How to deal with cheaters in college

Using statistical analysis, University of Central Florida professor Richard Quinn determined that dozens of students had cheated on a test, told them in a lecture (video below), and over 200 students confessed after the lecture.

(via kottke)

19 Comments leave a comment below

  1. …except the students weren’t cheating. They were just studying effectively using past tests as study aids. The professor was just too lazy to write an original test.

    There is a LOT more to this story.

  2. I agree with the first comment. It boggles the mind that this professor, for a college level course, apparently has just regurgitated MULTIPLE CHOICE questions provided by the TEXTBOOK PUBLISHER over and over again for TWENTY YEARS. And it appears that the LAB ASSISTANTS actually do the regurgitating. This is the LAZIEST type of teaching I have ever heard of. The students at the university should ask why they are paying good money to get regurgitated true or false questions not even prepared by the professor.

    If he put half the energy into preparing a creative exam that he does on running statistical analysis of the results, the students would benefit greatly.

    It sounds like that students did not have a copy of the exams, but just questions and answers from the publisher. To put that in perspective, at the law school I attended, ALL PAST EXAMS are posted in the LIBRARY (or online). They act as an efficient study guide.

  3. @Rajio

    “The professor was just too lazy to write an original test.”

    No kidding. While it’s an effective (and appreciated) response to cheating, it also emphasizes so many of the pedagogical deficiencies that detract from the efficacy of an education that students and their parents are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for.

    While I can’t speak to Mr. Quinn’s charisma and ability to engage students, I am a bit disappointed to see such an ardent defense of a very lazy, ineffective and uncreative testing practice. To be clear, it’s not acceptable that students cheated. However, it’s not acceptable that Mr. Quinn apparently hasn’t adapted his teaching method in over 20 years.

    We’ve all taken classes like this (tenured, unchangeable teachers and canned tests), and we tend to treat them the same. What do you do? You skip class, study the old tests, get your A, and learn nothing. Not effective, not engaging, and not worthy of what is apparently THE capstone class for UCF’s undergraduate business degree.

  4. @ Rajio–Thanks for the added information . I’m glad that the students pushed back.

    @Eli–I hadn’t thought of that . When the professor gives clear signals that he’s not taking the class seriously, what are the students to do?

  5. Apparently at the start of the course he claimed he created the test questions. So he’s guilty of a far greater crime – blatantly plagiarizing his tests. He has passed off the work of others as his own (in this case, the sample questions from the publisher), and collected not only a paycheck from it, but in his own convoluted way justified cheating. You have to wonder why he’s so hard on cheaters? He’s the biggest one of the group.

    Telling students that using test prep materials provided by the textbook manufacturer is against the rules ahead of time is one thing, but he didn’t. If I’m being taught out of a single textbook, and that textbook company offers a study guide, you can be damned certain I’ll use it, especially if the professor is not apparently taking the material that seriously.

  6. FYI While bell shaped curves are the norm in most disciplines, bi-modal curves are the norm in computer science classes. In fact much research has been done to explain and eliminate the bi-modal grade problem in CS with very little progress. Therefore his key assertion that an outside force had to be present would not hold up. If it hadn’t been for someone telling, he would not have known or had any proof of the offense.

  7. I don’t like his style. He truly enjoys this and wants revenge..!

  8. So let me get this straight… students figure out the system and as a result get good grades.

    Isn’t that how most things in life work? Why would you penalise them for that? Isn’t it the duty of college to prepare you for working life?

  9. Swiss Miss readers get 5 gold stars!!! I’m glad to see that the specious contrivances of this ersatz “folk hero” of a teacher are as transparent to all of you, as his so-called “data” is.

    Perhaps UCF had not the stomach (nor proof) to expurgate the 200+ students along with their tuition.

    After seeing that performance, one might suggest Prof. Quinn to consider teaching Theater, instead of Business.

  10. I love how the lecture is capped off with the professor announcing he doesn’t have his sh*t together for the day’s lesson plan. Classic.

  11. Ummm… sounds like you all have a lot of seriously twisted entitlement issues here. As a former teaching assistant at a university, this attitude drove me crazy. People – the test bank was hacked – that’s how the students got the questions. That’s cut-and-dried unethical, and “textbook” cheating. It wasn’t like the students went to the library and got some public-domain test material to study from. That’s why the class got busted.

    The whole deal about whether or not the prof was lazy or not is a complete red herring.

    And btw, in the context of a course like this, the multiple choice exam is only a part of measuring student performance. I checked out the syllabus for this course out of curiosity, and there are lots of different ways the prof and the lab assistants measures the 600 students’ performance including papers, presentations, special projects, etc. etc. (

    The multiple choice part of the evaluation is just measures how well the student knows the material by rote. The test bank questions are just fine for this purpose (the bigger issue for me is how a prof is supposed to manage a class of 600 students – that’s messed up). Absolutely, the prof shouldn’t have said that he “wrote” the test (it was misleading), but that’s a way lesser crime than hacking the test bank (and again, completely beside the point). Plus, he and his lab assistants have to spend a lot of time marking the other work the students have to do for the course.

