Preventing the “corrupted file” trick

As students prepare their final work for your courses, teach them to be aware of the danger of sending a corrupted file. Unfortunately, some students may corrupt their own files (or hire a service to do it for them) in an effort to buy themselves additional time on their work. When professors discover that a file is unopenable, they are forced to decide if they should extend the benefit of the doubt to the student, award a 0, contact the student and ask them to resubmit with a late work penalty, or something else. While any of these choices are justifiable, it’s best if we can just avoid the problem entirely.

Here are some ways to do that:

  1. Require students to submit their final paper to a discussion board and to provide feedback to their peers about their work. This creates peer pressure to turn in work, and if someone’s file isn’t able to be opened, peers will note it. 
  2. Include an additional assignment that requires students to agree that they turned in the copy of the work that they want graded and that it is not corrupt. You could have them submit a screenshot of the opened file. This could be part of an end-of-course reflection due at the same time as the final work. You don’t have the frame this as an anti-cheating measure. Instead, you can say something like, “I want to be sure that you are able to leave campus for break without any worries about your final work being received.”
  3. Require work to be submitted as a PDF rather than a Word doc. You can limit submission types to certain kinds of file in your LMS when you create the assignment to enforce this.
  4. Tell students that you are aware that, unfortunately, some students seem to think this trick will work. Explain that it’s an act of academic dishonesty and a violation of our academic code. Explain the consequences of a violation very clearly. Stressing that this is a violation of integrity that won’t be tolerated will likely cut down on such behavior.

Have a tip for promoting academic integrity in your courses without assuming an antagonist position with students? Please share it in the comments.

The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs (1630-1634) by Georges de La Tour shows four people–the cheat, a courtesan, a servant, and a mark–at a card table. The cheat tips his hand toward the viewers, implicating us in his scheme.

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