academic dishonesty

Here’s how to prevent academic dishonesty in the digital age

A new whitepaper examines the ins and outs of academic dishonesty, including financial aid fraud, and offers tips to deter it

The whitepaper, Cheating in the Digital Age: How Higher Education Can Protect Itself from New Forms of Academic Dishonesty, explores academic dishonesty and offers tips for colleges and universities to prevent cheating on campus.

The survey notes that online cheating rings and for-profit companies are plentiful online today, and these companies claim to complete assignments for students, take an exam in a student’s place, or even take a full course for a student.

For instance, an online search of “take my test” yields more than 500 million results. At one college, 30 students in a single class were found to be using the same online service to have someone else take their tests.

Students who sign up for classes and drop out after two weeks, or those who enroll in a course and don’t complete assignments, could be viewed as typical and aren’t always connected to suspicious behaviors, but if an institution has methods in place to track certain activities, those behaviors could reveal patterns of fraud.

Financial Aid Fraud Rings

Financial aid fraud is another example of academic dishonesty that demonstrates how student performance is not the only area that should be monitored.

The report notes that financial aid fraud rings are appearing now, especially as online degree programs grow in popularity. These financial aid fraud rings falsify identities and take advantage of loop holes in the financial aid process. Scammers use information from accomplices or steal information to apply for admission and obtain financial aid.

Between 2009 and 2012, online identity fraud led to a loss of $187 million in federal student aid.

Here’s how financial aid fraud works:
1. A ringleader steals unwilling victims’ identities or obtains identifying information from volunteers who provide their personal information in exchange for some of the funds and serve as straw students
2. The ringleader uses the straw student’s personal information to apply to online programs and financial aid
3. The straw student does the bare minimum in a course in order to qualify for disbursement of funds
4. After their tuition is paid, the straw student receives the remaining balance of the federal aid, which is then split among those who participated in the fraud
5. The straw student then drops the course or ends up failing, due to lack of participation and the institution is none the wiser that fraud has occurred

The report offers tips to help prevent cheating on campus:
1. Review and update existing policies
2. Communicate academic honesty expectations clearly and often
3. Follow a stringent identity authentication process
4. Choose the right technology partner and add extra layers of technology, such as live online proctoring, to protect against cheating

Laura Ascione