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Online Student College Papers Are Bogus

By Professor Doom

Half a dozen students turned in the same paper, word for word, in my course. One student changed the font, but otherwise, the same paper. There’s even a line in the paper where I think a cat walked across the keyboard, so the text reads ‘the elDLKSNLKNLKNSGectron…”, and no student chose to even edit that out.”

-- Any wonder at all how students got used to the idea that if they all turned in the same paper everything would be ok? This type of thing doesn’t happen out of the blue. None of the students were removed from the course, incidentally, so they’ll get to evaluate the professor and influence his performance evaluation.

Last time, I presented documentation showing that online courses are disastrous for high school students in a controlled setting. Should the results for high school students be applicable for college? Considering how much of college work is material offered in high school, and how students are very close to the same age, the results should be similar, and yet according to many studies, they are not. Online work is disastrous for high school students, but studies show online courses are vastly more successful for higher education, as long as success is defined as “retention.”

Because retention, keeping people enrolled as much as possible, is a primary goal of administration, there’s a huge push to offer more and more online work, and there’s also a side push to make more and more coursework as written papers—easier to submit online, I admit.

The reason for the better success of the online student is obvious: the college student has much greater capacity to cheat in online courses, which have no supervision. He can do so in many ways.

Mary, what did he give you on that last test? I used the answers you gave me, and he failed me.”

---E-mail from a student in my online course, accidentally sent to me. Students in the class formed a “study group”, something strongly recommended by Educationists. Such groups facilitate the trading of answers to test questions. More than half of the class used the answers referenced, which were correct for the test I gave the semester before…I had changed the test, but the cheating students, all of them, had neglected to see if the questions on the current test even came close to matching the answers they gave me for the old test (it wasn’t even a multiple choice test!). Admin stopped offering my course after that, though other online courses, with much higher passing rates, continued. Note carefully: catching students cheating is cause for punishment by administration, and a faculty member can never advance his career by doing so.

Cheating is rampant in online courses, overwhelming, extreme, massive even. A student with a few dollars to spare will find it’s extremely easy to have a ringer to log in to his account and perform much of the work, or hire a “tutor” to sit next to him as he sits at home and takes an online test…or just share answers with friends, like in my example above. An entire industry has arisen filled with writers that will happily write custom papers (even Ph.D. theses) on demand, with frighteningly brief turnaround time.

An exasperated—but making far more a year than I do—employee of the paper-writing industry, who claims that Education majors make up the bulk of his clients, wonders how professors can have no questions about a student that can barely speak English but write papers like his1. He’s never worked under a college administrator, obviously, hence his wonderment. I’m also on a website of writers for hire, though not specifically a paper-writing site, and while I agree Education majors are the majority of the “do my homework for me” assignments on offer, other fields are not without representation (I’ve only seen one physics thesis in ten years however, and none in mathematics). I emphasize: these are not students asking for editing help, or research assistance. They want whole papers, on demand, and are willing to pay well for them. I don’t take these offers, I get enough legitimate work…but it’s easy enough for anyone to do so.

Project Name: Weekely SIOP Lesson plan

Project Description:

Hello can you help with this assignment? if so what is your fee?Your final

assignment for EDU 6123…will be to develop a complete set of five lesson plans

for a unit of study (approx. 1 week in length) including all elements learned in

this course for effective instruction for English Language Learners. Select the

specific area and grade level for your unit of study…The completed project should be 6-8 pages in length…should incorporate at least three scholarly sources

(including the textbook),…

--Another Educationist hard at work on an advanced degree, paid for with tax dollars, and buying some coursework with tax dollars. When the Educationist graduates, he’ll likely get a job paid for with tax dollars, too. At least there’s balance in this.

There are many web sites that will literally write an entire paper for a student willing to pay for it. A top tier term paper site gets over 8000 hits a day, over the course of a year almost single-handedly accounting for all online students2! That is just one site, and there are plenty of others. Because there are so many sites, the cost of writing a paper isn’t much, a few hundred bucks for even an extensive paper—after plunking down $2,000 or more for a course, a student would be stupid not to pay just a bit more for guaranteed success. With these kinds of numbers, it’s impossible not to consider the reality of widespread cheating in online courses. Think about that: it’s very possible that almost all online students are submitting work that is not their own.

The Dean’s office and my chair ‘expressed their appreciation’ for me chasing such cases (in December), but six months later, when I received my annual evaluation, my yearly salary increase was the lowest ever, and significantly lower than inflation, as my ‘teaching evaluations took a hit this year.’”

--NYU Professor Panagiotis Ipeirotis explaining how catching cheaters lowered his evaluations, hurting himself in the process. Poor guy thought that once he acquired tenure, he’d able to catch cheaters without penalty. The penalty for catching cheaters just for one semester might cost him $50,000 or more over the course of his career. That he waited until after tenure to try such a boneheaded move shows he had gotten the memo from administration earlier: do not catch cheaters. Either faculty get this memo their first day on campus, or after catching a cheater…but all get this memo.

From the taxpayer’s point of view, insult is added to injury as college papers are almost certainly often paid for via student loans, as is the tuition of the student, and indirectly the salary of the faculty reading the paper, and the salary of the administrator that discourages the faculty from stopping cheating. The reader is encouraged to consider which could be taken out of the relationship to improve integrity.

There is software that can detect plagiarism, but as the professor above shows, there’s a serious problem with it: it works. It reveals that much of college coursework is bogus. Administration was quick to solve the problem: they set things up so students check their papers with the software first, THEN turn it in only if it passes the software. Imagine if I could make all the counterfeit money I want, with no penalty if it detects as counterfeit (in which case I’m given advice on how to evade detection on the next attempt)…and I’m free to use it if it doesn’t detect as counterfeit. Administration then crows about how they’re stopping cheating. I can’t make this stuff up. Again.

This is my 18th essay for Rense. I’ve shown the mythology of college is bogus, none of what people believe about going to college is true. I’ve shown accreditation is bogus, and does nothing to validate an educational institution. I’ve shown remedial education is simply plundering of the weakest students, leaving a documented 90% of them with nothing but lost money and wasted years of their lives. I’ve shown the field of Education to be primarily a justified laughingstock amongst scholars. And now I’m showing that even if a student has a degree, there’s no reason whatsoever to believe he did any legitimate work for it, at least in a field where much writing is involved. I’m not even halfway done showing how corrupted much of higher education is today…at the end, I’ll show how much of it could be fixed, I promise (no guarantees the people at the top would allow it, of course).

Back to today’s discussion, having a college degree is still widely advertised as a way to get a good job. Now pretend you’re an employer. Knowing how rampant cheating is supported in higher education, why would you hire someone just because they have a general college degree? Now pretend you’re a parent. Why would you let your child get into endless debt (or pay his way) for such a degree?

Think about it.

  1. Dante, Ed. (pseudonym) “The Shadow Scholar.” Chronicle of Higher Education. November 12, 2010. All college faculty should read this article carefully, to get a true vision of how pervasive cheating is at the college level.

  2. Online Education Database. “8 Astonishing Stats on Academic Cheating.”





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