The Shadow Scholar and the prevalence of cheating in tertiary education
Author and university lecturer Caron Dann wrote a really interesting commentary to my last post, on the booming and lucrative business of pseudonymously writing papers for desperate students.
As it is rather too long to fit in the comments box, and Caron is a writer I really respect, I take the liberty of copying it below:
I'm a university lecturer and I know this goes on. It's the reason we need to keep exams and they need to be worth a significant percentage of the unit's final mark (40% in the case of the unit I teach).
One young person I know said students can buy essays over the internet for as little as $30.
There's another good way of evaluating students, and that's by presentation, during which they have to answer questions from other students and for which at least a part of the content has some personal element. Even if the material is plagiarised, they at least have to do preparation in order to present it to the class, thereby learning something.
I agree with Ed Dante about the desperation. It's unfair for incompetent students to be passed at first-year level - particularly if they are lazy, haven't the English skills or are just not up to it - because they then end up 'desperate' later on, having learned very little.
I also think schools don't prepare students for tertiary education. In Australia, at least half the high school graduates go directly on to tertiary learning, yet most haven't the faintest idea what it entails. Many - especially private school students - seem to have been coached a lot at school in narrow areas, for the sole reason of getting good marks in their leaving certificate so they can get in to the uni course of their choice. Meanwhile, they don't know the basics of their subject or even of academic writing or how to use a library catalogue. Many first years have no idea that cutting and pasting from the internet is plagiarism.
Meanwhile, classes keep getting bigger and bigger, since we made universities "businesses". Classes are so big that tertiary teachers often can't possibly learn the names of everyone. So the student becomes a nameless face among the masses and if she or he falls behind for any reason, they do indeed become desperate.