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    Dark Side of the Internet: Students can find almost...
    blog entry posted December 15, 2015 by Richard E Lillie, tagged research, teaching, technology 
    478 Views, 1 Comment
    title:
    Dark Side of the Internet: Students can find almost anything on the Internet
    intro text:

    For many years, I have taught accounting courses in face-to-face, blended, and fully online formats.  Of the three instructional methods, I thoroughly enjoy teaching courses in the fully online format.  My personal logo reflects the challenge of doing this.

    While undergraduate courses tend to be somewhat "nuts-n-bolts" focused, graduate courses (both MBA and Master's of Accountancy) are broader in scope, require a lot of writing and presentations, include case studies, team collaboration and online research.  For both undergraduate and graduate courses, the Internet is an important support resource for the teaching-learning process.  The Internet can be either a good resource or a not-so-good resource depending on intent with which it is used.

    During recent academic terms, I have noticed a significant increase in the use of what I call the "Dark Side of the Internet."  By this I mean the increasing student use of the Internet as a source for finding solutions to class assignments, solutions to exam questions, solutions for case studies, and engaging others who will write papers for students for a fee.  While unethical, this type of behavior does not seem to cause even a "blink of an eye" for students who gravitate toward "Dark Side" activity.  This trend includes students completing courses in all three course delivery formats (i.e., face-to-face, blended, and fully online).

    I am amazed when a student turns in an assignment prepared by someone else and considers the assignment to be his(her) own work.  The fact that the submitted assignment is NOT his(her) own work does not seem to be a matter of concern.  After all, the student paid a fee for a service.

    I am updating an online graduate course that I am teaching during upcoming Spring 2016.  I plan to include a few short case studies to be used for team projects.  Course topics are interesting, challenging, and intense.  The projects are well-suited for the team and case study formats.  The cases are good examples of the old adage "more heads may be better than one."  Team discussion and research are integral parts of preparing a case solution.

    I have been searching for appropriate case studies for the course.  Each time I find an interesting case study, the first thing I do is perform an online search for the case study title. This is where things get interesting very quickly.

    Over and over again, the title of the case study pops up on the screen with a URL that links to a website that promises a "high quality" solution for the case study with the claim that an "A" grade is only a click away!  How could a student whether undergraduate or graduate resist this kind of temptation.

    Below are statements posted on the home page of a "case writing service" offering "personalized case solutions for you."  Of course, "personalized case solutions" cost money.

    • "We offer personalized solutions to any business case, individually written by.....graduates from top North American universities."
    • "We guarantee your cases will be written individually which means there is no chance of plagiarism.  We provide answers....at a reasonable price!"
    • "We pride ourselves in quality work.  Having completed over 1,000...business cases, as well as 500+ case solutions from other organizations, you are guaranteed a quality solution."
    • "Please browse out site and do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.  We will gladly solve your case and please remember, an 'A' grade is only a click away!"

    Students find these "Internet resources" pretty easily.  A quick search using almost any search engine turns up links like the ones shown below.

    While I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of teaching in the online format, I am both challenged and frustrated by students who feel that cheating and unethical behavior are acceptable.  In a recent online class, I read short essay responses that were word-for-word from the author's suggested solution for a textbook end-of-chapter ethics question.  What are the odds of a student or team coming up with an exact word-for-word answer?  Astronomical?

    I recently came across an interesting blog post on a website called "Online Schools Center."  The focus of the post was "How Students Cheat Online."  I especially liked a comment in the post that addressed my concern about being both challenged and frustrated by students who feel that cheating and unethical behavior is acceptable.  Below is the comment.

    As I update course materials for my upcoming Spring 2016 course, I will write about ways that I build into my course design that I "hope" will motivate students not to engage in Dark Side activities.

    Some methods that I have built into my course designs have worked pretty well.  Unfortunately, others have failed.  I have always heard that "failure" is the first step toward success.  If this is true, then I'm certainly headed in the right direction.

    Tell me what you think about this posting.  I hope my comments will start a conversation on a topic that we all face one way or another.

    Best wishes,

     

     

     

     

    Comment

     

    • John W Hines

      Professor Lille,

      I used questions from a test bank provided by the editor of the text I was using.  These were what I called exams that were problems to be solved.  I recently discovered that the solutions to the questions I proposed were available online.  Google the first line of the question to see the availability of the solution.

      This reminds me of when software publishers would require a key to unlock their program for use.  As I recall, the cycle was 90 days for the hackers to discover the key and subsuqently for the hackers to break it.  This led to the programmers readjusting the key, and so on.

      One solution is to adjust the numbers in the problems to change the correct answers.  An other possibility is to change selected problems in th question set and look for identifiers.

      It ought not to be that difficult.

      John Hines