Dr. Velliaris is Editor of the Handbook of Research on Academic Misconduct in Higher Education

To Catch a Cheater: Dr. Donna Velliaris Speaks on Academic Integrity in the 21st Century

By IGI Global on Jan 10, 2017
Dr. Donna Velliaris Speaks on Cheating in the 21st Century Dr. Donna M. Velliaris was Academic Advisor (Deputy Director role) at the Eynesbury Institute of Business and Technology (EIBT) until 2016. She helped hundreds of pre-university pathway students gain entry into Australian universities by coordinating programs and facilitating workshops to enable the 99% Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) student population at EIBT ‘survive and thrive’ the academic, cultural and linguistic conventions of tertiary-level studies. In 2017, she is living and working in Singapore. She recently took some time out of her busy schedule to collaborate with Promotions Coordinator Ann Lupold, to discuss her new IGI Global publication: Handbook of Research on Academic Misconduct in Higher Education, to explain how technology has impacted student integrity, and how we can combat academic dishonesty in the future.

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.

With recent publication of over 20 book chapters, titles comprise: Academic reflections: Disciplinary acculturation and the first-year pathway experience in Australia [Garnet]; Conceptualizing four ecological influences on contemporary ‘Third Culture Kids’ [Palgrave Macmillan]; Culturally responsive pathway pedagogues: Respecting the intricacies of student diversity in the classroom [IGI Global]; The other side of the student story: Listening to the voice of the parent [Sense]; and Metaphors for transnational students: A moving experience [Cambridge Scholars].

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.

When did you become involved in this area of research?

As described in the preface of my Handbook of Research on Academic Misconduct in Higher Education, my involvement and subsequent interest in academic dishonesty or cheating behaviors originated from my former role as Academic Advisor—encompassing Academic Integrity Officer (AIO)—at a pre-university pathway institution that situated me in a unique position from which to observe and actively participate in curbing and dealing with academic dishonesty. Back in 2013, both intentional and unintentional misconduct were rife and many of the situations I encountered extended from the ridiculous to the disturbing i.e., varying degrees of absurdity and ingenuity.

I believed that I could ‘easily’ detect cheating behaviors, but found that my forensic skills extended to traditional 80s-90s techniques and methods of deception. I was now facing students like ‘Charlie’, an innocent-looking yet slick young ‘business’ student/entrepreneur profiting from the distribution of specially crafted assignment papers. It took time to bust his elaborate underground contract cheating operations and thus, from that point onwards, I came to realize that the prevalence—depth and breadth—of deceitful behaviors at the Higher Education (HE) level was more than any lecturer would ordinarily be aware of and a matter of ‘hope for the best, but expect the worst’.

How has technology impacted the area of academic integrity?

Technology by itself is neither good nor bad. Undeniably, deceptive ways students are able to utilize technology have impacted issues surrounding Academic Integrity (AI). Contemporary ways of cheating include ever more technologically-savvy means to circumvent assessment procedures aided by, but not limited to: 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; 720P WiFi HD Spy Hidden Camera Covert Video Recorders in Pen P2P Cam; Casio DBC150-1 Data Bank Watches; Celluon Laserkey CL850 Bluetooth Wireless Virtual Keyboards; Digital Camera Eye-Fi X2; Dual Digital MP3 ML200 and Bluetooth Sets with Micro Spy Invisible Earpieces; GSI High-Definition 4-In-1 Sunglasses; GSM Wallet Earpiece Spy Hidden Covert Transmitter Mini SIM Box; Jac Zagoory Scroll Pens; KCDVR Key Chain Camera DVR; MWI Spy Earpiece Bluetooth Sets; Sennheiser MX W1 Total Wireless Earphones; UV Invisible Security Markers and Permanent Pens with Built-in UV LED Lights; and WiFi Pens with Hidden Camera Spy HD Recorder Covert Clock DVR P2P IP IPhones. Certainly, it is difficult to stay abreast of all the capabilities of these morphing technologies, but what I do know is that state-of-the-art futuristic and miniaturized devices possess hi-tech spyware permitting students to freely and spontaneously obtain and/or share faceless digitally-mediated communications whereby academic impropriety is limited by a student’s: (a) ability to utilize technological advances; (b) resourcefulness; and (c) guts.

Describe ‘contract cheating’.

