She's not even 2 years old, but Siri is getting a lot of people in trouble. To the iPhone community, she’s a familiar presence—even something of a celebrity. She’s an Apple iPhone voice technology feature, an intelligent digital personal assistant who can correctly answer most questions put to her. She's also getting really popular among the kids who rely on her to pass classroom quizzes. According to a 2010 study, a whopping 60 percent of high school students in the U.S. admitted to cheating. The enabling technologies of the digital age are getting smarter and easier to use, and cheating has become much more common as a result. And it isn’t just in high school. A recent survey conducted by Duquesne University showed that cheating is prevalent wherever digital tools are available. College students who have smartphones and access to the Web are more prone to cheating than their less-connected counterparts. When the answer's a Google search away, why bother committing it to memory? Naturally, there’s worry that online education will suffer because of this new way of cheating. Many educators, however, are quick to point out that the technology that facilitates cheating also facilitates catching those who cheat. Online plagiarism checkers, such as TurnItIn, pose a formidable deterrent to students who are tempted to lift materials from other people’s works. And programs like Copyscape are powerful enough to raise red flags in a fraction of second if a term paper looks suspiciously like something already published elsewhere. The increased emphasis on staying one step ahead of the cheaters comes as online education is just starting to make an impact on the way universities do business. Traditional schools repurpose resources and programs to accommodate the growing demand for online courses. Meanwhile, educators, while remaining vigilant against online cheating, advise their students to take advantage of the traditional study techniques that have helped pupils succeed for ages (see Tips to Studying Online). Here are a few of those age-old study tips, tweaked for the modern online student: Study the outline of your course. It’s an old strategy, but it’s applicable to the modern world of online education. Make sure you have a firm grasp of the following:
- course description and objectives
- test content and schedule
- technology requirements
- instructor contact information
Learn the course software. Before diving into your course, mouse around and familiarize yourself with the digital doodads. Find the buttons, fields, and menus that you'll need once you start. It's no fun getting lost in the middle of a test just because you can’t find the “send” button. Get comfortable in the online environment. The tools for online learning are different from those for classroom learning. Many online education providers, for example, use forums or chat rooms as online classrooms, so make sure that you’re comfortable in them. Learn how to interact with fellow students and teachers in this environment using the new tools that come with it. Manage your time. Much more than in traditional education (where your time is managed for you), knowing how to manage your time in online education is a critical skill. With all the time-wasters available on the Internet, it takes just one or two lapses in concentration to slide down the slippery slope of social network distraction. Shut down all distractions if you care about your study time—after all, it's your future career that's at stake.