EFL Female Students’ Attitudes of Cheating in Distance Learning

Abstract:

Distance education is becoming more demanding in universities in Saudi Arabia and all over the world. This study is devoted to explaining distance-students’ attitude of cheating at King Abdulaziz University: the ways they used to cheat, causes of cheating, and some solutions to end cheating. To achieve this aim, an electronic questionnaire was sent to 57 female distance-students from KAU, English department. They are EFL graduates and undergraduates. The result showed that most female students cheated by helping each other. Either obtaining the correct answers from another student or send the right responses to all classmates. Another significant way was using electronic sites to copy and paste the answers in the test’s window. Students said that the more important causes of distance-learning cheating at KAU in the female section are: technical problem, frequent absence to virtual classes, and they want grades not learning. In the end, this study tried to identify some solutions which that begin with the students’ awareness of the policy instructions then try to solve some servers’ problems. That would improve the quality of graduates’ knowledge in the future.

Introduction:

As a result of all developments and inventions around the world, learning becomes one of the most important aspects of life. Many types of learning have been extended, and one of the remarkable sources is e-learning or distance learning. So, in the modern globalized world, distance learning begins to play a leading role in the field of education (Almazova, Khalyapina, & Popova, 2017).

Regarding e-learning in Saudi Arabia, King Abdul-Aziz University (KAU) has established centers for distance learning in 2005 (Alhareth, Mcbride, 2014). Distance learning has given many opportunities for part-time students and lecturers. But on the other hand, lots of disadvantages were results of it as (Sokolova, et al. 2018) mentioned that.

Purpose of the Study:

Although, there are many studies about dishonesty in e-learning; little researches have been conducted by cheating in distance-learning in KAU at Jeddah. This study aims to identify the attitudes of distance-students in KAU. How they cheat, reasons for cheating in online courses and some solutions to that phenomenon.

Research Questions:

This research aims to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the ways used by distance-students at King Abdulaziz University?
  2. What are the reasons for cheating online in KAU from the students’ perceptions?
  3. What are the most practical solutions to prevent cheating in distance-learning in KAU?

Background:

King Abdul-Aziz University was established in 1967. And nowadays it is becoming a crucial university in the Middle East, due to its education and the high students’ numbers. Its system had developed over the years, and add to the traditional classrooms, the university offered other programs. Distance learning was an example of that developing. The university accepted its first group of e-learning students in the fall semester of 2007 (Al-Nuaim,2012). The main contact program between instructors and students is Blackboard. The university gave the distance learners access to the application through phones or laptops. There are no traditional classrooms, all the lectures are conducted by virtual classrooms via blackboard. All assignments, forums, and tests send online. Except for the final test, which is in university test rooms. Comment by Alaa Saleh: Is it a relevance sentence?

Applying distance learning in KAU faced many obstacles which can be divided into four main categories; technical issues, financial issues, the society, and administrative issues. (Alhareth, Mcbride, 2014).

Regarding the difficulties that many students encounter, three main barriers were the most significant: 1) lack of the strategies’ knowledge, 2) few opportunities for practicing and interaction with others, 3) messy time (Stella, 2000). Due to many factors, cheating has increased in e-learning.

Literature Review:

Definition of cheating:

(Raines, et al. 2011) defined cheating as breaking the rules, dishonesty and not doing the work as behaviors nominal. And, 66% of participants of their study referenced to cheating as doing something which is contrary to the university policies and professor’s guidelines. In the current online context, this includes obtaining inappropriate assistance either from friends or the Internet.

So, every way student is gaining information by it and the professor has not authorized; it is evidence of cheating. In academic cheating, there are some goals that convince students to go-ahead and cheating. For example: having a higher grade with no study, completing a course successfully and getting a better job in the future (Owen, 2016).

Ways of cheating in Distance-Learning:

Females were significantly more likely to cheat in online courses and to have answers from others during a test or quiz (Watson and Sottile,2010)

Many researchers determined various ways students used to cheat in online courses. (Watson and Sottile, 2010) made a study about the cheating ways. The data were collected by 635 students’ response survey. There were many means that students mentioned it as:

  1. Copying another student’s work without their permission.
  2. Copying passages from an article or books directly without any citation.

Fabricating or falsifying a reference is also a common way that most of the Saudi participants in the study of (Razek, 2014) reported.

(Ravasco, 2012) added more strategies to help pupils to achieve their cheating successfully. The most common ways of cheating online are aiding and abetting, identity impersonation, Internet, students would collaborate dishonestly and share assignment’s files between each other.

Reasons for Cheating:

There are many sources that cause on-line cheating. The most important factor is the student himself. Lack of responsibility, laziness, academic misconduct and being apathetic are the most important internal reasons. Students usually don’t attend the lectures, so they misunderstand the contents, and they didn’t use to review their lessons beforehand (Diego,2017). So, lack the study time is an obvious cause of cheating (Hosny, 2014)

Regarding the parents, adolescents feel ashamed to get low grades. Thus, pupils tend to cheat (Diego,2017). He said also that learners’ cheating aptitude is rooted in the elementary years of school. Most of the students consider cheating as a social and connection behaviorism. And they share the answers even if they know it is not honestly (Diego,2017).

Saudi students mentioned their suffering because of the inevitable failure without any help or cheating (Razek, 2014). They explained how grades are more important than learning.

Technical problems with the Internet and difficult access to Blackboard are other reasons convince distance students to cheat.

