An independent investigation into the affairs of the University of South Africa (Unisa) indicates that nearly 11,000 cases of academic misconduct were reported during the 2022 academic year.
The increase in academic dishonesty is partly attributed to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which forced institutions to move learning and examinations online.
The increase in disciplinary cases is caused by students enlisting the help of third parties to complete examinations, assignments, or any coursework. Students are paying for services to complete an exam or assignment.
There has been a surge in disciplinary cases at Unisa where students hire third-party individuals for assistance to complete their examinations, assignments, and coursework. Students are paying individuals to complete their exams or assignments.
Unisa uses proctoring tools to monitor students' activities on their devices while participating in examinations. In addition, students may be required to ensure the device they are using to complete an examination has a working camera and the relevant screen-sharing permissions.
Students are also encouraged to upload recently taken pictures of themselves so they can be easily identified while they are participating in examinations. This also allows the university to ensure that the person completing an examination is registered to take the examination and not a third party.
A tutor at Unisa, speaking on the conditions of anonymity, says they regularly complete assignments “with” students.
They do the assignment and then they come to class and then we do it together. We do the corrections and whatever and when the student submits the assignment, already it’s okay.
They add that desperate students at least R300 each for assistance. They argue that desperation is created due to insufficient support for students.
A second-year Bachelor of Arts degree student says online examinations have made cheating easier. They add that students often receive texts advertising access to examination answers for a price. Some texts even promise to show students how to get around using proctoring tools.
The student received around 40 of these texts since they started studying last year. They say they are highly uncomfortable against the backdrop of the other information Unisa holds on her.
"They have my ID number, my home address. They have all this information. And I'm really not comfortable that this information is just floating around and apparently is easily accessible"
The University of KwaZulu-Natal's Professor Wayne Hugo believes this type of cheating is not unique to Unisa. These challenges are often exacerbated at institutions that use distance learning.
that's partly got to do with the fact that they’re doing it by distance and the support systems in distance learning aren't as strong
Hugo suspects this type of cheating occurs from students enrolled in undergraduate qualifications up to the doctorate level across the country.
Unisa expressed their confidence in the measure they introduced to combat academic dishonesty. They have also been successful in their action against students suspected of academic misconduct and revealed that 95% of students who faced disciplinary procedures were found guilty.
The university has taken proactive measures and continues to use proctoring tools such as the Invigilator App, Moodle, IRIS and Turnitin to secure academic integrity.
They added that they regularly inform students about scams related to fraudulent messages. The university has also reported these messages for an investigation to the South African Police Service.