Several Quebec universities have noted a worrying increase in cases of cheating and plagiarism since the start of the pandemic in a context of virtual evaluation conducive to dishonesty.
“The tendency for cheating and plagiarism is clearly on the rise. There has been a nearly 40% increase since last year, “said University of Montreal spokesperson Geneviève O’Meara.
At Laval University, we confirmed at Newspaper that these kinds of education offenses are at their peak in five years.
Denunciations of plagiarism or cheating jumped 43% between the fall 2019 semester and the winter 2020 semester, which marks the start of the pandemic and distance education.
Polytechnique, HEC Montréal and the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) also told us that cases and suspicions of plagiarism increased in 2020 compared to previous years.
Easy on ZOOM
Eight out of 13 universities preferred to refrain from responding for lack of accurate and up-to-date data, but said they were “very concerned” by the situation.
“The results of our investigation will arrive in the coming days,” reports the Dean of Studies of the University of Quebec at Rimouski (UQAR), Dominique Marquis. But obviously there is a fear because it is very, very, very easy to cheat on Zoom. “
“We know that the distance education context favors plagiarism,” said the vice-president for her part.
rector of studies at the University of Sherbrooke, Christine Hudon.
At ETS, professors have also asked for in-person exams at the next session precisely in order to thwart the increase in plagiarism, learned The Newspaper.
The same goes for the University of Quebec in Outaouais. The compilation of data on the issue of plagiarism should be completed this week, but “several teachers have asked to have the exams in person,” warns the director of communications of the establishment, Gilles Mailloux.
Remote assessments thus remain extremely fertile ground for academic dishonesty.
“In the current context, it is almost irrational not to try to plagiarize,” said a professor at a Montreal university who preferred to remain anonymous.
“At the moment, we can do a lot of things to reduce the incidence of plagiarism, but not much can be done to stop it,” argues the professor of political science and scientific director of the Center for Studies and of international research from the University of Montreal, Frédéric Mérand.
Despite the supervision of teachers by the Zoom software, the control of time during assessments or alternative assessment methods such as case studies, oral presentations or very long questions, teachers do not have real means. to prevent cheating.
“The students are all on Messenger and all have the Internet,” continues Mr. Mérand. If they paraphrase a definition that they have in front of their eyes, it is absolutely impossible to control them. ”
To avoid discounted degrees
Universities will need to change their assessment methods to avoid granting discounted degrees if the pandemic forces them to pursue distance education.
“We care about the integrity of our diplomas and the quality of learning,” says Christine Hudon, vice-rector of studies at the University of Sherbrooke, where the holding of in-person exams is required in several programs despite COVID-19, such as the master’s degree in taxation.
“If the teachers and the program believe that the exams should be done in person, they have good reasons,” she continues. Sometimes you can’t achieve the same quality of evaluation from a distance. “
The University of Montreal has tried to educate its teachers to change the way they assess students’ knowledge through case studies or oral presentations. But the tendency to plagiarism is still on the rise, reveals the spokesperson of the establishment, Geneviève O’Meara.
“Accommodation for students has widened with distance assessment,” said Université de Montréal political science professor Frédéric Mérand.
In “professional” bachelor’s degrees such as those in engineering or teaching, some professors therefore fear that students will obtain degrees at a discount.
“We forget that [en ce moment] exams to assess the skills required for the profession, points out a Montreal university professor who preferred to remain anonymous. Right now, it’s a joke. “
She considers that there is no way to ensure that the distance assessment reflects the true knowledge and abilities of the student.
And continuing to give marks in such a context is, according to her, “really unfair”, as much towards those who do not cheat and who will be refused entry into a college or university program as towards employers and Quebec taxpayers who will foot the bill for professionals with gaps in their skills.