The Globe and Mail has picked up the corrupted file service for students, and asks: is knowingly submitting a corrupted file considered cheating?
The article leaves the question unanswered, suggesting that it is a subjective matter.
The site’s developer acknowledged that the practice of using corrupted files many be ethically dubious, but argued that it wasn’t “outright cheating.” It’s simply a better excuse that buys students more time to complete their assignments.
I would agree that this isn’t plagiarism, but it is unethical.
Here’s how I would handle it: let’s say I discover that a student has intentionally submitted a corrupted file for their assignment. (Analysis of the files provided by this company suggest this is relatively trivial to do.) First, I would not consider the corrupted file as a submitted assignment, and the student would be subjected to whatever late penalties I had set for the assignment. So, if no late assignments would be accepted, they would get a zero, etc.
Next, I would report the student to the school administration. The act of intentionally trying to deceive me for their own gain is an act of academic misconduct, and should be treated as such. At the very least, the incident would end up in their file to be seen should they try the same thing again, or apply for a bursary, scholarship, etc.
Some may consider this to be too strict an approach. In my experience, students who cheat, misbehave, or otherwise end up in these situations are the exception. While we need to be fair to these students, we also have a responsibility to the other students who did not cheat, misbehave, etc and still managed to get their work in complete and on time. They are counting on us to be strict and uphold the rules and standards of academia.
If we don’t, it won’t be long before students realize that they can be ‘successful’ in their studies by doing far less work, and many will adjust their behaviour accordingly. Such is the moral fiber of our society.