Tech-savvy Generation Tempted to Cheat, Say Surveys

(U-WIRE) PROVO, Utah — Guilt doesn’t fade with time.

In 2005, an elderly woman from Gypsum, Colo., sent a letter to the principal of her old high school, issuing an apology for cheating on an English test she had taken nearly 50 years earlier, in 1957.

The woman’s story was mentioned briefly on AOL.com, and the principal used the woman’s letter as an example to all of his students to demonstrate that their conscience can catch up with them later in life.

National surveys have shown that as many as 70 percent of college students in the United States say they have cheated on at least one assignment or test.

That’s a lot of guilty consciences; and yes, some of those guilty consciences are here on BYU campus.

Perhaps a guilty conscience is one of the things the BYU Testing Center is trying to protect students from, with the new methods they will soon implement to prevent cheating and adapt to newer technology.

The Testing Center currently asks students to leave their cell phones and music players off, and to only use scratch paper that has been stamped by a Testing Center employee. Also, Testing Center proctors pace the walkways as students take their exams, in order to ensure that students’ eyes aren’t wandering.

Among the new changes that will be implemented are security cameras, which will most likely be installed by Sept. 1, 2006, said Linda Shirley, BYU Testing Center manager.

Shirley said other steps might be taken in the future, if the need arises.

These changes may be necessary because the methods students have used to cheat over the past few decades have evolved.

Granted, the tried-and-true “index card,” “whisper to a friend” and “write on a desk” methods are still used, but the resourceful cheater has moved on from such simple methods to take advantage of evolving technology.

Iley Copeland, the computer service and repair supervisor in the BYU Bookstore, said he sees the problems that technology could cause for teachers.

“With the technology you have now: Telephone, infrared and Bluetooth, you can send data silently,” Copeland said. “I can see where it’s a real challenge to monitor students.”

Arguably, the age of the “electronic cheater” started with the graphing calculator, because of the ability the device gave students to install and run custom programs.

With such programs installed on their calculators, cheaters could develop “keys” to solve each type of problem they would expect to find on a math test, for example. With a key installed, all the student would have to do is insert numbers from the test into the calculator and the entire equation could be solved instantly.
Even if the teacher wanted students to show their work in an attempt to prevent such cheating, it didn’t take long for programs to be developed that created the work for the cheater — no thinking involved.

Then cell phones came into the picture on nearly every college campus across the nation, which gave students the ability to stay in contact with each other through text messaging.

With the ability to send text messages back and forth during a test, cheaters in high schools and colleges everywhere could share information with their friends. And with cameras installed on many new phones, cheaters could make copies of entire tests, which could eventually be posted online or sold.

Whole copies of tests and essays can be purchased for relatively cheap online, which has caused many teachers to take to the Internet themselves to try to hunt down source pages. But new Web sites and papers are popping up every day.

Even iPods are entering the picture as viable options for students to store recorded notes.

The tools students use to cheat are almost as varied as their reasons.

A male student who chose not to be identified said he was in a group back in elementary school that cheated on a weekly basis. He has since stopped, and made a few observations on people’s cheating motives.

“Earlier on it’s the instant gratification, the instant recognition,” he said, noting that young students love the feeling and praise of getting the right answer. “Later on, though, the pressure of tests and keeping a high GPA kick in. They want the sure ‘A’ — the sure best.”
A female student who also didn’t want to be identified said most of the time other students would cheat off of her.

“For me, it was more like I wanted people to like me,” she said. “For them, it was more like they were just lazy. They just wanted the grade.”

She herself used to cheat but decided to stop one day because she found a better way to learn.

“I started studying, and it worked,” she said, and hasn’t cheated since.