Plagiarism by Adult Learners Online: A case study in detection and remediation


  • Christine L. Jocoy California State University @ Long Beach, USA
  • David DiBiase The Pennsylvania State University, USA



Plagiarism, academic integrity, cheating, online, e-learning, adult education


Detecting and combating plagiarism from Web-based sources is a concern for administrators and instructors involved in online distance education. In this paper, we quantify copy-and-paste plagiarism among adult learners in an online geography course offered through Penn State's World Campus Geographic Information Systems (GIS) certificate program. We also evaluate the effectiveness of an "expectation management" strategy intended to discourage adult learners from unintentional violations. We found that while manual methods detected plagiarism in only about 3 percent of assignments, revealed a 13 percent plagiarism rate among the same assignments. Our attempts to increase awareness and manage expectations decreased infractions measurably, but not significantly. In contrast, substantially improved our ability to detect infractions. We conclude that raising awareness and managing expectations about plagiarism may be worthwhile, but is no substitute for systematic detection and vigilant enforcement, even among adult learners.

Author Biographies

Christine L. Jocoy, California State University @ Long Beach, USA

Christine L. Jocoy ( is an Assistant Professor of Geography at California State University, Long Beach. She received her PhD from Penn State in 2004. Her research interests include regional economic development, urban social policy, and geography education.

David DiBiase, The Pennsylvania State University, USA

David DiBiase ( directs the John A. Dutton e-Education Institute within the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State. His research interests include faculty workload and student engagement in e-learning, geographic information science education, academic certification, accreditation, and articulation, and reusable learning object design.

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How to Cite

Jocoy, C. L., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by Adult Learners Online: A case study in detection and remediation. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 7(1).



Research Articles