Most US students crib from internet

November 21, 2003

The majority of US undergraduates use the internet to do research and most say they know of classmates who use it to cheat, according to an annual survey of university students.

The National Survey of Student Engagement, which polled 185,000 first and final-year undergraduates on 649 campuses, found 83 per cent of students regularly used the web to prepare for class and nearly 90 per cent reported that their classmates at least "sometimes" copied and pasted information from the internet for academic papers without citing the source.

It also found that US students spent less time studying than faculty said they should, yet still were given top grades.

Some 40 per cent reported getting As on an A-F letter grading system where the average is a C, even though one-third of them studies only ten hours or less a week. More than three-quarters of those who study ten hours a week or less get grades of B or better.

While faculty, in a separate survey, said that students should spend 25 hours a week or more preparing for class, only about one in ten actually did.

For their part, faculty seem to involve themselves less with students. More than a third of the undergraduates surveyed said they "never" or only "sometimes" got prompt feedback.

"Most of the pack has settled for a level of performance that is less than it could be, or needs to be, to meet the challenges of the future," Russell Edgerton, director of the Pew Forum on Undergraduate Learning, and Lee Shulman, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, write in an introduction to the report. "In education, complacency is a dangerous condition. Our mantra should not be, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it', but rather, 'Why not the best?'"

Among the other findings: more than half of students worked off-campus more than 20 hours a week and fewer than half of US students had serious conversations with people of other racial or ethnic backgrounds.

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