How cultural differences affect academic integrity Messages
Written work such as essays is a fundamental part of college, but students are discovering ways to have essays written for themselves.
In several group chats on WeChat – a Chinese messaging app – international students offer to write essays, do homework and even take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for other students for a hefty price. However, the state of Iowa has ways to address and prevent misrepresented work.
Yanglong Wang, a senior in philosophy, says he sees several people within the Chinese international student community posting offers for classwork for other students on WeChat at prices of up to a few hundred dollars.
“People would post if someone needs help writing essays or writing other homework, math, GRE and all that stuff. That’s how people know they’re offering help,” Wang said.
Once a student contacts the resource providers, they receive a quote request and proof (in screenshots) of past work and payments to the person willing to complete the assignment.
“They would show how much support they get, and usually the price of writing an essay is quite high,” Wang said.
Brendan O’Brien, the director of the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO), said that in the 30 years he’s worked with international students, the overwhelming majority are academically strong students who deserve their grades, and when it any indication of academics is dishonesty, it could be unintentional.
“I would say in the vast majority of cases of international students having problems with academic integrity, it wasn’t really an attempt to cheat, it was ignorance of the US academic system, the various rules and things in it connection with citing a work and plagiarism,” said O’Brien. “A language barrier can lead to misunderstandings.”
The State of Iowa defines academic misconduct as any act that creates an unfair advantage for oneself or a disadvantage for other members of the community. Some examples are receiving unauthorized information, misrepresentation or plagiarism. Students are prohibited from selling their work to another person who intends to submit it as their own. Misrepresentations can sometimes be confused with plagiarism.
“Plagiarism is quite diverse; If you took someone else’s idea, the words or the artwork of a photo, it could be music or computer coding…without credit, that’s plagiarism,” said Sara Kellogg, associate dean and director of the Office of Student Conduct. “Having someone else do your work for you is very different from plagiarism. This is just cheating.”
Academic misconduct not only affects international students, but also occurs among domestic students. However, there are a variety of reasons why an international student specifically chooses to do something dishonest.
“I think there might be a correlation with how Chinese people are originally and how they grew up under the Chinese education system,” Wang said. “The Chinese education system relies heavily on tests and there is no GPA that relies on homework, but tests mean everything. The test determines which college you go to; Test determine what type of education you receive.”
According to a study on China’s Education Fever, China’s exam-centric culture can be traced back to Imperial China and its civil service exam system, which continues to be used to promote and maintain government systems with competitive exams. China’s exam-oriented education system, which relies on heavy memorization, has been accused of stifling students’ qualities and leading them to view education as nothing more than passing an exam.
Wang says that given China’s heavy reliance on taking tests, students are more likely to imitate each other on non-exam work like homework and essays. Based on his personal experiences in China, he and his classmates copied each other’s homework before class started.
“Usually there are no consequences [from copying work] Because of this, it doesn’t contribute to your GPA,” Wang said.
ISSO has worked with the Office of Student Conduct to provide international students with various academic resources to prevent academic misconduct.
“We tell international students whatever they need, they can come to us and we’ll try to help them,” O’Brien said. ISSO also has the International First Year Experience, a course designed to help international first-year students succeed. Academic integrity is one of the themes implemented in the course.
“We have a brochure that we developed together with ISSO to help provide targeted information to international students. We also work with them on some of their orientation programs. We’re trying to figure out where the trends are and the prevailing areas that you need to think about,” Kellogg said.
The Office of Student Conduct is currently working with the Center of Excellence in Learning and Teaching on an online learning module that will provide all students with information on academic integrity and preventive measures to avoid possible misconduct.
“There will be examples of what the different types of fraud are. It’s talking about resources, it’s talking about the policies and process, what’s happening, how does it work, it’s talking about why academic integrity matters,” Kellogg said. Hopefully next fall the learning module will be ready and supervised by instructors, Kellogg said.
“Academic integrity affects us all. It can affect all students,” O’Brien said. “The most important thing is to help students develop coping skills so that they can better manage their stress when they get stressed and not make bad decisions like going to school.
Regardless of whether a student is international or domestic, the same process applies once a faculty member suspects that their student is doing something academically dishonest. There is a recommended process that the Office of Student Conduct suggests instructors should attempt to obtain evidence to support the claim.
“Sometimes there are things that don’t necessarily do that — it might be suspicious, but when we just don’t have the evidence to support it, we have to recognize that suspicion isn’t enough to indicate academic misconduct,” Kellogg said.
As soon as a faculty member forwards to the bureau what they believe is an assignment not written in a student’s voice, the bureau begins its investigation. Sometimes students can get passport recognition software, so the bureau has its academic misconduct screening process that works with Canvas and the State of Iowa’s Information Technology Services. If there is enough evidence to conclude academic misconduct, the student must meet with the office.
“That includes a meeting with us. One of the hearing officers will talk to the student about what happened, how you ended up here, what was going on. Each situation is really looked at on its own,” Kellogg said. “Sometimes students have a lot to do. We’re trying to work through that so we can be as sure as possible to ensure that students don’t have to make these choices in the future.”
The hearing officers examine reasons why any student might do something academically dishonest and decide on the most appropriate outcome. Ultimately, the instructor makes the academic decision regarding their student.
“There aren’t many ways to stop someone from doing something once they’ve decided that’s the action they’re going to take, but perhaps giving them some information beforehand can help guide that decision-making.” prevent it,” Kellogg said.