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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Professors, students must both address cheating on homework

Grading assignments on completion can reduce the incentive to cheat

Why do students cheat? Typing this question into Google yields a wide variety of answers ranging from peer pressure to stress to meeting an important goal such as graduating from high school or college. These answers may apply to many students but fail to fully address the situation students may find themselves in when they resort to cheating. 

College students agree to codes of academic conduct before taking classes and most believe that cheating is wrong. According to a feature in the American Psychological Association, however, when extrinsic motivation (to pass a class or get a high grade) overcomes intrinsic motivation (to learn and benefit intellectually from the class), cheating increases. And with our current education system that emphasizes grades over learning and where students must seek out help rather than be approached by their instructors when they are struggling, it’s not hard to understand why students may not always feel intrinsically motivated to learn. 

Furthermore, grades simply cannot be equated with learning. Anecdotally, members of the Editorial Board have taken classes where test averages were between 50-60%, and students who earned as low as a D had their grades curved to a B — a nearly failing score curved to a grade that should represent having learned the material fairly well. 

This begs the question: If education is truly about students learning material well, why is it possible to pass a class with a 50% in the gradebook? Shouldn’t classes be designed in such a way that students come out of the course with a strong knowledge base rather than with a grade that is semi-meaningless? Additionally, when students have what would be a failing grade based on their overall percentage and are still able to pass, this teaches students not to learn but to earn a high enough grade to move on to their next course. Having such unpredictable grades can add to student anxiety, which can make them feel the need to achieve very high scores on assignments to maximize their grades. 

Also, assignments graded on correctness rather than completion can influence cheating, especially with increased technology use and the rise of “homework help” websites that have only made it easier for students to access tools that allow them to cheat. Chegg, for example, is a $12 billion company that, according to a Forbes article, is “getting rich off of students cheating,” with subscriptions to the service spiking during online learning. 

This news is incredibly discouraging for faculty since these sites allow students to perform well on assignments and in classes without really learning the material. Additionally, the members of the Editorial Board find the fact that the service requires payment particularly problematic. Students who can’t afford to pay for Chegg may feel disadvantaged, given how many of their peers use it. Sites that not only allow students to cheat but also require payment for cheating only encourage elitism in education. 

Chegg “refutes the idea of the company being a mass-spreader of cheating,” according to a Chegg representative. However, professors can upload test questions in advance of administering exams to prevent them from being answered in a given time period, suggesting that the company is well aware of the way in which their site is used.

When it comes to cheating, it’s easy to blame students for simply being too lazy to study or having no desire to learn. Professors, however, should understand that many students cheat out of desperation; perhaps they are failing a class that’s required for their major and cannot afford to retake it. While this doesn’t excuse cheating, it can help professors and those outside of this predicament understand students’ mindsets when they cheat. Having homework that is graded for submission and providing answer keys after the assignment’s deadline could be a solution to help students feel less stressed and more encouraged to learn.

Essentially, the burden to stop cheating is both on students and professors. Students must subscribe to academic honesty and take initiative to learn, but professors can also put in effort to create assignments that focus on learning, rather than correctness.


Below is a list of free tutoring resources for UC Davis students courtesy of the Student Affairs website:


Campus location: 

Bainer Hall — Drop-in Tutoring (Engineering)

Dutton Hall — Workshops, Classes, Content Reviews, Individual Writing Appointments (Chemistry, Math, Physics, Writing)

Sciences Lab Building — Drop-in Tutoring (Biology)

Shields Library (Lower Level) — Drop-in Tutoring (Chemistry, Math)

South Hall — Drop-in Tutoring (Economics, Physics, Statistics)

University House Annex — The Writing Studio: Drop-in Tutoring (Writing)  

Center for Chicano and Latinx Academic Student Success — Office Hours (Statistics, Physics, Math, Chemistry)

Cuarto, Segundo and Tercero Academic Advising Centers — Drop-in Tutoring (Chemistry, Math)


Subject-specific tutoring:

Biology — BIS 101, BIS 102, BIS 103, BIS 104, BIS 105 (Drop-in Tutoring)

Chemistry — CHE 10/WLD 41C, CHE 2ABC, CHE 8AB, CHE 118ABC (Drop-in Tutoring); CHE 2A Content Review, CHE 2C, CHE 8A Content Review, CHE 8B, CHE 118A, CHE 118C (Workshop)

Economics — ECN 1A, ECN 1B, ECN 101 (Drop-in Tutoring)

Engineering — ENG 102, ENG 103, ENG 105, Python, EME 106, EME 165 (Drop-in Tutoring)

Math — WLD/precalc, MAT 12, MAT 16ABC, MAT 17ABC, MAT 21ABC, MAT 21AD, MAT 22AB (Drop-in Tutoring); MAT 21D, MAT 22A, MAT 22B (Workshop)

Physics — PHY 7, PHY 9 (Drop-in Tutoring); PHY 7A, Math Review for PHY 7A, PHY 7B, PHY 7C, PHY 9A Content Review (Workshop)

Statistics — STA 13, STA 100 (Drop-in Tutoring)

Writing — All

Written by: The Editorial Board


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