In a survey of more than 1,000 students across different universities in the UAE, 78 per cent of respondents admitted to cheating by using technology.
Dubai — Plagiarism is a “serious issue” among students taking educational courses in the UAE, academics at top universities in the country have said.
Dr Zeenath Khan, a lecturer at the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD), who has researched the subject of ‘e-cheating’ in the UAE in depth, explained the reasons pushing academic dishonesty.
In a survey of more than 1,000 students across different universities in the UAE, 78 per cent of respondents admitted to cheating by using technology.
“Cheating is a serious problem in the UAE ... Students cheat or plagiarise for a number of reasons. They sometimes have a laid-back attitude (when) ... they work on an assignment or revise for an exam at the last minute.
Sometimes teachers look the other way or are naive to the varying degrees of cheating and the methods used. There is also a huge ... pressure on students to excel, which contributes to levels of plagiarism too,” she told Khaleej Times.
Martin Prince, registrar at the British University in Dubai (BUiD), said the issue is not restricted to undergraduate students. “Even at post graduate level, there isn’t a clear understanding of plagiarism in students. We do expect Master’s students to have a bit more knowledge of academic dishonesty.” He said the university recorded seven formal cases of deliberate plagiarism last year and almost 30 cases of negligent plagiarism.
“Any increase in cases of academic dishonesty is proportionate to the increase in number of students. We support new students who aren’t familiar with the rules of academic writing before their work is submitted for assessment,” he said.
He highlighted the university’s emphasis on making students aware of academic writing guidelines.
“We have policies and procedures for our students where new students get support from academic staff. Even if it is one piece of work in their module where deliberate plagiarism is detected, they would have to retake the module. Depending on the student’s explanation, the student can even be suspended from the programme for a period of time,” explained Prince.
The American University of Sharjah (AUS) has lowered the number of plagiarism cases by introducing sanctions against students who violate the honour code.
Kevin Mitchell, AUS interim provost, said: “Academic dishonesty is an issue at all academic institutions, although ... challenges may differ. For some students at (the) AUS, there can be a significant transition between high school and university and this often means that students may have difficulty in keeping up with the volume and level of work and may be tempted to take shortcuts.”
The university employs a variety of methods for detecting academic dishonesty, including anti-plagiarism software and other detection tools. The university faculty also reviews the work of students to assess their submissions.
“We track academic integrity violations at the university and have actually seen the number of cases decreasing, but this could be due to a number of factors, one of which may be that (the) AUS has both academic and non-academic sanctions for academic integrity violations.
The combination of academic and non-academic sanctions seems to have increased awareness and had an impact on the number of cases. An academic integrity violation can impact not only a student’s academic performance, but also (his/her) participation in extracurricular activities.”
Our campus teaching center recently invited a brave group of student tutors to share their views on effective teaching with our faculty. The four tutors reported what they had heard from students about course designs and teaching practices that seemed to help, and ones that seemed to interfere with learning. Three recurrent themes in the tutors’ remarks caught my attention.
First, they suggested that students needed more help in seeing the large organizational sweep of a course. Undergraduates who came to the tutoring center often had no idea how the first week of the semester in a class connected to the last, or even how different units related to one another. For many students, courses appear less as logical progressions than as, to quote the American writer Elbert Hubbard, "one damn thing after another." So course designs that might seem so clear and elegant to us as faculty members, apparently, do not always appear so lucid to our students.
Second, the tutors said faculty members needed to be much more transparent in their teaching. Students may not see the reasoning behind why Monday is a lecture and Wednesday a discussion, and how our expectations for those very distinct pedagogical models might differ.
Some of the tutors even reported being confused about what they should take away from class discussions, or how they fit into the larger picture of a course. Class discussions that sparkle with life and energy, and that we view as triumphs of great teaching, might just seem pointless and confusing to students.
Finally, the tutors suggested that we could do a better job of sharing our excitement about our disciplines. "We know you have passion for the course material," one of the panelists said, "but students don’t always see that in classes. I know that when professors get really excited about what they are teaching, it makes me more curious and interested to find out about it." Without that contagious energy from the professor, they noted, it was especially hard to become motivated in required or introductory courses.
