nz information literacy archive

Click to go to

Please contact the editor,
to lodge material in the Information Literacy Archive

©The articles on this website are copyrighted by Metacog Ltd. Permission to reproduce any article in any form must be sought from Metacog Ltd.

2002 Gwen Gawith: Copyright Part 2

2002 Gwen Gawith: Copyright Part 1

2002 Donald Joyce: Cheating in an Electronic Age

2002 Gwen Gawith: "3 Doors to Infoliteracy" course

2002: Gwen Gawith: Review of Hyerle's "A field guide to using visual tools"

2002 Gwen Gawith: Re-defining research

2002 Opoho School: "The Opoho Possum Hunt"

2001 Gwen Gawith: "Infobliteracy" - Part 2.

2001 Gwen Gawith: Responding to "Into a Further World" by Elwyn Richardson.

2001 Carolyn Coil: Teachers make the world of information become knowledge.

2001 Gwen Gawith: Why Read?

2001 Gwen Gawith: "Infobliteracy" - Part 1.

2001 Linda Selby and Maureen Trebilcock: A call for teacher-librarians

2000 Gwen Gawith: Information Literacy: theory into practice - Part 2

2000 Gwen Gawith: Information literacy: problems and solutions.

2000 Alan Cooper: Information literacy; the past is not enough.

1999 Gwen Gawith: The origins of information literacy.

1998 Graham Prentice: Knowledge architects.

1998 Gwen Gawith: Getting a handle on information literacy.

1997 Gwen Gawith: NEMPing through information literacy.

1992 Gwen Gawith: learning for the future.

1987 Gwen Gawith: Information skills for an information age.

1986 Gwen Gawith Information skills for an information literate future.

1984 Gwen Gawith: Getting a handle on information skills.


information literacy:
definitions & discussion

Cheating in an Electronic Age

Donald Joyce


Cheating in tests and examinations and plagiarism in assignments have a long history in educational institutions around the world. The Internet and wireless communications have made what some students call ‘outsourcing’ into a form of e-commerce and subject matter for a growing number of publications. Some authors report on their strategies for catching ‘offenders’, while others suggest that better teaching and assessment will reduce the ‘need’ for plagiarism.

International Survey: I was part of an Association for Computing Machinery working group which produced a report on cheating based on a survey of tertiary computing academics in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the US, conducted in May/June 2002. The survey asked tertiary educators about incidents of cheating, methods used to detect cheating and suggested improvements.

Most respondents mentioned copying in assignments: from texts or the Internet (without referencing), and from other students with their knowledge (straight copy or unauthorised collaboration) or without (from disks, printouts or unattended computers). Less common were cheating in exams (smuggling in notes, looking at other students' answers or communicating with other students) and handing in the same assignment for different courses. One respondent identified "giving false reasons for extensions" (including false medical certificates), another complained about "late delivery of work" and a third mentioned "fake IELTS certificates" (IELTS is an English language test used for admission to tertiary education). One student accidentally found the answers to an assessment and gave them to his friends.

Measures taken to prevent (reduce) cheating include:

• closed book exams

• disabling email in practical exams

• explanations and warnings

• group assignments

• individualised assignments

• open book exams

• oral presentations on written work

• requiring a minimum number of references

• requiring signed "own work" declarations

• separating students in exams

• showing how referencing should be done

• supplying special resources for exams.

Measures taken to detect cheating include:

• checking disk properties

• commercial plagiarism detectors

• looking for changes in style

• putting invisible text in program code

• strip marking

• web searches.

Many respondents believe that the incidence of cheating has increased. Reasons offered include changing student population; declining moral values; family pressure; larger classes; peer pressure; time pressure.

Most respondents stated that their institution had published policy on cheating. Cases of cheating were usually referred to the appropriate authority (adjudicator, mediator, programme leader, head of department or CEO). Possible penalties included warnings, having to complete another assignment (an essay on plagiarism in one case), reduced marks, failing the course, and expulsion from the programme or institution.

Personal Experience: When I taught programming to beginners, I stressed the importance of students writing their own programs and fixing the bugs themselves. Nevertheless, I often detected plagiarism and was usually able to get the culprits to confess and then reinforced the importance of ‘doing it yourself’. Now I teach a master's course involving written assignments, and emphasise the importance of learning to analyse and critique what others have written before synthesising original ideas with the clearly acknowledged ideas of others. I use plagiarism detection software ( to show (in glorious technicolour) evidence of any failures to acknowledge other writers. Only one student has argued with the visual evidence!

As programme leader for a bachelor's degree I took part in a disciplinary hearing involving three students who had obviously worked together over two semesters, handing in minor variations on a programming assignment for one course, a written assignment for a second course and another written assignment for a third course. Initially they all denied cheating, then one admitted they had completed the assignments together and introduced minor variations to make them look different. The second owned up, but the third insisted (despite the other two having confessed in his presence) that they had only ever "talked about the assignments". The evidence was clear to the disciplinary committee who suspended all three for twelve months. Not long afterwards we began to receive obscene emails that obviously related to the case. They stopped after we told the emailer's Internet Service Provider what that account was being used for!

Donald Joyce is Associate Professor, Computer Studies, UNITEC. This article is adapted from a paper presented at the July 2002 NACCQ Conference in Hamilton.