Ethical Issue: Can readily available answers of a test over the internet in an OBOW exam create dilemma to consider the behavior of taking advantage of the situation an academic misconduct? What kind of steps are to be taken in such a situation?
Horizon university was founded in 1940 and was one of the top universities in Canada. Arnold School of Business is a vital part of Horizon university. The university offers a full time MBA program of 12 months course work and 4 months internship.
Elle Zhou is one of the students enrolled in full time MBA program, she was also elected by the students as the “Vice President – Academics” and Ian Jensen is the “President” of “ Graduate Business Student Association” where Elle Zhous responsibilities are to advocate students with different concerns from across all different programs at the university, also to represent each program on committee.
Managerial Accounting is one of the courses in the full time MBA program taken by Professor John Hyannis who has extensive practical experience in accounting and some experience in teaching courses to trainee accountants. A new experience while teaching MBA course at Arnolds.
The midterm Exam of Managerial Accounting was an open book exam, students were allowed to carry their laptops to the examination and were given internet access, they were given printed case study with a set of questions. The case was new from the cases discussed during the course and it fairly tested the course work.
The grading would be relative and thus the students were competing against each other. Moreover, the instructor was supposed to give A+, A and A- only to 55% of the students at the maximum the rest have to be graded B, C or F.
After the exam Zhous classmate reports her in person about her overhearing some students claiming that they have found the answers and solutions to the question in the case study by just typing the question and case title in any search engine. To Zhous surprise she found the allegation of answers being available on the internet right. Many mails and telephonic messages were received by Zhou with mixed interpretation of the situation and request for different actions to be taken.
My interpretation of the situation
According to the case described, I think there might be a possibility that the answers which were readily available online were used by few students as those students were heard discussing the advantage. Also, according to a study (Cazam, Iacob, 2017) there is a rise in cheating among students of higher education.
To justify the above interpretation following are the evidence from the case description:
- Zhou’s classmate overheard some conversations in the bathroom about finding the solutions online and also heard some students claiming that they have found the solutions on the Internet and reported to her in person.
- When Zhou entered each question of the exam with case name keywords on any search engine, she also found the solutions and felt that all the answers were almost right.
- Some of the telephone messages and emails received by Zhou were the complaints of the students against the situation and request for appropriate actions.
The behavior described in the case cannot be defended to be an academic dishonesty though it constituents traits of cheating as there is influence of the factors that the test was flawed and lack of evidence of cheating.
Because of the following reasons
The midterm exam was fundamentally flawed and did not serve the criteria of standardized exam. According to the criteria of standard exam , if there is a facility provided where there can be a chance of cheating the instructor has to take extra care to prevent academic cheating by warning the students about the effects of cheating, by checking the standards of the question paper and providing proctors in the exam environment.
Though cheating in any form is unethical there are factors to be considered in which context did it happen. According to research, cheating also depends on a personality trait, for example it is found that Academic Neuroticism (Cazam, Iacob, 2017) is one of the primary indicators of academic cheating. As cheating defines violation of rules, first the rules of Arnold School of Business must be understood, and the rules strictly define using any others work and displaying their work as ours is a misconduct it also should be well understood to 29-year-old students. But as there is no evidence that proves that specific person has cheated one cannot allege of academic misconduct.
Jensen and Zhou must take the case with recommendations of required actions justified by research and evidence to GBSA for further discussion about the actions in order to guide the faculty through the case, the required actions and preventive steps.
According to a study (Yussof, Ismail, 2018) if the punishment for cheating is stringent then there is a probability of increase in reluctance to commit cheating among the students.
Jensen and Zhou can discuss with the academic chair Nicholas Ramsay about this case as the chair would have more experience over it. Also suggest the faculty to change their exam formats such that it is not easy for the students to cheat.
By doing this Jensen and Zhou will fulfill their responsibilities as representatives and also ensure that the integrity of the university is preserved, as per a research academic integrity can be a culture that defines the value of an institution and the culture has many factors such as measures to prevent and how to address the situations of misconduct. (Mostafa Amir, 2019)
Moreover, based on extensive analysis researchers have found that recognition of academic cheating is primarily dependent on the academic integrity culture. (McCabe and Trevino, 1993, 1997; McCabe et al., 2002). Although there are other factors like personality which contribute to misconduct, we can only liaise about university so I think preserving university’s integrity will be an important action required.
The recommendations from GBSA to the committee might win the vote of the students but there might be repercussions from certain students who indeed have written the exam with honesty, also the students who have elected Zhou and Jensen as their representatives would expect them to resolve the issue in their favor instead of this matter being discussed with the academic chair Nicholas Ramsay who may not necessarily favor the students in this case.
- Mostafa Amir, S. (2019). Does a strong academic integrity culture discourage academic dishonesty among graduate students?. St. Louis: Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis.
- McCabe, D. L., Treviño, L. K., & Butterfield, K. D. (2002). Research in Higher Education, 43(3), 357-378. doi:10.1023/a:1014893102151
- CAZAN, A.-M., & IACOB, C. (2017). Academic Dishonesty, Personality Traits and Academic Adjustment. Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Brasov. Series VII: Social Sciences. Law, 10, 59–66.
- Yussof, S. H., & Ismail, S. (2018). Academic Dishonesty Among Accounting Students in Malaysia. Management & Accounting Review, 17(1), 17–33.