Cross-institutional study aims to determine if online institutions have higher levels of plagiarism than brick-and-mortar colleges and universities.

plagiarism-online-learningAccording to a new study, there is no significant difference between levels of plagiarism between traditional brick-and-mortar institutions and online institutions. However, that doesn’t mean plagiarism isn’t rampant in higher education.

Using a sample 368 dissertations between 2009 and 2013 (184 from traditional institutions and 184 from online institutions), mined from an online database and uploaded to Turnitin for analysis, David Ison, associate professor and program chair of the Department of Aeronautics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, aimed to determine whether or not several studies were correct in purporting that online learning spurs more plagiarism.

“Much of this discussion has been based upon anecdotal evidence or self-report studies of faculty and students, rather than empirical data,” notes Ison. “Moreover, the few quantitative studies that have been conducted comparing cheating in online to traditional courses have shown mixed results.”

Ison’s research extensively details these numerous studies, as well as their basis for investigation: The Internet, and the extensive use of the Internet part of online learning, leads more students to plagiarize their work.

But as Ison found (just one of many surprising findings of his study), online students do not plagiarize more than their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

(Next page: Conducting the study; Ison’s findings)

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