Adams State addresses cheating threat

(01-01-2015)

In efforts to combat fraudulent activities such as those admitted to by a "Mr. White" recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education, in recent years Adams State University has revised distance education policies to prevent cheating.

"Adams State University does not compromise on academic integrity, and we denounce the illegal activities committed by Mr. White," said Adams State University President David Svaldi. "If persons like Mr. White and the coaches and athletes who patronized his services were to be effectively prosecuted, it could deter future abuses."

The article refers to White as a "fixer" who, over the last 14 years, helped college athletes meet NCAA eligibility by attaining transfer credit from Adams State and other institutions. White admits to not only completing assignments and exams for athletes, but also to bribing proctors.

The courses in question are delivered at a distance, either online or via print-based correspondence, by Adams State Extended Studies. One policy revision requires a minimum completion time of six weeks for any three-credit Extended Studies course, according to Vice President for Academic Affairs Frank Novotny. He explained that student verification can be a challenge.

"Our faculty use Turnitin.com extensively (to screen for plagiarism), and we are expanding use of high stakes testing, which, for example, requires a student to write a paper in the presence of a proctor, at a testing center, or via video monitoring," he said.

Novotny noted Adams State's general education courses have not only been rigorously reviewed internally, but also at the state level. They are approved for general education credit transfer to any two or four-year public institution in Colorado through the state-wide gtPathways General Education Curriculum.

"Curriculum requirements vary among states, so a course approved for transfer within Colorado may not necessarily correspond with a seemingly similar course in California, for example," Novotny said.

Svaldi said Adams State's Extended Studies program is very valuable to students in isolated, rural areas, many of whom lack internet access, and to those working to further their education while juggling work and family responsibilities. During the 2013-14 academic year, Extended Studies logged approximately 7,800 enrollments in courses offered online, face-to-face, and via correspondence.

"While athletes from other institutions also enroll in distance courses, they are not the primary group we seek to serve. Our objective is to help students achieve life goals in the most convenient and cost-effective manner possible," he said.

Novotny added the university will work with its regional accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission, to further review its distance education processes and procedures, including student verification and monitoring of academic quality.

By Julie Waechter