We should remember that technology has also increased the chance for a university to catch cheaters who had been able to go undetected in the 1990s without the use of such Web-based plagiarism checking tools as Turnitin.
While students can use technology to their advantage, so can professors and administrators. Tools such as Safeassign and Turnitin give faculty an unprecedented advantage in detecting cheating by comparing student work with a vast amount of existing writing. Students can be reminded that their submitted work will be turned in for originality reports. Such heightened awareness helps students to focus on writing original work.
Cheating isn’t a new problem that arose with increased use of the Internet. In the past, students used crib notes to cheat. They can copy from paper copies of tests and assignments. They can share test answers without getting caught. With the appropriate use of technology tools, it’s actually more difficult for students to get an unfair advantage.
For instance, a professor using Web-based tests can generate a unique set of questions for each student. It’s also easier to track the digital footprint of students with learning management systems.
Technology also affords professors opportunities to teach in innovative ways. The “Sage on the Stage” model of teaching can sometimes be supplemented, if not supplanted, by alternative models. Technology can be used to help faculty cover their teaching content. Computers never tire of playing the same instructional video repeatedly until students “get it.”
The same can be said about online testing. Professor Richard Trout of Oklahoma Christian University recently made this comment about online testing: “After the first exam of 83 freshman zoology students, wherein they logged out and their exam was graded and the score sent to my gradebook, I realized what a blessing it was. For the first time in my 25 years of college teaching, I didn’t have tests to grade all week long. I suddenly had more time to read, to meet with students, to go hang out in the student union, to converse with colleagues, to do more research … generally more time to do all the things a university professor is expected to do.”
I encourage more educators to use technology to their advantage, instead of thinking of the good old days of teaching in which students were better behaved without the Internet.
Fang is associate director of the North Institute of Teaching and Learning at Oklahoma Christian University.