The tricks being used at a Yorkshire university to stop cheating students

Sheffield Hallam University
Sheffield Hallam University
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A leading Yorkshire university has told how it requires students to remove watches and ditch their mobile phones before exams as part of a major crackdown on cheating.

Sheffield Hallam also employs a text-matching service to match students’ work with online sources in an effort to tackle website plagiarism.

Now the institution is looking at how it can combat the use of hidden earpieces and wireless Bluetooth devices in exams as it attempts to keep up with fast-paced technology alongside other universities.

A total of 2,799 students have been caught cheating in their coursework at the university in the last five years- the highest in the region - with online plagiarism being listed as the main cause.

However, the university puts this down to having a sophisticated system in place, with its comprehensive measures meaning that less serious cases, like poor referencing, are identified, which make up the vast majority of incidents.

A spokesman for the university, which saw 162 pupils cheat in exams during the same period, said: “We tackle plagiarism through a combination of education, presentations and sanctions. We educate all students about plagiarism, providing advice and guidance to students on how to maintain academic conduct, particularly for those who are new to study at a UK university.

“We use text-matching services which are integrated within our Virtual Learning Environment.

“These show the percentage of a submission that matches other sources, including the internet, a range of electronic journals and its database of existing student papers from subscribing UK institutions.

“We also keep ahead of technologies and physical malpractice in the exam hall.

“We require students to remove their watches and place them in a plastic box under their desk along with their mobile phone during exams, and are currently assessing measures to protect against wireless earpieces and Bluetooth devices.”

The spokesman stressed that the university rarely found serious cases of deliberate cheating through plagiarism, though robust checks for this are in place and if detected the matter is treated “extremely seriously”.

“We have in place a range of sanctions for genuine plagiarisms,” he said.

Leeds Beckett recorded the second highest figure in the region when it came to students cheating in coursework, with 2,260 caught out in the last five years.

The university is also cracking down on the problem, providing guidance and a range of resources to all students to educate them about good academic practice.

A university spokesperson said: “This includes a module on academic integrity available to all students, and students with an admitted or found case of unfair practice are advised to undertake the module to improve their understanding and avoid future offences.

“We have a robust system for investigating suspected cases of unfair practice and considering admitted or found cases in place, to ensure that instances of cheating, plagiarism and other forms of unfair practice are kept to a minimum.”

The university also uses a number of plagiarism detection tools, including text-matching software.

The spokesperson added: “We have not seen a significant increase in the number of proven cases of plagiarism or cheating in recent years and continue to work closely with our students to ensure they place pride in their work and achievements.

““We take all incidents of cheating, plagiarism and other forms of unfair practice extremely seriously. Maintaining the academic integrity of our awards and safeguarding against unfair practice is very important to us.”