Study: online cheating doesn’t help
David Pritchard, a physics professor at MIT, recently conducted a study on cheating (see Cheaters Never Win, at Least in Physics, Wired Campus). Some of the data came from an online homework system, which was able to show how long students spent answering individual questions. Taking less than a minute to correctly answer a complex question was considered an indicator of cheating. Pritchard found that students who frequently cheated on homework scored two letter grades lower on an exam.
“Pritchard said that many professors turn a blind eye when students cheat on homework. ‘A lot of people are willing to forgive copying because they think those students are weaker— that they work as hard but just aren’t as able to get them,’ he said. But he said their research showed that cheaters were most often those who waited until the last minute to start the work and that they copy answers before even trying the problems.”
The American Physical Society published the study “Patterns, correlates, and reduction of homework copying” earlier this year in an online journal. Professor Pritchard now shares the results with his classes, hoping reluctant students will see that it’s important to actually work out the homework problems.
Many people are only interested in punishing this kind of behavior. It’s encouraging to see a study aimed reducing cheating – in this case by exposing some of the negative consequences.
FOLLOW-UP: High-Tech Cheating on Homework Abounds, and Professors Are Partly to Blame – a column in the Chronicle