I came away from the gathering with a lot of ideas, but the most immediate conclusion I drew was: It’s time to rethink my syllabus. A more thoughtful approach to this essential classroom document, and to my use of it throughout the semester, could help alleviate the three major concerns articulated by those tutors.
The "learning syllabus." In this two-part series on the creation and use of what I will call a "learning syllabus" in college and university courses, I want to argue for three essential functions that a syllabus should play in any course. Those three functions do not exhaust the list of what a syllabus should contain or accomplish, but thinking about the implications of these three things will go a long way toward populating your syllabus with the standard material it should have and, at the same time, add elements that will support student learning and that we can return to over and over again throughout the semester.
Too often I hear of the syllabus spoken of as a contract, and I understand that it has a contractual function. But surely we can do better than handing out a contract to our students on the first day of class. Ultimately the syllabus should serve the same purpose as every other aspect of the course: It should help students learn. Consider the following three principles as driving a learning approach to this essential course document.
Make promises. The "promising syllabus" is a concept based on the research of Ken Bain. He’s argued for years that the syllabus should be a place to demonstrate your energy and excitement for the course content. Because this document often represents the first official meeting between your students and your course material, it can be an ideal moment to help them recognize the value of the content and stimulate their interest in learning it.
Bain developed the notion of a promising syllabus by looking at the syllabi of dozens of highly effective and award-winning faculty members. What he saw there, he explains in his 2004 book What the Best College Teachers Do, were syllabi in which faculty members would "lay out the promises or opportunities that the course offered to students. What kind of questions would it help students answer? What kind of intellectual, physical, emotional, or social abilities would it help them develop?" The syllabus "represented an invitation to a feast, giving students a strong sense of control over whether they accepted."
Does your syllabus offer students an invitation to an intellectual feast? Are you promising students that—if they put in the required work—your course will help them gain deep new insights into life? Or valuable skills that will benefit them throughout their careers? Or knowledge that will enable them to succeed in their chosen professions?
Or, instead, does your syllabus offer some version of the statement "In this course we will cover … , " which is the syllabus equivalent of presenting your lectures in a dull monotone, in a darkened room, from behind a podium?
You no doubt believe in the value of your discipline and your course. You believe it has something incredibly valuable to offer to your students. The challenge of the learning syllabus is to convey that value to students. You want to convince them, in that initial meeting, that learning in your course, if they put in the effort, could change their lives for the better. A learning syllabus exudes the enthusiasm that will stimulate the curiosity of students.
Orient your students. Your syllabus, through its course description or schedule, should help students recognize the course’s larger organizational framework and continue to see it throughout the semester. Students should be able to pull out their syllabus in any class period and use it to help identify where the course has been, where it stands now, and where it is headed.
That can happen in different ways. Some faculty members like to plot out the course on the syllabus in great detail, including the topics and readings covered in each class session, the due dates for homework and other assignments, and the dates of all quizzes and examinations. Predicting all of that before a course even begins can be a difficult and time-consuming task, but it does help students envision the whole course from the outset of the semester. And as the tutors explained, that also helps students plan their schedules effectively. Dropping an unexpected exam or assignment date on students midsemester might mean that those who have carefully planned out their studying time around work and extracurriculars now have to rearrange everything in their lives to accommodate your late decision.
Still, in some cases it may be best to leave room for flexibility on a syllabus. Where I live, we have had three vast snowstorms in the past three weeks, each of which entailed a day of class cancellations. Faculty members who had mapped out their schedules in intricate detail are now fumbling a bit. Likewise, faculty members should be flexible enough in their planning to accommodate students’ problems or events within or outside of the class.
But aside from the question of how much you want to pin down the dates, the key to this principle is laying out the content of the course in ways that enable students to see the learning arc. Undoubtedly the topics of your course build on one another throughout the semester. Does the course also divide up into logical units? Do certain topics recur from one week to the next? Can you find ways to indicate those kinds of progressions, divisions, or cycles on your syllabus?
New learners in a subject area typically need help seeing frameworks and big pictures. A learning syllabus can help them acquire that vision from the first day of the semester.
Be transparent. So much of what we heard from the tutors on the panel, and so much of what I hear from my student advisees, is puzzlement: Why are we doing this?
Our tutors reported their bafflement, for example, about how to approach and learn from class discussions. Were they supposed to take notes on what their classmates said? Were they responsible for things their classmates said on exams? How about seemingly casual comments made by the professor during the discussion? Should they write those down?
