Case studies and advice

The following hypothetical case studies illustrate some of the trends seen in academic misconduct since the shift to predominantly online assessments in early 2020. Students are encouraged to review these case studies – particularly the advice section – to improve their understanding of good academic conduct.

What happens if students share answers and assessment ideas using social media?

Case study

A number of students within a subject formed a Facebook group and Messenger thread during semester. During the exam, which was to be completed individually and not as a group exercise, members of the group used the message thread to seek and provide answers to exam questions.

Outcome

This collusion was reported, investigated and students involved were each asked to appear before the academic misconduct committee. Students who sought answers through the group were given a zero score for the exam, with many subsequently failing the subject, and those who provided answers were given a penalty of 50% of the marks they would otherwise have been awarded. All students involved were warned that any future collusion would be penalised more severely.

Advice

If a peer asks you for answers to an assessment, remember that you are placing yourself at risk of academic misconduct by helping them. Do not share answers or advice during an assessment unless collaboration is expected of you in an assessment task. If you are aware of students inappropriately colluding, please inform the academic staff.

What happens if students copy information from lecture slides, notes, readings and other resources into an assessment?

Case study

A student prepared their own study notes, with some sections copied word-for-word from lecture slides, weekly readings and other sources. During the final open-book exam, the student copied and pasted parts of these notes as answers for three of the exam’s four long-answer questions. The student did not reference the original sources of the information and ideas.

Outcome

This plagiarism was detected, formally investigated and discussed with the student at an academic misconduct committee hearing. The committee determined that the plagiarism was so substantial that the three affected long answer questions were given zero marks each, leading to the student being awarded an ‘N’ grade for the final examination.

Advice

When creating notes by copying and pasting from other sources, always put them in quotation marks or a different colour to indicate that they are not your ideas. Record where you sourced all information – in both your notes and in any answers provided in assessments. In exams, you are expected to explain concepts in your own words and to demonstrate your own knowledge. Note that simply changing a few words in text that was written by others still constitutes plagiarism.

What happens if students sell or purchase assessments on “tutoring” websites?

Case study

A student uploaded an assessment they had written onto an online “tutoring” service provision site, thus making it available for other students to purchase. Another student purchased a ready-made assignment and submitted it as their own work for the final assessment task for a subject.

Outcome

The breaches were detected, investigated and discussed with the students at separate academic misconduct hearings. The academic misconduct committee weighed up the seriousness of the breaches in both cases — one student was terminated from their course, the other student failed the subject and was suspended from their course.

Advice

Commercial cheating sites are developing aggressive approaches to marketing to students – offering “plagiarism-free” and “unique” products. The claims being made are too good to be true – for example, how many others might they have sold the small paper to? These breaches of academic integrity are detectable and unethical site providers are making shallow promises in their attempts to profit from students’ desires for good grades. There are many cases now of students who have used these ‘services’ being later blackmailed by the site providers through the threat of revealing the cheating to the students’ universities. The message is clear: always prepare your own assessments based on your own knowledge, do not share your completed assessments with anyone and never in any circumstance purchase material from such commercial sites.

Seeking guidance and support

Understanding proper academic practice

A number of lessons came through from students in the recent misconduct hearings. Many students told academic misconduct committees that they resorted to cheating only because they were so behind that they felt there was no other option. Others noted they didn’t understand academic integrity or hadn’t developed the study skills that support appropriate academic practice. In light of this, it is important for students know their options in relation to extensions and special consideration and to review the Academic Skills website, which offers a range of practical resources on good study practices, time management, English language development, using referencing tools and good note-taking techniques.

Getting personal support

Assessment can be stressful and can add to the other stresses in our daily lives. Please remember that the University offers free and confidential professional counselling for students.