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"Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper" - Academic Dishonesty in the Era of Online Homework Assistance

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Computers in Education Division Technical Session 5: Online Teaching and Learning

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors


Kenneth Reid Virginia Tech

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Kenneth Reid is an Associate Professor in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He is active in engineering within K-12, serving on the TSA Board of Directors. He and his coauthors were awarded the William Elgin Wickenden award for 2014, recognizing the best paper in the Journal of Engineering Education. He was awarded an IEEE-USA Professional Achievement Award in 2013 for designing the nation's first BS degree in Engineering Education. He was named NETI Faculty Fellow for 2013-2014, and the Herbert F. Alter Chair of Engineering (Ohio Northern University) in 2010. His research interests include success in first-year engineering, engineering in K-12, introducing entrepreneurship into engineering, and international service and engineering. He has written texts in design, general engineering and digital electronics, including the text used by Project Lead the Way.

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Max Mikel-Stites Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Max Mikel-Stites is pursuing master's degrees in engineering mechanics and mathematics at Virginia Tech. He studies the biomechanics of hearing in parasitoid flies and is passionate about the physics of Marvel superheroes and scientific communication. His general research interests include biological modeling on both organismal and population scales, biological physics, and agent-based modeling. He graduated with degrees in applied mathematics and physics & astronomy from the University of Rochester.

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Nearly every Engineering program has an introductory programming course or a course in which they introduce computer programming. A large mid-Atlantic university includes MATLAB programming in their Introduction to Engineering course sequence as is typical. In these courses, programs are often simplistic and very straightforward; beginning programs may be 10-20 lines of code, and problems may not have multiple solutions. As the course progresses, the programming assignments become more complex and different students begin to have an opportunity to solve problems using different approaches. In this particular course sequence, the programs start to increase in complexity after an introduction to functions, and there are a number of fairly complex programming assignments in the second semester course. Students are introduced and held to the policies as defined in the Undergraduate Honor Code, which clearly define cheating: Cheating includes the intentional use of unauthorized materials, information, notes, study aids or other devices or materials in any academic exercise, or attempts thereof. … Acquiring answers from any unauthorized source in completing any assigned work. For assigned work, unauthorized sources include, but are not limited to, working with another student on a project that is to be completed individually, copying solutions from an online source or solutions manual, using the services of commercial term paper companies, or purchasing answer sets to homework assignments. Course coordinators of this course selected assignments to submit to MoSS, an online service which measures the similarity of the code contained in any two submitted files. The MoSS algorithm is such that if a similar block of code appears enough times in submitted files, it is assumed that that code must have been supplied to the students; in other words, if most of the students typed a similar block of code, it must have been supplied. Coordinators noticed idiosyncrasies in one assignment in particular: in this case, an assignment to calculate the trajectory of a launched object. In particular, multiple students had identical comments to “calculate the lunch angle,” output the “horizentol velocity,” and used a seldom-seen and unnecessary MATLAB command, uint64. Investigating further, the authors found over 200 cases of code that showed signs of academic dishonesty, with nearly identical structure and often identical errors. The unusual solutions were found on online homework assistance internet sites. This paper will document the process of identifying cases of widespread academic dishonesty in multiple MATLAB assignments and describe the aftermath: identifying and notifying 10% of the students in a large course. Finally, given that the goal is to prevent academic violations and stress the importance of submitting students’ own work, the authors will offer guidelines on effectively addressing academic dishonesty.

Reid, K., & Mikel-Stites, M. (2020, June), "Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper" - Academic Dishonesty in the Era of Online Homework Assistance Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--33963

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