University trialing new system to help prevent cheating

April 16 / 180

The University of Melbourne is in the midst of trialing a new system to help stamp-out ‘contract cheating’ among students (whereby a student employs someone else to complete assessments).

The trial focuses on Cadmus, an online editing and authentication system designed and developed within the University, in collaboration with alumni, who have been working on the project as part of the University’s Melbourne Accelerator Program.

The system works by requiring students to authenticate and login using a free mobile app, before logging into the web-based system, allowing the institution to verify the identity of the individual using the system, similar to mobile banking authentication.

The system uses advanced analytics, such as typing latency and style, to ensure the student is and always remains the author of the written work being completed.

And while authoring their assignment, Cadmus also provides educative prompts based on the written text input it receives: for example, Cadmus is able to detect unoriginal work and suggest that an appropriate citation be provided, while linking to University guides on how to do this appropriately.

The system has so far been trialed with more than 300 students in two faculties between the end of semester 2015 and the 2015-16-summer semester. More trials are continuing throughout this year.

Pro-Vice Chancellor (Academic) Professor Richard James says the University of Melbourne believes it has come up with a robust way to deter would-be cheats.

“There is no silver bullet for preventing or eliminating cheating. However, the Cadmus trial is showing us there is a potential for the University to add a barrier to cheating for important written assessment tasks, thus increasing the degree of difficulty for those who want try.”

“Our challenge as a University community is to provide an environment that not only discourages cheating, but also provides guidance and support on high quality academic practices for students at all levels of study,” Professor James says.

“The extent of intentional cheating through ‘ghost writing’ or ‘contracted essays’ is largely unknown and unknowable. But we do know that services exist to provide contracted assignments to students and this is a growing industry.

“And while the vast majority of our students understand and follow principles associated with academic integrity, the University and the entire sector cannot ignore the minority of students within our community who depict someone else's work as their own.

“We hope Cadmus is another tool we can use to enforce these principals and uphold academic integrity,” he says.

Story by David Scott.

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