    He was totally right to be so angry. The students completely deserved the reaming out. That’s not how the world should work, and universities — as places where knowledge, ethics and values are passed on – should have high expectations. Students have a lifetime to become disillusioned – don’t be in such a hurry to chuck your ethics out the window! I think a lot of students today just aren’t used to authority calling them on their sh@#.

  12. how exactly did the test bank get hacked? lets say students had access to the whole test bank. thats a LOT of questions to memorize – not just the ones on the test. lets say they knew which ones would be on the test though – the professor should have (and denies) using questions from the test bank in the first place, making him a plagiarist.

    And claiming that plagiarism is a ‘lesser crime’?! In academia there are few worse offenses than plagiarism so I’m not sure how you figure that, never mind the fact that if a ‘greater crime’ was committed that doesn’t negate the criminality of the ‘lesser’ offense which should also be punished.

    FYI I was a teaching assistant to graduate students too.

  13. Again – not the issue. The prof could be bozo the clown, and the whole test could have been lifted verbatim from the bank — still doesn’t change the fact that the students cheated. And I don’t see the conspiracy here…

    As a bit of background, It’s not uncommon practice at a lot of schools to use a test bank to create a customized test that suits a particular class’ needs. So to say “I created the test” is true — profs pick the questions they want to use. To say “I write the questions” – also could be true, or at least not un-true – Test bank questions are often used as starting points and are wordsmithed to make them fit the class. Check out how Oxford University Press markets their test banks:

    I have no idea about how this prof actually put his exam together, but if he said he wrote the test and then just used test bank questions verbatim, his crime is still definitely lesser. At worst (and I don’t know this) he’s a blowhard. There’s no black and white in this world; there are only degrees of good and bad. The real issue is the impact the issue has on the greater society. 200 students using materials for studying, which gives them an unfair advantage over the other 400 students in the class, is very bad. Whether or not the prof actually wrote the questions is a zero-sum offense, if it’s an offense at all. And it doesn’t look like the University — who I assume takes a hard line on plagiarism — is looking for Quinn’s head on a platter. So obviously they don’t think what he did or said was plagiarism.

    Again, I think that what’s happening is that some of the students who were caught are pissed off that they got a harsh talking to, and they’re lashing out in an attempt to divert attention away from themselves. Perspective is necessary here — only on FOX NEWS is it the case that an accuser has to be free of all faults in order to be credible.

  14. how is using test bank questions to study ‘cheating’ in any way shape or form? how does it differ from other forms of study?

  15. I agree with the first comments. He is the laziest form of teacher and his students are responding in kind. He goes on to berate his students for 15 minutes, essentially saying the same thing and treating them like children. He then tries to scare them into admitting guilt.

  16. Setting aside for a moment the issue of whether or not this is actually cheating, forcing everyone to retake the exam is, to me, highly questionable.

    If he has a list of students that cheated, that means he also has a list of students that didn’t cheat. So in making everyone retake the exam, he is either admitting that he does not actually have confidence in his information, and that he is bluffing when he claims he knows who participated, or that he is knowingly and willingly punishing the innocent.

    Bluffing is understandable, but ultimately, it is not the behavior of someone who occupies the moral high-ground he is trying so hard to claim. There would be no shame in saying “We know a lot of you cheated, but we don’t know who. All of you have to retake the new test.” In that situation, making everyone take the test make absolute sense. Punishing students known to be innocent, on the other hand, is the very definition of lazy, and borderline despotic.

    This situation is clearly being taken very seriously, and can have very serious consequences for those involved. If this school does not respect its students enough to be honest with them about it, or treat them as individuals, according to their individual actions, the school should not expect to have the respect of its students.

  17. I’ve had at least several professors who felt the need to punish all students not just the offenders to set an example and make a point so that such behaviors never happen again. It’s a scare tactic. Sometimes a few students, in this case 200, ruined it for the rest of them. I don’t agree that all students should be punished and maybe, hopefully the non cheaters were rewarded in the end. Also if a student in fact managed to hijack the answer bank and distribute it, that would be cheating. Even if they use that material to study, that is cheating. If it isn’t a study guide readily available and known to all student with all the answers, cheating. Not all professors give out study guides or sample tests either.

  18. It’s rather surprising that he gave out the same test with the same question in the same order year after the year. Most teachers tend to mix it up a bit. Cheating is a serious issue in many schools but the internet and new software makes it easier to catch plagiarism and the like.