Posted July 13, 2016
Eighty-five students at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine have faced disciplinary action over a cheating conspiracy.
An investigation by the veterinary college found that students “had engaged in unauthorized collaboration on take-home assessments (quizzes and examinations),” according to a June 7 statement from the university. This is prohibited under the college’s honor code. The investigation began in February after inconsistencies were found in student test-taking practices on take-home examinations administered online through a software application the institution has been using for two years.
“Students shall not give, receive, or take aid from any source during exams unless the instructor approves collaborative work (e.g., open book examinations),” the honor code states. “There shall be no communication between students concerning any question relating to an examination during that examination unless the instructor approves collaborative work (e.g., collective problem solving of case studies).”
Students were found in violation of the honor code by the veterinary college’s Student Judiciary Committee, and the decision was upheld by the college’s Executive Committee, which comprises faculty and administrators. Sanctions in the college’s honor code for unauthorized collaboration range from warnings to dismissal and include grade penalties, which could mean receiving a score of zero on the assessment. Some of the disciplined students are appealing their punishments to the provost’s office.
||Eighty-five veterinary students at The Ohio State University were found to have shared answers on online take-home tests, which is prohibited under the college’s honor code. Each class has about 162 students.
A university spokesperson, citing student-privacy laws, declined to say what class year was involved, whether more students were accused of violating the honor code but found not guilty, how many who were found in violation were appealing the decision, or when a final decision will be rendered.
A third-year OSU veterinary student, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue, was not in the class year in which the cheating took place but noted that instructions on take-home examinations and quizzes were always plainly laid out in the syllabus.
“I will say that even the exams that were ‘open note’ were never ‘open people.’ You were allowed to use your notes but were still ‘on your honor,’ supposed to work individually,” he said. “I do not know what led to this specific situation. I don’t know if this one class had unclear instructions or if something was said in class that was misleading. I do believe that the school has done everything that it possibly could. They truly have the best interest of the students as a No. 1 priority.”
The student says he stands by the decisions that the veterinary college made during this situation.
“I think that some students made a poor decision and were lucky to just receive a zero on the exam. I hope that they (will) take this as a life lesson and be glad they were not expelled,” he said.
The veterinary college has said it is reassessing its instructional and evaluation processes and implementing best practices identified during the investigation. The changes it is making include the following:
Launching a broadened review of similar tests administered by the veterinary college since the software used for such assessments, ExamSoft Worldwide Inc., was implemented.
Eliminating any noncollaborative take-home tests.
Changing orientation and other programming to further emphasize the honor code and universitywide expectations for academic conduct.
Implementing new training for faculty on academic misconduct in the digital age.
“Any form of academic misconduct is unacceptable,” the university statement said. “The Office of Academic Affairs will continue to review this matter and determine other programmatic and corrective actions as necessary to uphold our high standards of academic and professional integrity.”
ExamSoft markets its computer-based testing software to academic, certification, and licensing institutions as an application that enables test creation, secure test administration, test scoring, and assessment. The software works with student-owned laptops, computer laboratory desktops, and iPads. A number of U.S. veterinary colleges use ExamSoft.
Dr. Andrew Maccabe, executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, called the event “unfortunate” and said it had to be a challenging time for staff and students. He added that the incident provides a good reminder for everyone in the profession about maintaining good professional ethics and integrity.