THE FIRST weeks at University can be hectic.
There is finding friends, finding a decent takeaway, exploring the world in a number of ways that parents don’t like to acknowledge exist.
IGNORANCE NO EXCUSE
There are also, at most universities, a short bedding-in period when students are given an idea of the academic standards they are supposed to attain.
And one message is hammered home early and hammered home often: plagiarism can seriously mess up your academic future. If you are caught, you face a range of punishments which can include having to re-sit a course module up to expulsion from the University.
Even if you help someone cheat – because that is what plagiarism is, cheating – you can be penalised. The student who helps a friend cheat by letting them copy their submitted work is as guilty as the friend they try to ‘help’.
It’s not as if it’s a great mystery to students that the penalties for cheating are serious. That is spelled out by lecturers, and contained in every single course manual and the student code of conduct.
THE PRESSURE TO PERFORM
The pressure on students to perform can be tough. The increase in the numbers of students attending university has debased the value of a degree to the extent that some overseas universities no longer recognise UK universities’ award of one year Master’s degree, let alone regard undergraduate degrees as the hallmark of academic achievement. That applies to universities across the UK.
Most professions will specify that a 2:1 or better is required at undergraduate level for admission to postgraduate study. Graduate traineeships often specify the same requirement as a minimum.
Teaching, for example, is so desperately keen to recruit the best undergraduates and postgraduates that it offers incentives for those with better honours degrees in select subjects. The determination to shed the ‘those who can’t, teach’ label has created a marketplace in which a first class honours degree in a priority subject – physics, maths, chemistry, Welsh – can access £20K of funding for postgraduate qualification as a teacher. A 2:2 degree in any other subject gets you nothing in additional support.
CHEATING NOT NEW
A minority of students have always cheated, but the use of the internet has created an environment in which cheating has become easier. As higher education has become more accessible so has easy access to any number of shortcuts and back-alley ways to bumping up marks.
Looking at some standalone work-related training modules delivered by private companies, there is solid evidence that not only are the lecturers under-qualified to deliver the course material but that they turn a blind-eye to a culture of cut and paste.
The Herald is aware of one course tutor who actively encouraged one person attending such a course to simply resubmit their undergraduate coursework to gain the qualification they were seeking via the provider employing the tutor.
Self-plagiarism is still plagiarism and it is still cheating. More importantly, the training provider – or rather, the course tutor – was, of course, swindling the employer funding the training.
Does it matter?
Of course it does. In a working world in which employers look at qualifications first, how is the employer meant to distinguish between a qualification gained through GENUINE effort, work, and ability and one gained by a cheating recourse to Control-C followed by Control-V?
Those who get away with it are often smug, but they also liars and – ultimately – frauds.
Essay mills, the last resort of the truly idle cheat, claim to be able to deliver a guaranteed grade in any subject on any topic – for a price.
Essay mills represent cheating on a commercial and contractual scale. An essay mill is a business that allows customers to commission an original piece of writing on a particular topic so that they may commit academic fraud. Students commission others to write their coursework for them through an essay mill in the hope they will attain the grade required.
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education said in 2016: “Providers of these services claim that the essays they produce are ‘100 per cent plagiarism free’, but that is a misleading claim. While the essay may not contain any plagiarised text itself, it becomes an act of plagiarism and academic dishonesty once the student submits it for assessment and represents it as his or her own work.
“If students submit work that is not their own, this compromises the fairness of the assessment process and poses a threat to the reputation of UK higher education. There are potentially serious ramifications for the public if people who falsely claim to be competent as a result of an academic award enter a profession and practise.”
In February this year, the UK Government began a consultation with QAA, universities, and the NUS. At that point, the UK Government suggested it was reluctant to go down the legislative route to try and tackle the problem, but in other countries both the provider AND the student would be guilty of a criminal offence.
Such is the scale of the issue across the UK, and not solely in Wales, that QAA has recommended that the advertising of ‘contract cheating’ services be banned and that criminal penalties be put in place for cheating by the use of essay mills. In New Zealand, essay mills have been fined and had their assets frozen.
PLAGIARISM IN WELSH UNIS
The issue has been thrown into sharp relief by a Freedom of Information Act request made by BBC Radio Wales.