Cheating’s Solutions in distance-learning:

Achieve the nominal goal of distance-learning requires to solve this phenomenon. (Rowe,2004) suggested many solutions to prevent cheating in online courses:

  1. Students should sign a policy statement at the beginning of each course. (Michael and Williams, 2013) said that as well.
  2. Teachers understand what students face in distance-learning and how much their duties are big.
  3. The server site must have a designated Security Manager.
  4. Close all ports (critically ports 21 (file-transfer), 23 (remote-login), 25 (mail), and 443 (secure Internet connections)).

(Michael and Williams, 2013) added other solutions that teachers must do:

  • Decrease the number of MCQ and increase the essay questions forms and short answers.
  • The exam software should show one question at a time.
  • Be familiar with the students’ level to determine who really write the essay assignments.

Methodology

As a methodological basis in this research, mix methods were conducted – quantitative and qualitative- to examine the ways of cheating in distance-learning and identify some solutions for this issue.

Participants:

The sample in this study was obtained from King Abdulaziz University, English department, distance-learning. And the participants were categorized as adult learners.

The sample consists of 57 female undergraduates and graduates distance students all of them studied at least two online courses. All of the respondents’ identity kept anonymous. The students were informed that engaging them in the study would better to improve distance-learning in KAU.

19 non-distance students are excluded from the results. Comment by Alaa Saleh: How should I identify that the participants were 76 and 19 are excluded?

Instrument:

The tool used to gather information in this study was an electronic questionnaire. It’s adopted and modified from (King, et al. 2009). Respondents are asked to answer the questionnaire which is sent via WhatsApp to groups of KAU distance-learning.

The questionnaire included four parts:

  1. First about: gender, type of learning, and the participants’ perception of frequent cheating in distance-learning.
  2. Second part was: Single Select Multiple Choice Questions consisted of 6 questions about the ways used by distance-students.
  3. Third part involved 7 Dichotomous Questions (agree and disagree) about the reasons for cheating in distance-learning.
  4. Fourth part was an open-ended question to find some solutions for the cheating phenomenon in KAU.

Data Analysis:

Data from the surveys were analyzed by the author, in terms of frequency and percentage response. Quantitative and qualitative methods were used to analyze data. Comment by Alaa Saleh: Where I should mention quantitative and qualitative definitions?

Results/ Findings

As the results reported in the second part, most distance-students cheat under the name of “help others”. Cheating is considered social networking. They support each test taker and exchange the correct answers even they obtain the whole exam from another student who did it before. Internet and websites have its role, 60% of the participants used google during the exam. They copied and pasted the right answers from different sites.

Although 34.5% of the students gave their exam to another one, most of them (54.5%) didn’t do that. On the other hand, used open book without teacher’s permission, had the ID of students then accessed to their tests, and used more time were the lowest uses.

Many reasons determined the problem as the students’ perception. They blamed teachers and the university itself. For the lecturers, due to the long course and short time of exams students cheat. And because of the technical problems that happen most of the time, they got cheating to have grades.

As the following answers we can determine that the students play the most important role in cheating:

  • “Laziness”
  • “Dishonesty and the absence of fearing God”
  • “Cheating is easier than study”
  • “There are many easy opportunities to cheat, as all students send correct answers via WhatsApp”
  • “No time for studying”
  • “Lack of self-confidence”

They wanted grades without any knowledge so, they didn’t care about the lectures and didn’t attend it. As a result of that, many misunderstandings of the contents appeared, and they tended to cheat.

Strategies to Confront Cheating on Online Exams:

Based on the previous findings, it appears that modern distance-students have rather lax attitudes toward ethical issues when taking exams. So, the solutions begin by increasing awareness and fearing God. Also, teaching a course about ethics and honesty in distance-learning would be a good idea. For practical solutions from teachers, they can contact distance-students to know the general level of them. Even though, lecturers may make the essay and short answers tests. Finally, the university can make a scaffolding aid to prevent technical problems and random access to each exam.

Discussion

This study focused on the ways and causes of cheating, the results show that the most used ways are: identity impersonation and consulting other classmates during exams (Ravsco,2012).

The student complained that there is no time to study as most of them part-students and workers or parents. (Hosny, 2014) found that lots of students cheat because they agreed that there is not enough time to study. Non-regular attendance for the classes causes misunderstanding of the whole course. Then students try to cheat for achievement (Diego, 2017). They can solve this problem by themselves. Either listening to the recording lectures or find another person to help them at comprehension. So, it’s very substantial recognizing students the importance of learning and study hard (King, et al. 2009)

Conclusion

Developing the distance program in the future is required avoiding the negative aspects (Sokolova, et al. 2018). A valued factor that affects the outcomes’ improving distance-learning in KAU is cheating. While most participants answered to this study as they cheated, this can be decreased by solving the causes of cheating. KAU university and IT can develop a new program that monitors distance-students during the exam. And block all the sites except Blackboard. Finally, students must have an awareness of responsibility and religious aspects. Keep in mind that learning is not just for school but for life.

Limitation of this Study:

This research had some limitations:

  • A small sample size: This study had a small sample size so, researchers should conduct a large one.
  • All the participants were female students.
  • There was no specific course to analyze cheating in it.

Further researches:

  • For further study on cheating in distance learning we propose some suggestions:
  • Compare students’ cheating across different courses in distance learning in KAU to distinguish the weakest course and identify the reasons.
  • One possible research idea is a comparison study between actual cheating and the students’ perception of dishonesty in online courses.

 

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