If you make it through the upcoming semester without having busted any students for cheating, then the odds are that you failed to detect the academic misconduct that happened in your class.
Cheating is pedestrian and commonplace. The bulk of tests and assignments are probably done honestly, but cheating, plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct are super-duper common. Academic dishonesty happens far, far more often than we detect. Most students arrive into college from a “culture of cheating.”
There’s no shortage of peer-reviewed literature indicating that most college students cheat, and that cheating happens all of the time, and that situations when nobody cheats are the outliers.
I always start my courses telling my students that I have no expectation that any individual will violate the academic integrity policy. But I also let them know that nearly every semester, one or more students have received an F course that I teach because they were found to intentionally violate the academic integrity policy. And I spend time with my class on the topic so that it is wholly clear what constitutes cheating and plagiarism. There can be no valid cries of ignorance once academic misconduct is detected.
Most important: I show students how to do their work honestly. I don’t know how much of this lesson takes, because at the start, most of my students have no idea how to do non-plagiarized written assignments. This is a sad truth.
Aside from plagiarism, lots of students just flat-out cheat on exams and quizzes. Using old-school cheat sheets, notes on their bodies, looking over at their neighbors, peeking into their notes, and looking stuff up on their phones. This is not an oddity. This is the norm. I realize that I miss most instances, but I also detect it once in a while. I set up the situation in my classroom to minimize these incidents, but it still happens. And I recognize that more students get away with it than get caught.
When designing my syllabus, I aim to minimize the benefit of cheating as well as the opportunity to do so. I also make it so that when it happens, it’s more readily detected. And I make sure that people know what happens whenever I discover academic dishonesty.
There’s no shortage of information to find out about how to design a course to dissuade cheating and plagiarism. Some of these measures are more onerous than others. Everybody needs to chart their own path, but the journey should start with understanding the fact that cheating is pervasive.
By the way, how should you handle the situation when students do cheat? Here’s a previous post of mine about what I do after detecting academic misconduct. Your mileage may vary.