Figures obtained by the broadcaster showed an increase in cases of alleged plagiarism from 1,370 2013/14 to 2,044 in 2015/16.
The BBC Freedom of Information request disclosed the following over the three academic years 2013/14 to 2015/16
- University of South Wales (approximately 30,000 students): 1,144 students accused of cheating, two prohibited from sitting future exams
- Cardiff Metropolitan University: 565 students accused of cheating, 12 prohibited from sitting future exams
- University of Wales Trinity Saint David – UWTSD: 928 students accused of cheating, 47 prohibited from sitting future exams
- Bangor University: 36 students accused of cheating, four prohibited from sitting future exams
- Cardiff University: 713 students accused of cheating, three prohibited from sitting future exams
- Swansea University: 1,157 students accused of cheating, 25 prohibited from sitting future exams
- Wrexham Glyndwr University: 103 students accused of cheating, three prohibited from sitting future exams
- Aberystwyth University: 551 students accused of cheating, 0 prohibited from sitting future exams
- The increased detection of plagiarism suggests that universities are becoming more adept at identifying incidents of academic fraud.
Many Universities use software to detect plagiarism, for example Turn-it-in. The software uses a document comparison algorithm that checks papers against a massive database of stored academic papers to identify cheats.
We asked UWTSD to comment on the figures.
Translated teaching materials help Ceredigion children stay safe online
Children in Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth have had lessons in online safety using newly translated teaching materials.
The deputy headteacher of Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth, Gareth James used the materials to teach children through the medium of Welsh about being safe online. The materials were initially developed by Google and Parent Zone and was translated using Google funding. The Welsh Government endorsed the materials.
Online safety is taught throughout the year in schools across the county. Ceredigion schools have adopted the Welsh Government’s Digital Competence Framework, which includes teaching online safety. The newly translated materials will help schools teach online safety more effectively.
Councillor Catrin Miles is Ceredigion County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for Learning Services. She said: “The internet is now ever-present in children’s lives. As more and more information and learning opportunities are available on-line, it is essential that we equip our children to make the best use of what is on offer. To do this we have to make sure that they know how to use the internet safely, to be aware of the threats and how to deal with them.
“It’s important that the teaching materials are available in Welsh, and I was delighted to see them being used in Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth.”
Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn is the Leader of Ceredigion County Council. She said: “We are committed to increasing and improving Welsh medium education in the county. We are fortunate to have a talented and largely bilingual workforce, but materials such as this are a great help to improve the quality of Welsh medium education in the county.”
Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams AM said: “It was great to attend Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth to see a lesson from Google’s ‘Be Internet Legends’ Programme being delivered. Ensuring the safety of children and young people online is so important and these resources will support learners to consider things like their digital footprint.
“With the resources due to be launched bilingually on Hwb shortly that will mean that all pupils in Wales can benefit from the programme.”
Vicki Shotbolt is the founder and CEO of Parent Zone. She said: “It is essential that children learn to think carefully and critically about what they do and see online. Parent Zone has teamed with Google to teach younger children the essential tools they need to become safe and confident online explorers, helping them be resilient, kind and positive in this digital age.”
Rosie Luff, Public Policy Manager at Google UK said: “We are delighted to visit Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth today to help teach children about how to Be Internet Legends. By getting acquainted with what we believe are the five core areas of online safety, we want to prepare children to have a safe and positive experience online.”
Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth has played a part in designing the Welsh Government’s new curriculum as a Pioneer School for the last three years. The school is leading the way in beginning to embed the principles of the new curriculum, including online safety in particular.
What 3 words links with UWTSD
UWTSD recently welcomed Richard Lewis, Travel and Tourism Consultant at what3words to the University’s Institute of Management and Health.
Richard delivered a guest lecture to students from International Travel, Tourism, Events and Leisure Resort Management on the benefits of using the new system that has divided the world into 3m x 3m squares and given each a unique 3-word address. It means that every place around the world has been given a reliable and precise address.
Jacqui Jones, Programme Director said: “We were delighted to host Richard’s lecture and hope it is the start of an exciting relationship between What3words & our Tourism Programmes at UWTSD to explore this innovative new travel development.