Students may have such questions about almost everything we do in class: Why do we take quizzes? What’s the purpose of these presentations? Why should I have to take a cumulative final exam? Why do you grade participation?
The rationale for all of those decisions might be clear enough in your mind, but how often do you answer those questions for your students? If they never hear answers, they might see your course practices and assessments as hoops to jump through or boxes to tick instead of opportunities to learn and improve.
So consider the syllabus as a place to set down in writing the rationale for what you do in the course. The learning syllabus should be a transparent syllabus, a place where your students can find answers to the questions that might arise when they are struggling with a difficult assignment or wondering why they should trudge across a cold snowy campus for a discussion session on a Friday morning.
Creating such a learning syllabus, though, won’t get you very far if students don’t pay close attention to it. So the syllabus represents the place to put—in concrete terms—the incredible value of your course, the organization of its parts, and the logic behind it. But a true learning syllabus does not simply reside in the paper or electronic folders of your students; it sparks and maintains a continuing conversation about your course, and about the learning of your students.
Next month, in the final part of this series, we’ll consider how the learning syllabus should form a regular part of your course, as a living document that can inspire and guide students throughout the semester.
International education hubs are the latest development in the international higher education landscape. A country-level education hub is a planned effort to build a critical mass of local and international actors – higher education institutions and providers, students, research and development centres and knowledge industries – who work collaboratively on education, training, and knowledge production and innovation. To date, six countries – Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Botswana – claim to be education hubs. But how are they financed? Are the investors public or private? Are they local or foreign based? Are the current funding models sustainable? These are important questions worthy of closer examination.
Each country has its own capacity and strategies to fund education hub initiatives. Qatar is an interesting but unique model.
All physical infrastructure and facilities are provided for foreign branch campuses and companies located in Education City and the Science and Technology Park. Furthermore, 100% of the sizable operating costs for the 10 branch campuses and the new graduate-level Hamad bin Khalifa University are covered by the Qatar Foundation.
The annual operating costs to support Education City, the Science and Technology Park and the extensive array of research programmes and grants are the responsibility of the Qatar government and are extremely high. Is this government-supported full funding model sustainable and is it optimal?
In essence, Qatar is importing and purchasing the majority of education programmes, services and research for the education hub activities.
A pivotal question is how long should a country attempt to build and strengthen domestic capacity by purchasing and importing foreign expertise. It has been 17 years since Qatar first started its work on inviting select foreign universities to establish specific programmes in Education City.
Is this the first phase of Qatar’s long-term plan to develop more domestic human resource capacity as it loosens its reliance on natural gas and foreign expatriate talent or is this becoming its modus operandi? If so, is it a sustainable and effective model? If not, what will be the second phase?
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, or UAE, offers a completely different set of circumstances in terms of funding, investments and revenue generation. Each emirate has developed its own approach to making UAE an education hub.
Abu Dhabi has invited world-renowned institutions, such as New York University and the Sorbonne, to set up branch campuses in customised facilities provided by the Abu Dhabi government.
In addition, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was invited to help develop and advise on the development of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and Masdar City, the first carbon-free zone in the world.
Masdar City hosts world-class research facilities, scientists and graduate programmes – all of which are supported by the Abu Dhabi government. This represents an enormous domestic public investment.
Dubai is a different story. Dubai’s Strategic Plan called for the establishment of several theme-based economic free zones. Two of these are education focused – Knowledge Village and Dubai International Academic City.
The investment arm of the Dubai government, TECOM, is mandated to build the physical infrastructure and facilities for these zones and recruit reputable foreign institutions and training companies. The tenants in the zones enjoy attractive tax and regulatory incentives to offer their education and training programmes.
Unlike the situation in Qatar and Abu Dhabi, the foreign institutions and providers do not have their operating costs subsidised and they pay rent for the use of facilities. It is estimated that in Dubai’s two economic free education zones, the public domestic investment is about 80% in terms of land, infrastructure and services, and private foreign investment from the tenants is about 20%.
The amount of revenue generated from facility rentals for TECOM and from tuition fees for branch campuses and private training companies is not available.
