Monday, October 04, 2004

Cheating and the system

According to this article in (in Norwegian), the number of students cheating for exams has multiplied since the quality reform.

The universities and colleges in Norway are starting to read the submitted exams papers electronically, to compare them to documents on the internet. They will be compared to Norwegian and English language douments, which means they will not just be electronically read but also to a large extent translated. This is an amazing feat for a computer system, and I am very curious about the efficiency of the system.

What the University of Oslo will be looking for is
1) immaturity - which is defined as quoting large amounts of well-known works, things which are so easy to discover that the student is not suspected of having tried to cheat, but just of not knowing how to write a scholarly paper. This will just lead to failing.

2) cheating - defined as quoting large amounts of text from unknown sources not cited in the bibliography and not marked as quotes or citations in the text.

Some universities and colleges will make the stakes higher for the cheaters, and hope that will have a preventive effect: if a student is caught cheating he or she is immediately suspended for the rest of the year, and may not make a new attempt at passing the test. The last part is the gravest reaction, because the student will have invested a lot of time and money in getting to the point of being allowed to take the exam, and also, with the new system, one exam can be vital to finishing your whole degree - which is a new situation in Norway.

That brings us back to the quality reform and why there is more cheating since the reform. I'll have to think a little about that one, but I have a few suggestions, and they are all based on the system, not on the lack of student morality. My basic approach to students is that they individually are as smart, honest and well-behaved as all other classes before them. Any significant changes are most likely caused by changes in society or in the system within which they function.

For instance: students today live so far below the threshold of poverty that it is more common than not to work while you study, making them all inn effect do the work of 1 1/2 - 2 jobs. Combine that with the increased pressure on throughput - students are rewarded for keeping within the allotted three years for a bachelor's degree, and punished for being slow - and the pattern is starting to take shape. Then add the increased control of the students' time through more emphasis on frequent reports rather than the liberal approach from when you could study for a year and then finish all your exams in one batch, allowing for very subjective time-management.

No, I don't think it's easier to be a student under the new system. It may be better for some, but it's still rough, and we get entirely new and unexpected problems, problems for which we have no routines in place yet. I also think this will be going on for some years, until we start to understand the new system. Until then, colleges and universities in Norway will look for those who cheat, in order to strike swiftly and deal with them harshly. Oh joy.

1 comment:

Katla said...

Somtimes it feels like i am a imoral just for beeing a student. I am to be punished until im done with my sin
of studying. Knowledge is to be mesured in time, money and letters. There is talk of immaturety, but there is given no time to "get" thing, and to mature at all.

And as as a finishing touch to the mockary is the part where i every semester recive a letter saying "if you pas your exsam you will get more schoolarship-money". I get some of my loan deleted if i pas my exsams,but there is no extra money on my account every month becouse i am a good student. On the other hand my schoolarship had not been adjusted the last three years at all. Despite of the average costs of living has gone up.

Katla, prefering not to sign in and does her blogging at and