Behind the scenes of the online classroom

Looking into the cheating increase with online learning


Photo courtesy of Sclafani via Creative Commons

Nora Keely , Author

With the Coronavirus increasingly and persistently proving itself to be a threat to public health in the United States, school systems across the nation have opted for a different and safer approach to the school year starting in the fall. After comparing the concerns over online learning versus the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak if schools were to open as usual, many public school districts have chosen a curriculum that will be done fully online or with very minimal in person interaction (at least until it is deemed safe to return). While this fixes a big problem, there are other looming ones that need addressing, a prevalent one being cheating. 

Cheating has always been present, but ever since a move to online learning was forced due to the pandemic, cheating has been amplified. Some methods students use are even profitable. According to The Washington Post, “Online tests have also meant a booming business for companies that sell homework and test answers, including Chegg and Course Hero.” Usually, a student will receive repercussions for being involved in cheating. However, the biggest concern with the websites listed previously, and cheating in general, is certain students getting ahead for work they did not do themselves or complete without unpermitted assistance. Additionally, even if the student manages to cheat successfully and does not get punished by the teacher, later assignments are more difficult, and nothing is gained. 

With the switch to online classes being unexpected, many schools have had to create new protocols for these unprecedented times. Some obstacles cannot be predicted and will have to be dealt with when they arise and to a certain extent, cheating is inevitable and unpreventable.  However, there are some ways in which school systems are trying to combat cheating in the online structure such as honor codes, digital proctors, having webcams on during testing, and as one Ms. Weddel, Virtual Prince William teacher with a base school of Brentsville District High School, says, teachers have been advised to establish a policy for cheating and enforce it strictly. With her experience teaching both in-person and online, her insight was constructive. “As a teacher you can engineer your assignment types so that they aren’t conducive to cheating” she asserts. There are certain websites that make for good resources, while others make it easy for individuals to copy and paste from the Internet or peers. She shares that websites such as Canva that students use to create info-graphics is one of her favorites to use because no two submitted assignments are alike in the end. Further, she noted, cheating is generally easy to spot and the grade reflects the work put in. All of her tests are completely free response which allow her to assign a fair grade for each student and identify cheaters. 

An unfortunate teaching style (done unintentionally or intentionally) is to put more emphasis on the tests rather than the material. With this mentality, students feel pressure to score well, but do not often retain information they just regurgitate for an assessment. In an online structure, cheating becomes tempting because the high grade is so desirable, and students feel as if it is easier to pull off. Battlefield High School student Erin Dougherty, who is going into her junior year and has taken three online classes, says, “I think it is more tempting to cheat in an online course since you can access external materials during assignments more easily than you would be able to in a traditional classroom environment.” She goes on to say that she understands how detrimental cheating is and how it defeats the purpose of the teachers’ effort. 

The current circumstances are tough as it is. Teachers are expected to teach; however, they are having to adapt and learn everyday themselves. Going into this new territory, transparency and honesty is imperative to make the transfer to online school smooth. Yet, there will always be dishonest students that make it necessary for the restrictions to be in place.