By the end of the semester, 22 students admitted cheating, out of the 108 enrolled in the class.Josh Gans explains that optimal structures take enforcement out of lecturers' hands so that enforcement is more credible.
The process of discussing all the detected cases was not only painful, it was extremely time consuming as well.
Students would come to my office and deny everything. Then I would present them the evidence. They would soften but continue to deny it. Only when I was saying “enough, I will just give the case to the honorary council who will decide” most students were admitting wrongdoing. But every case was at least 2 hours of wasted time.
With 22 cases, that was a lot of time devoted to cheating: More than 45 hours in completely unproductive discussions, when the total lecture time for the course was just 32 hours. This is simply too much time.
When 1 out of 5 students in the class being involved in a cheating case, the lectures and class discussions became awkward. For the rest of the semester there was a palpable anxiousness in class. Instead of having friendly discussions, the discussions became contentious. Not a pleasant environment.
This, of course, had a direct effect to my teaching evaluations. Instead of the usual evaluations that were in the region of 6.0 to 6.5 out of seven, this time my ratings went down by almost a point: 5.3 out of 7.0. Instead of being a teacher in the upper percentiles, I was now below average.
The Dean’s office and my chair “expressed their appreciation” for me chasing such cases (in December), but six months later, when I received my annual evaluation, my yearly salary increase was the lowest ever, and significantly lower than inflation, as my “teaching evaluations took a hit this year”. (And I publish in journals not endorsed by Business Week, but I will leave this story for another time.)
So what should the administration do to change the equilibrium? First, take the enforcement of cheating out of the Professor’s hands. Employ a policing person who is the one who receives the Turnitin results and decides what to do about it. Make it their job and you solve the free-riding problem right away. You also allow cross-course, repeat offender detection. And you change the cheating equilibrium to one where enforcement is expected. Finally, the Professor has their hands clean and so suffers no conflict over teaching evaluations.Canterbury isn't far from this. Everything is run through TurnItIn. Anything that looks dodgy, I hand off to the Head of Department. There's still a short meeting between the student, the HoD, and me, but it's short and the HoD is the bad guy. And there's reporting within the College (and hopefully extending within the University) on proven cases of plagiarism such that track records get established; we then can apply schedules with increasing marginal penalties.
This was all getting pretty reasonably firmed up in the pre-quake world. I'll be using TurnItIn again this semester; hopefully, I won't have to haul anybody into the HoD's office. But TurnItIn has embedded itself nicely here; after a few years, most students have cottoned onto that they can't get away with the dumber forms of cheating.