Upon learning that about 200 of the 600 students in his management class cheated on their exams, University of Central Florida professor Richard Quinn made national news earlier this month when he confronted the entire class and offered offenders a second chance if they came forward and confessed.
However, beyond hoping students will act honestly, there are more prudent measures that could have prevented this mishap and others like it that go undetected.
It’s easy to understand the importance of preventing cheating, as it dangerously devalues degrees, colleges, the U.S. workforce and even public safety. Engineering majors, among others, put lives on the line when they use their educational skills – or a lack thereof.
Still, as is true with all types of people, many college students will do whatever it takes to gain a competitive edge, regardless of a measure’s honorability.
Some students innocently memorize study guides to prepare, while others cheat by carrying out elaborate plans involving baseball caps, notes written within the artwork of a tattoo or simply ones involving a peek at a book or phone.
The cheating in Quinn’s class was not elaborate. It happened because students had copies of the test they were going to take and could have been prevented very easily.
Quinn’s test, despite claims he made at the beginning of the year that are featured on YouTube, was not original and used questions provided by the textbook maker.
“It’s not uncommon for higher education professors to use these pre-made exams produced by the publisher,” UCF spokesman Grant Heston said to WFTV-Orlando.
In today’s information age, not producing original tests can have a more profound effect than ever.
“You can buy the answer manuals to most publishing textbooks on like Half.com or Amazon.com, and I’ve known friends who have bought the answer manuals,” UCF student Michael Atteo said to WFTV.
This problem can exist even if the tests are not available online. If the same test is used repeatedly, there is a possibility the questions could become compromised.
Leadership at UCF, USF and schools across the country must begin taking measures to assure that professors write up their own original tests, at least every semester.
Instead of blaming students, many of whom may not have known that the information they were forwarded was not an acceptable study guide, a more realistic and pragmatic approach must be adopted.
According to the American Association of University Professors, full-time UCF professors make an average of $115,800 per year, with USF professors earning slightly less at an average of $107,000 per year.
Earning a salary that’s more than double the median income for all U.S. households, professors who don’t already do so must be required to take the simple step of creating original tests for their students to improve the sanctity of American education.