But, given that these zones are relatively stable and operating at full capacity, the funding formula seems to be working, and increased education opportunities are being offered to primarily expatriate students living in UAE (60% of enrolments), international offshore students (32%) and some UAE citizens (8%).
Hong Kong, Botswana and Singapore
Hong Kong presents yet another scenario. The government has made limited public investment into hub development since its first announcement in 2004. The primary public investment by Hong Kong has been in the form of scholarships to attract international students, most of them from China.
Recently, a plot of land was made available to attract branch campuses of local or international universities; but there is not information as to whether facilities will be built and available for rent or whether institutions would have to invest in building their own infrastructure.
Similarly, the public investment of the Botswana government, beyond engaging in a sophisticated planning and consultation process for hub development, appears to be limited.
Botswana hub plans are still on track, but have been negatively impacted by the 2008 to 2012 economic crisis. Their investment to date has been scholarships for international students and the establishment of a new university – Botswana International University of Science and Technology.
The financial investments in Singapore’s hub building activities since 1998 are impossible to track due to the lack of any published information on public/private or domestic/foreign funding sources.
No conclusions can be drawn, but worth noting is that the Singapore government has been referred to as the ‘venture capitalist’ in terms of its significant and generous role in bankrolling the education hub efforts.
The situation in Malaysia is complex, given the number of different components to the hub strategy. Malaysia is home to seven branch campuses and more are planned. Both private foreign and domestic funds were used to fund these initiatives.
Yet, with the establishment of an economic free zone in the form of EduCity Iskandar, there has been major financing provided by the public investment arm of the government, Khazanah Nasional. It has funded the building of infrastructure and education facilities to attract international institutions.
Overall in Malaysia, it is estimated that public domestic investment represents 50% of the funding for education hub activities, complemented by 40% of domestic private investment. The remaining 10% is made up of foreign private investment and other sources.
These case studies demonstrate that public domestic investment is critical to the development of education hubs. While hub building also requires private investment from domestic and foreign sources, the importance of local government support to kick-start and leverage other sources of financing should not be underestimated.
The UAE and Malaysia are examples where initial public investment has paid off and attracted other streams of private funding.
Singapore and Qatar present other models where financing of education hub activities has been done primarily by the government (or ruling family) and over the last 15 years much has been accomplished. However, the sustainability of such funding and the ability to replicate this model in other nations remain as two unanswered questions.
Expert from PA Consulting Group warns culture of valuing lifelong learning in education needs to be created in Middle East Dubai, UAE, 10 March 2015: The standard of education in the Middle East needs to improve drastically against international benchmarks in order to create more capable, qualified and developed students who can move on to tertiary learning.
While education is the single most important determinant of today's economic, social and cultural prosperity, the biggest challenge for the region's education sector is that the system has traditionally under performed at all levels compared to other markets, said Paul Woodgates, an education expert at PA Consulting Group.
"There has been a passive acceptance of this underperformance in recent years, however, it is no longer being tolerated," said Woodgates. "Performance and outcomes need to be raised at school level, where in many cases the quality of teaching needs to be improved, to create a cohort of students who are ready for undergraduate study and will exceed at that level and beyond."
Working with management to support decision-making around the deployment of educational resources for teaching, research, estate and facilities, and intellectual property, Paul Woodgates has said that the biggest problem Middle East educational management face today is creating behavioural change.
"The focus of governments is often on new buildings, changed curricula and the introduction of technology - all very important. Research shows, however, that these factors are secondary compared to improving the quality of teaching in terms of making an impact," added Woodgates.
As technology is constantly advancing, providers in the Middle East have been urged to understand and make the most of new innovations to engage students and enhance the learning experience. The education sector must pay more attention to capital efficiency and innovation rather than rely on incumbent models of learning services in order to keep up with the rest of the world.
PA Consulting Group understands the issues and challenges shaping government and public service organisations in the Middle East and is helping countries across the Gulf realise their version for education to support their economic, cultural and social aspirations.
The Group is leading the way on e-education and has worked closely with organisations to develop their visions for technology-enabled learning, and designed, piloted and implemented an 'e-maturity' model within an online tool in Qatar. The dual-language tool, the first of its kind in the region, provides schools in Qatar with an online self-assessment and improvement capability to assess their level of 'e-maturity' and guide them towards improvement in line with the overall e-education strategy.
