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Why we need to give students reasons NOT to cheat

Jack Goodman

Jack Goodman

Mar 20, 2015

Why do students cheat? 

We're all familiar with the saying, "when you cheat, you only cheat yourself." But the temptation to cut a corner, "copy and paste" without attributing, or sneak a peek at a classmate's answer can be overwhelming for some.

In fact, cheating is a phase in human development - usually beginning with the discovery of lying around the age of 2 or 3 and then moving into game play in the pre-school years. After all, no one likes to win as much as a toddler does.

Cheating has been in the news recently with the reporting by the Sydney Morning Herald of a website where students paid to have essays written for them to submit for university assignments. 

Who was doing the cheating and why?

It is clear that those involved were international students; students who must have felt pressure to succeed and found the courses they were in challenging to the point they were prepared to buy assignments. The majority of assignments seemed to be for business studies subjects, including accounting, management, marketing and economics.

As the Sydney Morning Herald also reported, the cheating service being investigated "capitalised ingeniously on the anxiety experienced by many overseas students." 

Many universities are addressing those anxieties.


For instance, did these students have difficulties with English? Had they completed appropriate pre-requisite studies prior to enrolling in their university courses? Were they receiving sufficient academic and social support services to help them to succeed? 

This is something we spend a lot of time thinking about at Studiosity because we do so much work every night supporting students from myriad language and cultural backgrounds as they seek to learn. We've been refining and improving the way we support students over the last 11 years, during which time we've delivered more than 850,000 one-to-one study help sessions.

Our foundation principle is simple and unambiguous: We help students learn. We never give answers. We help students who are "stuck" to get "unstuck" and to have "aha!" moments.

Just one of the Higher Education leaders ensuring students have Studiosity support, Deputy CEO and Head of Programs at Melbourne Polytechnic, Frances Coppolillo, recently told us: 

"Our international students find Studiosity a very valuable service. Their first language is not English, so they find the tutors on the Studiosity service very patient. The tutors support them breaking down an assessment task, understanding what is being asked, and supporting the study skills that the student might need, so it's a very valuable resource for them."

And this week we received a comment from an international student, ZeMing Jiang, studying in Western Australia:

"What a lovely experience. Actually focused on how to tackle the question instead of just giving me answers. As a Chinese student studying in Australia, it is kinda hard to understand all the concepts in class. Because I’m an ESL speaker, I would need that extra help."

We should be focusing on helping those who genuinely want help and give more options to those who don't know there's another way.

In a step toward cheating prevention, let's better support international students who face unique pressures. Just look to Australia’s innovative Higher Ed leaders that are doing more using Studiosity – giving their students free, one-to-one attention, ESL support, and ethical intervention at moments of academic stress.

Follow Jack Goodman (@jackaroo2000) and Studiosity (@studiosity) on Twitter for more like this. 

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