Is it really cheating?


I am almost done teaching my first course of the University of Wyoming. It is an Introduction to Online Teaching. I personally think the class has been wonderful, but it has left me wondering. Here is the scenario:

As part of a final project, learners had to create a course using Moodle. Before they created their course, they had to “practice” using the various tools within Moodle in a separate practice area. One of the learners took advantage of the practice area, and built items that he was planning to use in his final course project. Once he was ready to work on his final course project, he asked me if he could back up and restore his practice area into his final course project. Since this is a capability of Moodle, I helped him successfully accomplish his goal. He is now expanding on what he has already built. Since we discussed countless strategies in the course, I certainly had no problem with it. 

However, no one else has explored this approach. This left me wondering why. Why didn’t the learner who employed this method advise others in the class; we certainly had discussion boards set up to share great ideas. Why aren’t learners setting up communication tools to help others also be successful in the academic environment. Do they consider it cheating? In his book, A Theory of Fun for Game Design, Koster discusses the topic of cheating from a gaming perspective. I personally believe it also applies to everyday life. When we look for patterns and identify them, we then try to find the quickest way to negotiate the patterns, we tried to find shortcuts (Koster, 2005). Koster adds finding shortcuts maybe considered by others as cheating, but in a survival sense it is considered cunning. “From a strict evolutionary point of view, cheating is a winning strategy” (Koster, 2005, p. 112). Cheating in the real world is frowned upon, but in the game world, individuals who find the loopholes are considered experts and operating within the game (Koster, 2005). In fact, 100,000 page wikis are created just to help players advance through a game. Here is an example called WoWWiki. Imagine of learners in your class were trying to develop a resource of this scale and caliber to help others pass your class… wow.

In the real world, I am also rewarded and praised for sharing useful information with others rather than have them find it independently. Shouldn’t we also be teaching learners how to share information to help others succeed or excel? In the business world, if you share information that provides a competitive advantage, you are also rewarded for it; unless it is illegal.

Here is an interesting article about cheating called “Collaboration and sharing of notes has a fine line in academic dishonesty.” I guess in times of uncertainly, I would ask the instructor if it was ok to share said information, but I would always look for opportunities to share.

What do you think?


Koster, R. (2005). A theory of fun for game design. Scottsdale, AZ: Paraglyph Press.

1 thought on “Is it really cheating?”

  1. I think there are some possibilities unrelated to cheating.
    For instance, competitive students (and people) may prefer not to share their idea. Maybe they want to achieve the highest class GPA. Helping advance others would conflict with this goal.
    Another concern of the creative student might be that others will hijack their great iead to and use it for their own benefit.. So it’s a trust issue, too.
    Just some thoughts.

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