Reports of academic misconduct increased at the University of Oklahoma last year as the state's largest college implemented a new system that allowed students to make reports of suspected cheating.
At Oklahoma State University, the state's second-largest university, reports of cheating or other academic misconduct fell sharply.
According to OU, there were 380 reports of academic misconduct during the 2011-12 school year, nearly 100 more than the previous year.
Of the 380 reports, only 171 were turned into actual cases that can be shared with other universities. The other 209 reports resulted in warnings for the students involved, meaning they can't be reported outside of OU.
Jillian Lundie, an OU student and chair of the university's Integrity Council, said warnings were issued beginning in the fall of 2003 “for cases that do not meet the level of a full violation.”
Lundie said the increase in reports of possible cheating likely can be explained by the change in protocol at the university's Office of Academic Integrity Programs.
“In fall 2011, we transitioned to a new student-run system, which made reporting easier and less time-consuming for professors, and also gave students the ability to report instances of misconduct,” she said.
Lundie said the university is “pleased” with the new system, adding that cases are resolved faster and more students become involved in the process.
At OU, cases of cheating and academic misconduct rose sharply as use of the Internet became more widespread.
In the 1990s, most of which was Internet-free, cheating cases were usually held to less than 100 per year at OU.
But that changed as more and more students became familiar with finding information online, including websites that assisted them in cheating.
Gregory Heiser, director of OU's academic integrity programs, said that as students “who had been using the Internet as a tool all the way through high school” began enrolling at the university a decade ago, the reports of cheating and other misconduct reached a “high-water mark.”
Indeed, by the end of the 2003-04 school year, reports of academic misconduct reached 290, a figure that had grown by more than 300 percent in just five years.
During the 1998-99 school year, when the Internet was still in its early stages, there were only 74 reports of academic misconduct.
OSU reports decline
The 201 reports of cheating and other academic misconduct last year at Oklahoma State University was the lowest total in the past four years. The year before, during the 2010-11 school year, OSU fielded 281 reports of academic misconduct.
According to OSU records, reports of cheating or other academic misconduct have stayed between 185 and 285 for the past six years.
OSU officials say they aggressively address cheating on campus. The hope, they say, is to make professors more likely to detect and report such behavior and students more likely to avoid it.
Amanda Droste, in her first year as coordinator of OSU's academic integrity panel, said that technology, while important on campus, continues to be used by students to cheat on tests, research papers and other class assignments.
Plagiarism, or trying to pass off someone else's work as your own, remains the most common type of case, “by far,” to make its way before OSU's academic integrity panel.
“Plagiarism is a direct result of the technology available to students,” Droste said. “Using resources online, paper mills, things like that.”
Both OU and OSU use websites like Turnitin, a website-based company that scans research papers to safeguard against plagiarism, the largest form of cheating at both schools.
As for students being allowed to formally report cheating or other academic misconduct to university officials, OSU uses a slightly different approach than OU.
“Usually, that student is going to report first to the faculty member,” she said. “We want the faculty member to be able to substantiate those claims and be able to bring forward the evidence that needs to be there to move forward.”
By doing things that way, Droste said, “we can avoid a domestic dispute situation.”
“You know, ‘I'm mad at my friend today so I'm going to accuse them of cheating,'” she said. “We don't want that to happen.”