“We strongly hope that this initiative will become a catalyst enabling our industry partners from the tourism & events sectors to benefit from the use of what3words. Our students are already using the app and will also use it as part of their educational tourism adventures to Qatar, Malaysia, Switzerland, Singapore & London in the New Year. They are also all looking forward to helping the Tourism & Events industry launch the Welsh version of what3words in 2020.”
Co-founded in London in 2013 by Chris Sheldrick, what3words is designed for travellers making their way around the entire globe. Currently available in over 30 languages, the revolutionary technology is available to more than half of the world’s countries in at least one of their official languages.
3-word addresses are also listed by tourism boards and incorporated into major travel guides like Lonely Planet, EatOut and Secret Luxury Hotels, as well as digital guides like Saudi Tourism and TripWolf. Mercedes-Benz has also created its own series of luxury local guides after launching what3words voice navigation in its vehicles.
The unique system, accessed by downloading the app, is also being used by a number of British Police Forces and other UK Emergency Services including South Wales Fire and Rescue and South Wales Police, to respond to incidents more effectively. Police Force call-handlers are able to send an SMS that contains a link to the what3words browser map site, where they can see their location and read the corresponding 3-word address. Help is then dispatched to that precise location.
what3words has a team of over 70 people, across offices in London UK, Johannesburg ZA and Ulaanbaatar Mongolia.
In early 2018, Daimler took a stake of around 10%, following a Series B raise of £17 million led by Aramex. Prior to this, investors include Intel Capital, Deutsche-Bahn and Horizons Ventures.
RSPCA looks for Compassionate Class
DO YOU have a class full of animal lovers who want to make a difference in the animal welfare world?
The RSPCA has launched its Compassionate Class competition for 2020 – which is an innovative programme that encourages children to develop compassion and empathy through the lens of animal welfare.
This year’s entrants will follow in the footsteps of the Year 3 class at Ysgol Gymraeg Coed y Gof who were recognised as 2019’s ‘Most Compassionate Class’ across England and Wales.
Last year around 700 schools took part with the Cardiff school impressing judges with their Welsh-language animation, which incorporated into a short production several key animal welfare messages.
Compassionate Class takes an interactive, discussion-based approach to develop emotional literacy and consider the welfare needs of animals. These PSHE Association-accredited resources are designed to provide an exciting learning experience as well as supporting schools in the delivery of spiritual, moral, social and cultural education (SMSC) for 7 – 11-year-olds.
Through a series of enquiry-led activities, children will consider what it means to be compassionate, understand the needs of different types of animals, and work collaboratively to develop empathy skills for their school lives and beyond.
The programme – which is now open and closes on March 23 – finishes with the chance to enter the Most Compassionate Class awards.
Dave Allen, Head of Prevention and Education at the RSPCA said: “We are very much looking forward to this year’s Compassionate Class which is about developing compassion and empathy through the lens of animal welfare and the programme encourages children to think about the needs of animals and help them to realise that animals have feelings and are sentient.
“The activities teach children about the five animal welfare needs, while the resources get them talking and debating about the importance of animals and creates an awareness of how we should respect them and each other. In turn, we hope this will help to create a kinder society in the future.
“We were just blown away with Ysgol Gymraeg Coed y Gof last year and we can’t wait to see what participating schools come up with this year.”
Ysgol Gymraeg Coed y Gof’s animated video featured the rules people need to follow to keep animals safe and healthy in a whole series of environments.
Year 3 teacher Nia Norman at Ysgol Gymraeg Coed y Gof, said: “We felt taking part in Compassionate Class would be a great opportunity for the children to build compassion towards animals and hopefully each other as a result. The children loved learning about animals, their habitats and their needs. They were all very passionate about protecting animals’ environments and what we as individuals can do to help preserve them.
“I’m super proud of the children, they worked so hard. We were thrilled to hear that we had won. We didn’t really enter the competition to win but to be able to complete the project with the children so that they would have an end product for which they would be really proud.
“The children were so excited when they found out we’d won. We hope that they will always remember that they are national winners although, of course, they’re winners for us every day!”
For more information, or to sign-up your school, visit www.rspca.org.uk/compassionateclass
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