Dr. Donna Velliaris shares her content expertise on trending topics in higher education

Caring or Collusion? Dr. Donna Velliaris tackles cheating behaviors

By IGI Global on May 4, 2017
Emerging Research TrendsDr. Donna Velliaris
Dr. Donna M. Velliaris is currently living and working in Singapore. She recently took some time out of her busy schedule to collaborate with Promotions Assistant, Elizabeth Leber, to discuss her new IGI Global publication: Handbook of Research on Academic Misconduct in Higher Education, and to follow up on her IGI news article from Jan. 10, 2017.

IGI Global: Tell us a little about yourself and your experience in higher education.

Dr. Donna Velliaris: Originally a high school teacher in Australia, I hold two Graduate Certificates in (a) Australian Studies and (b) Religious Education; two Graduate Diplomas in (a) Secondary Education and (b) Language and Literacy Education; as well as three Master’s degrees in (a) Educational Sociology, (b) Studies of Asia, and (c) Special Education. In 2010, I graduated with a PhD in Education from the University of Adelaide focused on the ecological development of school-aged transnational students in Tokyo, Japan, where I previously taught at an international school.

My edited books include: (1) Handbook of Research on Academic Misconduct in Higher Education [IGI Global 2016] (2) Handbook of Research on Study Abroad Programs and Outbound Mobility [IGI Global 2016]; and (3) Study Abroad Contexts for Enhanced Foreign Language Learning [IGI Global, forthcoming 2017]. My research interests are many and varied: academic acculturation; authoethnographic studies; human ecology; international schooling; schools as cultural systems; study abroad; teacher professional development; and Third Culture Kids (TCKs)/transnational students.

How do traditional and contemporary forms of academic misconduct differ?

As listed in the preface of the Handbook of Research on Academic Misconduct in Higher Education, traditional ways of cheating used to involve recording answers on: bathroom stalls; body parts; crib sheets; articles of clothing e.g., hats, belts, scarves, and eyeglass cases; within and behind snack food wrappers and water bottles; under wrist watches and shoes; and disguised as stationery. Cheating ‘codes’ were/are based on signals such as sneezing and yawning—with varying degrees of duration and intensity—arm-crossing, back-stretching, cap-turning, collar-pulling, ear-tugging, eraser-dropping, eye-rubbing, feet-stomping, fist-clenching, hair-twirling, head-nodding, neck-scratching, nose-touching, pen-tapping and the like.

Other techniques have been invariably called a ‘something method' as the name suggests: alternative sleeve method; Asian language method; bait and switch method; Band-Aid method; bracelet method; calculator method; correction tape method; dictionary method; eye-glasses method; fashion forward method; feign illness method; ideogram method; Kleenex method; MP3 lyrics method; peeking partner method; ruler method; scratch paper method; sitting pretty method; Strepsils method; toilet tank method; and my personal favorite, the shrewd ‘wounded soldier’ method—all devious strategies for distracting assessors.

Students have greater opportunities to engage with technolog(ies) than their pre-1990s counterparts and are comfortable and intuitive in handling technologies. This is not to say that pre-1990s individuals are not capable of using technology as comfortably and intuitively, since anyone willing to invest time and effort into exploring them would be able to learn to use them effectively. In my previous interview, I listed a vast number of hi-tech gadgets available for immediate purchase e.g., 24Kupi Cheating Watches; 3G Button Spy Camera Hidden Wireless SIM GSM DVR Android Cheat Phones; 3rd Gen Credit Card Earpiece Spy Hidden SIM Cheat Exam Test ID Bug/Transmitters; and 720P WiFi HD Spy Hidden Camera Covert Video Recorders in Pen P2P Cameras.

What is the difference between collaboration and collusion?

Unquestionably, sharing ideas with others is an effective means of learning, as one can discover and find alternative points-of-view that may not otherwise have been considered. Students are required, however, to devise and submit the clear majority of their HE assessment tasks on their own. Program/course documentation must, therefore, clearly state which assignments, if any, can be done in collaboration with others and whether that includes: (1) producing a joint piece of work; or (2) only the preparation for it. For example, group discussion may facilitate active learning conditions, while the requirement that students complete an assignment independently is intended to ensure that each individual can demonstrate their ‘own’ construct of the material.

Collaboration and collusion act in similar ways as both involve active cooperation with others. Neither can be accidental or involuntary e.g., ‘I/we accidentally colluded’. In general, collusion aids the completion of assessment task(s) that should have been completed alone. When students work together or with ‘other’ persons for the purpose of ‘deceiving’ an assessor as to ‘who’ produced the material submitted, this is collusion. In other words, impermissible collaboration embraces working with others without permission and with deliberate intention to mislead. With these points in mind, collusion should not be confused with ‘caring’.

In practical terms, on the one hand, acceptable collaboration may involve: (a) comparing essays and feedback after an assignment has been marked; (b) talking about lectures with another student; or (c) working in the library together. On the other hand, unacceptable collusion may involve: (a) asking another student what you should include in your essay; (b) looking at another student’s essay before the assignment is due; or (c) showing another student your essay before the assignment is due. Unquestionably, the difficulty is to encourage discussion to the point that it is beneficial and acceptable, not to the point that students are producing common features i.e., ideas, words, phrases, structures, and/or right answers.

What are some ways to institutionalize Academic Integrity (AI)?

Classroom reality is complex and multidimensional, and it is widely understood that the reasons why students perform poorly in HE is many, varied and complex. And, there is no shortage of claims about the detrimental influence the Internet has had on AI at the HE-level. With these two issues in partnership (motive + Internet), misconduct will continue to be a prickly issue for years to come. In view of that, publicizing the distinct nature of collaboration or ‘group work’ versus collusion or ‘misconduct’—and affecting campus-wide awareness—may help lessen the time-consuming and emotionally-grim process of lecturers having to investigate suspected acts of academic misconduct on top of their already burgeoning workload.

At the HE-level, the temptation to engage in unethical behavior(s) is not likely to diminish. Certainly, educational grades/results need to be indicative of an individual student’s ability and scholarly achievement. For that reason, when more than one student has contributed to the production of an assessment task, it is difficult to ascertain the true skill-level of the student whose name is on the work, because the amount of assistance they received is indeterminable. That is, when two pieces of work become so alike that the similarity goes beyond what may be considered a ‘coincidence’, the student who helped another produce work, along with the student who benefited from their help are both involved in collusion.

In summary, HEIs serve a wide range of individuals including first-generation, international, and other racially and ethnically diverse students who may not understand what academic honesty entails or may define cheating in dissimilar ways. And, though it is impractical to anticipate the newest innovations and methods by which students could leverage technology to perpetuate academic misconduct, remaining technologically literate is crucial. Indeed, faculty ineptitude may increase student opportunit(ies) to engage in transgression(s). Thus, there needs to be development programs that provide training and support for building the digital capacity of HE educators in an increasingly complex, competitive, technologically-advanced, and communications-dependent environment.
Many thanks to Dr. Velliaris for her content expertise and her ongoing contributions. Please take a moment to check a few of her other valuable publications here.
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