GCC Students Find Ways to Cheat

El Vaquero Staff Writer

During a final exam, a student very subtly uses his cell phone to read a paragraph of notes saved the night before. Another student photographs his exam, goes to the bathroom and comes back with all the answers.

As technology becomes more sophisticated, so do the forms of cheating.
Math Department Chair Peter Stathis said one student photographed an exam and e-mailed it to a friend. That person got the e-mail as a PDF file, and “printed it out, did the test, then met the student at a bathroom and gave him the [completed] test.”

“In general, we tell instructors not to allow anything unless it’s a calculator – no cell phones on the desk… so if a student asks, ‘Can I use the calculator on my cell phone?’ the professor will have to say, ‘No I’m sorry you have to use an approved calculator,” Stathis said.

Student Anna Mkrtchyan said that last year she had friends who cheated with their cell phones.

“They would spend the whole night before the exam writing a paragraph and saving it on their cell phones, then use the information the following day during the exam,” she said.

Mkrtchyan wondered why some students would spend so much time typing information into their phones rather than spending that time learning the material.

“On the cell phone you have to click three times to get to, for example, letter ‘F.’ Now imagine typing paragraphs. It takes up too much time and memory on the cell phone,” Mkrtchyan said.

Mkrtchyan, a biochemistry major, said this incident occurred in her Psychology 101 class. She declined to identify the professor in whose class the cheating occurred, or her friend who still attends GCC.

“In my opinion….if I were in the position of the students who cheated, I would feel bad if on the exam I got a lower grade than an ‘A.’ After all, the main point of cheating was to get a good grade on the exam.”

Although Mkrtchyan thought it was unfair that the students cheated on the exams, she frowns on the idea of turning in her friends. “I would never turn in a person who cheated on an exam, even if it was someone I didn’t know.” According to Mkrtchyan, “there will be justice in heaven and only God is to judge, not us.”

Steve White, GCC vice president of instructional services and associate professor of economics, took out his “Black Berry,” an e-mail electronic device of the size of his palm that also functions as a camera. He took a picture. In a matter of seconds he was able to get a clear color picture one, which he could zoom, in or out.

“We have had a couple of [cheating] incidents with the “Black Berry” wireless e-mail devices,” said White. “You can take pictures with telephones, then over the Internet or over the phone line you can send these to people.”

Erik Avila, AT&T communications specialist said that it would be very hard to cheat with a camera phone. He said it would be almost impossible but “not impossible” to cheat with a camera phone because the clarity of the words isn’t very good, “so trying to gain advantage over another student with a camera phone isn’t really ideal. I would say the best way [of cheating], would be text messaging because its quick and you can set it up so the cell phone doesn’t ring and instead make it vibrate. With a Black Berry you can also make a text message and a do a “push e-mail” that sends e-mails instantly without having to log in.

White says these are new technological forms of cheating that weren’t available before in the last few years. “So I encourage all of the faculty to instruct all students that all electronic devices must be turned off in class and to be put away,” said White. “If you enforce these things then if you see any of these devices in peoples hands then they have already violated the rules and their exams can be taken away from them.”

It’s real important, however, that the faculty be proactive and set the ground rule for the students from the start of the semester so they are clear and don’t become tempted to use illegal means to benefit on examinations or other in-class-projects.

When a student is caught cheating in any form or way, “the instructor has flexibility on how to deal with it,” said White. The instructor could decide to do any of the following: give the student a zero on the assignment or the exam, give them an “F” in the course, or an extreme consequence of deciding to put a letter in the students academic file in addition to an “F” in the course.

“If the cheating incident perhaps was a conspiracy of a group of people seeking to undermine the integrity of the examination process the faculty member could even recommend to me a disciplinary action against the students,” said White “Those, again, are extreme measures. It doesn’t happen often.”

Instructor of Sociology, Richard Kamei said that during exams he watches his students like a “hawk,” “Its not that I don’t trust the students,” says Kamei. “I like a very friendly environment so I come out with the premise that students are not going to cheat put at the same time I have to watch them because its unfair if one student is cheating or a few students are cheating because [students] are all going to be competing for seat at the universities.”