Submitted by Samantha Mladen
Mastin, D., Peszka, J., & Lilly, D. (2009). Online academic integrity. Teaching of Psychology, 36(3), 174-178.
Summary of Article
Aim: Investigate whether academic pledges reduce the level of cheating in online assignments, and assess the overall rate of cheating in online assignments
Method: 439 introductory psychology students were recruited over three semesters. Participants were told that they would be completing an online motor task and that their earned extra credit would increase based on their score on the motor task. Participants were told that the computer program would not track their correct responses, and thus they were asked to self-report their correct response total.
Students were randomized to three experimental conditions: no pledge, check mark pledge, and written honor pledge
Results: 361 participants (82.2%) accurately reported their performance, 16 (3.6%) underreported their performance, and 62 (14.1%) overreported their performance.
Mean magnitude of cheating in the entire sample was 0.39/10 points (SD = 1.52), but the mean in the cheating sample was 3.08/10 points over-reporting (SD = 2.75).
Honor pledge condition had no effect on the rate of cheating in the overall sample, or in the cheating subset . Participants were 2.06 times more likely to cheat at the end of the semester than at the beginning, but time of semester did not affect the magnitude of cheating. When the required magnitude of overreporting to be considered cheating was increased (2 points out of 10 instead of 1 point out of 10) the percentage of students cheating dropped to 8.0%. This change was made to account for the presence of 13 students underreporting by 1 point – the authors allowed a larger margin of error in reporting before labelling over-reporting as cheating.
Discussion: Research is still needed to determine the actual rates of cheating on online assignments, and effective strategies to reduce rates of cheating. These efforts are becoming more important as more institutions and professors institute online courses and assessment methods. Though the external validity is not perfect, since most online exams are not self-report, the lack of significance of the honor pledge condition is troubling.
- Would you include a version of an honor pledge in your courses? Has your opinion changed as a result of reading this study?
- Forsyth cites a study that claims that more students say that they would be more likely to cheat online than the rates at which they actually cheat. What does this tell us about the way in which students approach online learning? How can we use this information to try to prevent cheating?
- Online learning brings with it tremendous opportunities to increase collaboration and team-based learning among students. How would you balance this opportunity with the reality that it may make cheating easier for students?