Students are text lifting, failing to cite their sources and copying each other’s work. Some are even getting other people to write their assignments or tests.


Change is needed and to this end, the NWU’s School of Philosophy, in partnership with the journal Transformation in Higher Education, hosted a webinar entitled “Cheating, dishonesty and plagiarism with online teaching and learning. What are the students saying? Can we fundamentally change it?”


A holistic approach


Prof Robert Balfour, deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning, welcomed over 100 participants to the webinar.


Experts then gave philosophical, psychological and higher education teaching and learning perspectives on cheating, dishonesty and plagiarism.


Dr Yolandi Coetser, a lecturer from the School of Philosophy, touched on a number of ethical theories that could encourage students not to cheat and plagiarise.


Dr Tertia Oosthuizen from the School of Psychosocial Health spoke about how cheating, dishonesty and plagiarism are learned behaviours. She said most students who commit academic dishonesty find it easy to do so because they have witnessed it either in the home environment or community they come from.


Symptoms of a bigger issue


Prof Emmanuel Mgqwashu, director for faculty teaching and learning support at the Centre for Teaching and Learning, argued that plagiarism – whether in online teaching and learning or otherwise – is a symptom of a bigger issue.


He said students don’t always know what accepted ways of knowledge generation are, what counts as knowledge, and how to read and write about such knowledge in acceptable discipline-specific ways.


He pointed out that assessing students is about finding out what they understood from reading. When students are not explicitly taught how to read effectively, they can be tempted to plagiarise to fill the gaps in their understanding.


What the NWU is doing about it


The webinar also highlighted how the university is doing its part to minimise the risk of plagiarism.


Dr Kristien Andrianatos from the School of Languages gave a presentation on Referella, a referencing project designed to assist NWU students to cite their sources correctly, thus decreasing the chances of plagiarism.


Prof Marilise Smurthwaite, former academic dean of St Augustine College of South Africa and the respondent of the event, commented on all the presentations and suggested areas that need more investigation and research.


To end off the webinar, Prof Dumi Moyo, executive dean of the Faculty of Humanities, emphasised that this is an ongoing conversation and process where students, academics and the university should work together.

Since teaching and learning have moved online due to Covid-19 restrictions, institutions of higher learning have seen an increase in student cheating, dishonesty and plagiarism.


Whose job is it to stop dishonesty?


During a recently held webinar, students were looking for solutions from lecturers to prevent cheating, dishonesty and plagiarism, while lecturers were looking to the students for solutions.


Asked why they cheat or plagiarise, students said that online learning is a new experience and they are struggling to manage their time effectively and keep up with the workload. They also find themselves under pressure and stressed, which leads them into dishonesty and plagiarism.


According to the students, if lecturers could focus on application-type questions, avoid repeating questions from previous question papers and encourage group work, there would be a decline in cheating, dishonesty and plagiarism.


During the webinar, experts gave philosophical, psychological and higher education teaching and learning perspectives on cheating, dishonesty and plagiarism.


Students and lecturers must work together to