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December Executive Blog

Would You Knowingly Cheat?

I was hoping that my turn writing the executive blog would be a bright and cheery one with the holidays fast approaching, and a well-deserved break from school and work for some of us.  But really, how would I fill a whole page with holiday wishes?  It seems it would be a better use of this space to give you some really important information that could save you from accusations of academic misconduct.  Sounds serious, doesn’t it?

One of the hot topics at AU and across post-secondary institutions recently is plagiarism and cheating.  Almost every AU committee agenda, or meeting with AU executive in the recent months has at least touched on this subject.  The instances of plagiarism and cheating are growing. Students are being charged with academic misconduct more than ever, and are left facing serious consequences, including lengthy suspensions.

But…I have to wonder why anyone would knowingly cheat, and why would so many students suddenly decide to knowingly do this?  I can only come up with one reasonable answer – the majority of students must not know that what they are doing is cheating!

When I think about the world today and how much we rely on the internet for getting and giving information, then maybe it makes sense that students are used to seeking out information and  answers on the internet.  Students are so used to using this information for every day life that they don’t realize using this information for their assignments is being dishonest.

With so much information on display, it can’t be easy to have an idea or perspective that is original. I worry about this every time I hand in an assignment.  What if my thoughts are similar to someone else’s published thoughts?  What if I have defined a term similar to a text book or dictionary?  How many ways can someone describe e-commerce anyway?  Or describe the connection between social media and  personal relationships?  It can’t be endless, can it?

On the flip side, it is also cheating to upload your work for someone else to use. Websites that require you to share your work in order to get access to their database of documents will cause you to be just as guilty of academic misconduct as the person who subsequently uses your work in their assignment. Assignments, quizzes, and exam questions are property of AU and it is against their policy for a student to share them.

If you are unsure what websites you should be cautious of, here are a few examples:  Wikipedia, Answers.com, Course Hero.  DO NOT COPY WORK FROM THESE SITES OR SIMILAR SITES, AND DO NOT UPLOAD YOUR WORK TO THEM.  Be cautious when using social media sites, question and answer sites, file sharing sites and homework help sites when completing your school work.

If you are unsure what you can and cannot do, simply follow these rules:

NEVER COPY ANY PART OF ANY INFORMATION FROM ANY WEBSITE OR OTHER SOURCE INTO YOUR OWN WORK.

NEVER UPLOAD OR SHARE YOUR OWN WORK FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO USE.

Your work should be YOUR work.  It should be original to you and although information can come from many different places, once the ideas are included in an essay or assignment they should be in your own words, from your own perspective, with your own opinions.

AU released a blog post recently providing some great information on this topic.  I am not sure how this was distributed or if any of you have read it.  However, it is posted as a link through the myAU page and I think it is something that every AU student should read.  You can find it here.

I think that the best way to reverse this growing trend is through educating people about the topic.  I hope that my blog has helped clarify what not to do.  I also hope that AU continues to discuss the issue and come up with ways to educate and communicate with students, not only on what not to do, but on acceptable ways to gather information through the internet and how to use it.

For other writing tips, check out AU’s Write Site.

My overall advice is to be aware, and be original.

And, of course, Happy Holidays to each of you!

Kim Newsome
VP Finance and Administration

7 replies on “December Executive Blog”

Thank you for addressing this topic Kim.

Students can also check out AU’s Library Services for assistance on questions relating to research and appropriate citing of sources. The library has been releasing a series of webinars on a range of topics, and staff are always happy to hear from students so be sure to take advantage of all available resources!

http://library.athabascau.ca/

Hi, and thank you for this information. Most of what you’ve posted is very clear, but could you please provide more details about this statement:

“On the flip side, it is also cheating to upload your work for someone else to use. Websites that require you to share your work in order to get access to their database of documents will cause you to be just as guilty of academic misconduct as the person who subsequently uses your work in their assignment. Assignments, quizzes, and exam questions are property of AU and it is against their policy for a student to share them.”

Obviously posting any content created by AU is theft, however do we students retain the right to publish our essays and other original works that have been produced as AU assignments? From what I understand, we
own our work (all rights reserved), do we not? Would some forms of publishing would be considered OK where others would not? I ask as someone who aspires to be a professional writer, so it’s very important to me that I understand my rights here.

Consider the following situations:
Could we put a particularly good essay we wrote for AU on our personal website or blog?
Could it be used as part of a professional writing portfolio and be distributed in the context of applying for a job?
Could it be submitted to a magazine as an opinion or special interest piece?
Could it be sold to an academic website to be published as an example essay to aide other students?

If the answer to one or all of these is “no”, then is there a specific amount of altering that could be done to a piece of writing produced as AU course work that would render publication compliant with policy?

Thanks very much for clearing this up, if you are able!

Great questions Danielle! For note, these regulations are put in place by AU, not AUSU. It is our understanding that once you submit your work to the university for credit, then submitting it online for others to view and possible use is against policy. Ultimately, if you have questions about submitting a piece of work used for an AU assignment, you should check with the university directly about posting that piece of work online.

However, we have put in a request for more clarification from the University on your questions and will get back to you as soon as we find out more!

Fantastic, thank you so much!

Is there an email address or phone number we can use to ask specific questions about academic misconduct? What department handles that?

Danielle

Hello Danielle,

I am not sure of the specific number to call. I have put in a request for this information to the Office of the Vice President, Academic, and will get back to you as soon as I receive a response. Incidentally, there is an “Academic Integrity Webinar” today to help provide more information on this topic. http://library.athabascau.ca/orientations.html.

AUSU just received some clarification from AU regarding these questions. They confirmed that the student does retains copyright over their work and can publish it. However, it cannot include Athabasca University material. For example, a post includes, or even makes clear, the questions on an AU assignment or includes instructor feedback. Also, make note that the Academic Misconduct policy would not allow the student to submit work in one course that has already been submitted or received credit in another course. If anyone has questions, they can contact the Office of the Registrar at [email protected] or call 1-800-788-9041.

My philosophy is pretty simple! Everything done is orchestrated by myself, no exceptions, and where I need to use quotes or external references or data, they are clearly marked with credit to the original author or producer, as per whatever rights they give others to use their data.

I believe plagiarism does nothing but harm the person doing it, as well as harming the original author. Though it may look good up front, long term consequences can be devastating. As I start at Athabasca in January, all work will be by myself alone as much as is within my power to do so.