Recent studies in Higher Education have estimated that up to 80% of college students have cheated in some way or another during their college careers. It is an alarming trend at colleges both in the U.S. as well as throughout the rest of the world and has not shown any signs of slowing down. Each year students are graduating and transitioning from the academic world to the business world, which leaves society facing the question “Will their dishonesty carry into the workplace?”
Perhaps the most disconcerting trend has been the emergence and use of essay-writing and test-taking sites. These sites offer to have experts in your field sit in and take your exam for you while guaranteeing a passing grade. They also offer to write any essay needed. That means everything from research papers to statistics projects, and all the way up to a Ph.D. level report. The reason these services are alarming is because they go beyond cheating to shore up a lack of effort in a class, and instead display a complete refusal to even approach the work. What happens when these students enter the workforce and deem a work task beneath them? They might refuse to do it, do a poor job, or even outsource the work and submit work that they had others create. Even more dramatically they may hire people to sit in for profession’s specific tests or exams, which could have the employee in a position where they are responsible for other’s safety but not properly trained.
Of course, the academic world has not rolled over and given up against such developments. Tests often require a valid student ID to turn in. Ideas have cropped up regarding glasses that authenticate based on retinas and track eye movement during testing. Of course, less expensive methods have also been put in place, such as Zayed University’s plan to give oral exams, where a student would verbally present to a professor, eliminating almost all current forms of cheating. It is a good sign that new methods to deter cheating are still developing and adapting to the new technology. Especially given that most students are carrying easy internet access in the form of a smartphone. But the issue is that in the real world “cheating” is no longer a slap in the risk or a suspension from school. Damaging behavior in the business world can have consequences ranging from losing a job to facing jail time.
Last, but not least, students’ continued reliance on these crutches instead of their critical thinking could lead to a decrease in creativity and innovation. Problem solving is developed by learning materials so thoroughly that they can be applied to new contexts and situations. They never develop this critical skill by circumventing this process and using the cheating methods described above. Less problem solving creativity in the National and Global economy could easily lead to a slower rate of technological advancement, and fewer inventive products.