Cheating continues to be a problem at Oklahoma's largest universities

Students continue to get caught cheating at Oklahoma's largest universities, but trends differ at the institutions.
BY ANDREW KNITTLE aknittle@opubco.com Published: November 5, 2011
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Even though trends differ depending on which one you look at, cheating continues to be a problem at Oklahoma's two largest public universities.

But while students once seemed to have the advantage — the entire Internet at their disposal — professors and other faculty have since leveled the playing field.

School officials say that more aggressive awareness campaigns have helped, as well, with the state's largest university enlisting the help of students in monitoring and investigating cheating.

Academic misconduct can include cheating on tests, unauthorized collaboration outside of class, falsifying university documents and plagiarism.

The University of Oklahoma, the state's largest school, reported 290 cases of academic misconduct last year.

Dr. Gregory Heiser, director of OU's academic integrity programs, said that figure is down considerably from a “high-water mark” reached after the 2004-2005 school year.

“We had nearly 400 that year, so it was a high-water mark in terms of those kinds of cases,” Heiser said. “Cases have stayed between 200 and 300 since then, so the long-term trend went up, and is now back down.”

Back in the 1990s, most of which was Internet-free, cheating cases were usually held under 100 per year. But that changed as more and more students became familiar with finding information online, including websites that assisted them in cheating.

After the 1999-2000 school year, OU reported just 92 cases of academic misconduct.

The next year it went up to 147, followed by 204 cases during the 2001-2002 school year.

Heiser believes the high mark set during the 2004-2005 school year coincided with a special crop of incoming freshmen.

“In '04-'05, it was the first year where we had a class of freshmen who had been using the Internet as a tool all the way through high school,” he said. “What they were using it for, as a tool, I mean, we don't know. But it seemed to match up with that high-water mark.”

At Oklahoma State University, reports of cheating have been climbing over the past five years.

Michele Tillman, coordinator of academic integrity at OSU, said reports of cheating aren't easily accessible before the 2006-2007 school year because the grade appeals board and academic integrity were the same entity. Since then, the two have split, and more precise records are available.

Tillman said reports of cheating have increased steadily since 183 were logged during the 2006-2007 school year. Last year, the 2010-2011 school year, she said 264 were reports of cheating were filed, nearly as many as OU.

But at OSU, the rise in the number of cheating reports may have more to do with students' awareness than an actual increase in cheaters.

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