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Learning to cheat (remotely) on a massive scale

73% of 1 851 academic staff at South African universities, who responded to a survey about perspectives on remote learning and teaching, have raised concerns about cheating.

73% of 1 851 academic staff at South African universities, who responded to a survey about perspectives on remote learning and teaching, have raised concerns about cheating.

Published Nov 16, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - A whopping 73% of 1 851 academic staff at South African universities, who responded to a survey about perspectives on remote learning and teaching, have raised concerns about cheating.

The survey was conducted by the Council on Higher Education (CHE), Universities South Africa and the University of the Free State.

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Titled “Staff Experience of and Perspectives on Teaching and Learning and its Future (SEP-TLF)”, the survey attracted respondents from 24 public universities.

The survey asked lecturers about their experiences on a range of matters relating to remote teaching and learning.

Covid-19 disrupted contact learning and exams and universities have adopted remote teaching and learning practices.

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“One of the most alarming findings in this study concerns the integrity of academic assessments as a result of cheating, and illicit collaborations have overwhelmed student disciplinary structures at institutions,” the survey report stated.

“It is vital to create opportunities and platforms to share solutions for these challenges to ensure the quality of teaching and learning.”

The majority of the lecturers identified cheating among students as a serious problem. This included plagiarism and dishonesty during tests, exams and other forms of assessment.

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“Three-quarters (73%) of respondents are concerned about academic dishonesty in online assessments and two-thirds (67%) are concerned about students’ ethical engagement with academic materials,” said the report.

The report contained direct remarks by the lecturers. One said: “The blatant cheating with no remorse is incredibly disappointing, devastating in fact. “I have learnt to develop assessments which make cheating more difficult, and now refer cheating for disciplinary (hearings).

“We use Turnitin (a system that detects plagiarism), but students try to cheat that, too.”

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Another lecturer said: “Cheating in online assignments was a complete nightmare, and no support was provided by the institution.”

University student disciplinary bodies were overburdened with cases of cheating.

As a result some students were not sanctioned, said a lecturer.

“There was also a marked increase in student dishonesty, and the student disciplinary bodies were simply overwhelmed by the number of reported incidents. So students effectively got away with it”.

Cape Times

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