Videos help students get honest about cheating

UAlberta releases video series highlighting importance of proper citation, consequences of plagiarism.


(Edmonton) Darth Vader, Dr. Seuss and Chris Farley have a frank message for stressed-out students frantic about term papers and exams: cheating is unacceptable!

OK, this unlikely pop-culture trio said nothing of the sort. But their words—cited in a new rap video about plagiarism—are part of a larger University of Alberta effort to spark an honest discussion about cheating.

“No student comes here thinking, ‘I’m going to cheat and plagiarize my way through university.’ About 99.9 per cent of the cheating and plagiarism we deal with in our office is from students making poor decisions, often at the last minute,” said Deborah Eerkes, director of the U of A’s Office of Student Judicial Affairs. “It’s usually when they have a paper to hand in and haven’t identified their sources or they didn’t study hard enough and can’t resist taking a peek at the person sitting next to them.”

When students do cheat, consequences can range from a failing grade to a blemished academic record or even expulsion. Eerkes said prevention is preferred over punishment, which is why her office works with students to educate them about what’s acceptable and what is not.

Beats, rhymes and student life

This year, her office teamed up with the Dean of Students and Townend Films to create a trio of videos highlighting the issue of academic integrity. The first video features Edmonton-based rappers Mitch Holtby and Mike Hamm (a.k.a. Mitchmatic and Mikey Maybe), trading rhymes with lyrics snipped from pop culture, underscoring the need to cite sources.

The two other videos in the series are skits performed by local actors who spell out what’s acceptable and unacceptable when it comes to citing work, and what’s cheating.

The creative, often humorous videos are meant to capture student attention and spark discussion about academic integrity on campus. The videos are already being shown in classrooms, at K-12 schools and even among parents.

The series is part of a larger U of A project on academic integrity, which includes collaboration between the Faculty of Science and the Student Success Centre to create an online course on things like how to properly cite and use sources.

Though plagiarism is far from a pressing problem at the U of A, engaging students and ensuring they know where to turn for help can be difficult, Eerkes said, especially in their first year on campus.

“They’re inundated with so much information, we have to find a way to break through and get the information and resources to them. The more innovative and creative we can be about it, the better.”

Watch the videos

Plagiarism Rap