Contract cheating is a progression through a long chain of social scaffolding that extends from legitimate peer support and learning i.e., permitted collaboration, to ‘pseudepigraphy’, ‘cyber-pseudepigraphy’ or ‘ghost-writing’, which ascribes false authorship to a given text i.e., unpermitted collusion. Although contract cheating and plagiarism originate from violation of the same underlying principle i.e., the author’s work should be attributed to the originator of the work, contract cheating is unlike plagiarism in several ways.

First, under contract cheating authorship is attributed but falsely. Under plagiarism, there is no attribution. Second, while both use someone else’s work and present it as their own without acknowledgement, contract cheating ‘hires’ another person to compose the text. In other words, the originator facilitates the fraudulent misrepresentation of his/her work as that of another. Hence, there is an element of entrepreneurialism in contract cheating, which emphasizes short-term gains over long-term losses. It should be considered more severe than plagiarism as it is an ‘evolutionary’ strategy to overcome plagiarism detection.

Contract cheating is enabled by the Internet and can be effortlessly accessed using several key words, namely [alphabetical]: auction or agency sites; custom paper writing; custom-written essays; discussion forums; essay banks; essay help; essay mills; file-swapping or trading; ghost-writing services; paper mills; term papers; or any other pertinent word combinations. Such sites as [alphabetical]: 4TermPapers.com; Cheathouse.com; CustomWritings.com; echeat.com; EssayGlobe.net; LazyStudents.com; SchoolSucks.com; unemployedprofessors.com; and WowEssays.com, can and do: (a) conceal layers of syndication; (b) obscure the country of origin; and (c) intermix with legitimate educational websites in the Internet landscape.

What are some ways that teachers and faculty can combat academic misconduct?

Unquestionably, technological affordances have had both positive and negative bearings on the HE sector. The use of technologies, especially ‘mobile’ devices, are considered to be the fastest growing communication technologies ever. While it is impractical to anticipate up-to-the-minute innovations and methods by which students could leverage technology to perpetuate academic misconduct, remaining technologically literate is imperative as faculty ineptitude will likely increase/bolster students’ opportunit(ies) to engage in wrongdoing. Additionally, courses must be developed with ‘specific’ and regularly updated dispositions, expectations, goals, objectives, and outcomes, and an explicit edict that a zero-cheating rule exists and will result in potential expulsion from the HEI. In other words, educators need to design approaches to assessment that minimize the possibility for students to collude, yet do not reduce the quality and/or rigor, as well as apply appropriate security practices for the ‘safe’ submission and return of tasks. Rephrasing my statement above, educators should ‘plan for the worst, and hope for the best’.

Do you have any predictions for the future of technology-assisted cheating?

Cheating used to be as uncomplicated as recording notes on one’s upper leg or writing on the back of a wooden ruler. Nowadays, academic misconduct has assumed a James Bond-like veneer of savoir-faire. With UV light pens that reveal invisible ink, ISpy pens that play audio files, and now Google glasses, modern-day students can avail themselves of an array of gizmos to trick the sharpest eyes. It is worth noting that a Smart Watch alone for example, may not pose security risks, but in combination with other hi-tech wearables could facilitate security vulnerabilities. Unsurprisingly, some HEIs have begun employing face-recognition software, jamming phone signals, and utilizing fingerprint verification systems, metal detectors, and other electronic monitoring procedures.

HE worldwide, as a matter of principle, has an obligation to defend its academic credibility and reputation, and protect the standards of its awards. It seems probable, however, that whatever checks and balances are created, variations of ‘cheating’ will remain present. Nevertheless, it can be reduced when students are made to realize that the long-term risk(s) outweighs the short-term gain(s), and that one’s ability to ‘perform’ in the real world will be hard to ‘fake’ i.e., degree-holders who are incompetent. Ultimately, honesty is a virtue, not only at university but for life, and underscoring AI should encourage students to contemplate their personal and professional conduct no matter what their circumstances.
More information on the Handbook of Research on Academic Misconduct in Higher Education here. Also view all Dr. Velliaris' IGI Global titles here.

Affordable Colleges Online provides free education resources for students. They recently published a guide that highlights the current state of plagiarism on college campuses and advises students on how to detect and prevent plagiarism.View the Plagiarism Prevention and Awareness Guide here.
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Congratulations - an interesting reading Donna!
Neeta Baporikar7 years ago

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