing all together. Instead, they use research papers and projects as their way to find out how much the student understands.

Cheating and plagiarism are wrong, and often carry with them harsh penalties. Students may fail a class or be expelled from the university without refund. In the case of plagiarism, they may also face legal charges. With new safeguards in place it is becoming easier for teachers to catch cheaters, so it is becoming less of a draw for students.

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