IU seminar aims to curb cheating in class

Incidents of cheating are on the rise at Indiana University.

More Indiana University students are cheating their way toward their degrees. Now, the school has a new way to deal with them, through a seminar that's a first-of-its-kind in the state.

On college campuses, chances are good some of the students you see have cheated. They've either cut and paste sourced material, plagiarized, or taken test answers from someone else.

"I'm pretty sure people cheat on tests and stuff," said IU senior Isaiah Payton.

"I think they don't realize it, mostly," said student Debby Zemlock.

"I think most people don't do it on purpose," added IU junior Austin Green.

At Indiana University, whether on purpose or by accident, the numbers aren't good. Incidents of cheating have gone up each of the last four years. Just this past year, the university noticed the biggest jump: 120 more students caught cheating.

Academic Year               Number of Academic Integrity Incidents
2008-09                                                    276
2009-10                                                    338
2010-11                                                    366
2011-12                                                    486
(IU Office of Student Ethics)

IU's Office of Student Ethics tracks the numbers and became concerned. But what's not exactly clear - are more students are taking shortcuts or are more professors catching them?

"It depends if you're a glass half-full or glass half-empty kind of person," said Student Ethics Director and Associate Dean of Students Jason Casares. "We like to think reporting is increasing. I think our faculty members are taking a proactive step to enforce their syllabus."

Now, the school is doing even more. Instead of getting suspended or expelled, first-time offenders have to take a newly-created seminar to learn how not to cheat. The eight-hour "Academic Integrity Seminar" is held on weekends, when most students are on social time.

Seventy-five students are taking the class right now.

"We're literally teaching students how to cite, how to research, how to do that work appropriately, how to manage time better so that you don't feel like you're in a crunch where you have to cheat on an exam," Casares said.

"I think it's a good thing they're saying, like, you have to take this class instead of you getting a harsher penalty," Payton said.

Payton, Green and other students learned early how not to plagiarize. They say tools like the website TurnItIn.com helped. For about $7, it takes your paper, compares it to web pages and highlights unoriginal work before you turn it in to the professor.

"My freshman year I did it and I was like, 'Whoa.' I was like, 'Yeah, I have to learn how to cite better'," Payton said.

IU hopes its new seminar helps students learn too and keeps first-time cheaters from cheating again.

"This is a learning environment, so why not learn from a poor decision that you've made? Our goal really is to decrease second-time offenses. That's our number one goal," Casares explained.

Casares says Indiana University is the only school in the state with this type of class for cheaters. It piloted this program with about 100 students last spring.

They say the feedback was positive. Most students surveyed said the seminar helped them. IU plans to track the students in it right now, to make sure the number of those cheating goes down.