By Kate Grovergrys, Spanish Professor, Madison College
As language instructors, it’s likely we have all experienced the disappointment of discovering that our students cheated on their online homework.
Perhaps we see that several students typed the exact same detailed answer to an open-ended question. Or maybe we notice that some of our students have typed incorrect, but oddly identical and specific answers into a fill-in-the-blank exercise.
Whatever the telltale sign of cheating, it’s so frustrating to see students copy answers they find online, instead of showing us an honest representation of what they can do with the target language.
When it comes to designing assessments that are resistant to academic dishonesty, we have put into practice many innovative strategies to prevent cheating, but what about homework?
We know that learning to communicate in a new language requires frequent meaningful study and practice. For this reason, it’s common for us to assign multiple online practice activities for students to complete on a daily or regular basis.
With our busy schedules as language instructors, we cannot afford to dedicate the time and energy it would take to monitor every student’s behavior on every activity we assign.
What can we do to motivate our students to complete their daily homework honestly? How do we design learning activities that prevent and discourage cheating?
Reimagine Online Homework
The first step is to consider what motivates students to cheat on their online homework, because this will allow us to more easily interrupt the cycle of academic dishonesty. In my experience, students cheat on their homework for two main reasons.
- They don’t understand the course material and want to get a good grade.
- They want to “save” time.
These motivating factors can be interrupted by implementing certain specific strategies for homework design and grading.
Interrupt the Cycle of Cheating
If we want to prevent students from cheating in order to get a good grade on their homework, then perhaps we should reconsider whether we need to grade homework for accuracy.
After all, homework is meant to prepare students for assessments, which are graded for accuracy. Do we really need to grade both homework and assessments for accuracy, or could we grade the majority of homework for credit only?
If there is no pressure to get a perfect score, then students can simply use the homework activities to help them understand the material.
When students cheat on their homework to save time, that would seem to indicate that they don’t understand the purpose and value of homework.
Likely they have come to see homework as “busy work” that simply needs to be completed. In that case we need to help them understand the role of homework as an active study tool. By cheating on their homework, they are not saving time, but rather losing valuable study time.
Rethink the Role of Homework
It would seem the answer to preventing students from cheating on their homework is to rethink the role homework plays in language instruction. By doing this, we can remove the temptation for students to cheat and ensure that homework serves to facilitate learning instead of promoting academic dishonesty.
Read also: Reimagining Assessment
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