PA Consulting Group has been operating in the Gulf region for the last 30 years, successfully delivering more than 150 projects in 13 Middle Eastern countries, across sectors including financial services, transport, energy, government, defence and security, healthcare, education and manufacturing.
About PA Consulting Group We are an employee-owned firm of over 2,500 people, operating globally from offices across North America, Europe, the Nordics, the Gulf and Asia Pacific. We are experts in energy, financial services, life sciences and healthcare, manufacturing, government and public services, defence and security, telecommunications, transport and logistics.
Our deep industry knowledge together with skills in management consulting, technology and innovation allows us to challenge conventional thinking and deliver exceptional results with lasting impact.
According to figures kept by the university’s Institutional Research, there were 574 declared undergraduate computer science (CS) majors, making CS the largest major by far. The next largest major is human biology with 323 declared majors – just above half the size of CS. This is the result of a half-decade-long trend with CS enrollment growing by around 25 percent every year since 2009.
The question lingers at the back of our minds: Is Stanford University about to become the Stanford Institute of Technology? Looking at the enrollment numbers alone, that seems like a real possibility. Even though Stanford’s admission process is as diverse as it has ever been, many freshman – from prospective pre-meds to math geeks to public policy enthusiasts – seem to end up in CS by the end of their sophomore year.
But enrollment numbers do not tell the whole story. Behind the monolithic number that tells us how many students are declared CS is an extremely broad field of study that encompasses a huge variety of topics.
Any CS major would attest that there exist a few distinct subsets of CS that have little overlaps with one another beyond the shared core classes. A student studying human-computer interaction is almost guaranteed to never be in the same class as their friend studying CS theory after taking introductory system and algorithm classes. The only reason why they are nevertheless both CS majors is because we continue to see everything to do with computing as a single field of study.
It is time to abandon that outdated classification.
If we trace the roots of political science, economics, chemistry and even computer science itself, we find that they once all fell under the purview of philosophy. As these disciplines became rich and deep enough to warrant their own specialized niches, they discarded the broad and undescriptive “philosophy” label when the time was right.
Today, the exact opposite is happening with CS and it makes little sense. Topics like network design and statistics that have existed independently long before the digital age are being rebranded and subsumed under CS. Business analysts and sociologists are both calling themselves “data scientists” on LinkedIn and consumer service companies like Uber and Airbnb are branding themselves as technology companies simply because they use computers to solve problems, even though we do not consider farmers to be technologists simply because they employ automated machines or predictive weather models.
Imagine if people majored in mathematics to learn to run a company, or trade stocks, or develop iPhone apps or sequence genes. That is an absurd situation, even if mathematical principles are essential to all those tasks. Yet, that is essentially what many Stanford CS students are doing in droves. As computing and coding as a whole are becoming indispensable tools for those who seek knowledge in other fields, CS appears to have become the learn-to-do-anything-and-everything major, even if most people really only want to learn software development.
In light of this, CS ought be split up into four separate majors that better align with the depth and focus of the actual learning material: Computer Science for computing theory, Applied Computing for software engineering theory and practice, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) for UI design and graphics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) for statistical techniques and data processing. These majors will continue to share the core introductory programming and theory classes, just as chemistry and biology share the same mathematics and physics classes. The immediate administrative impact of doing so is manageable because the numerous concentrations in CS already function almost like distinct majors.
The advantage of this change in the longer term is to give each of the distinct majors more flexibility in catering to their students’ needs in terms of curriculum and staffing, bringing themselves closer to departments outside of CS that are more naturally complementary. For example, HCI has more in common with art, product design and communications than it does with AI, and so should be encouraged to reach out and become an integral part of those majors instead of bringing topics from those existing fields and absorbing them into the complex amorphous blob that is CS today. Similarly, CS theory has more in common with mathematics and AI with statistics.
The rule of thumb governing all of computer science and engineering is building good abstractions and separation of concerns. In economics, the same principle governs specialization and trade. The CS major as it exists today is a poor abstraction framework consisting of dramatically different fields of studies whose only shared feature is that they all leverage computing. As everything from sociology to biology becomes dependent on digital technology to achieve progress, it is about time we separate coding as a tool for every discipline from computer science as a distinct field of study, just as mathematics and philosophy have done in the past.