Cheating During Distanced Learning


Sydney Gaw, Staff Writer 

Student opens Canvas to work on online assignments (Baran Ashtiani).

While cheating has always been a concern regardless of the learning circumstances, taking tests at home and online seem to have made it more tempting for students to cheat recently. Without direct supervision from the teacher, there are a multitude of ways that students can cheat. 

Following the return to school this year, the Sword & Shield distributed an anonymous survey to collect the thoughts and opinions of University High School students regarding cheating during online learning. All of the respondents noted that they or someone they know have cheated during the course of online learning either last school year during Emergency Distanced Learning or this school year.

Since the transition to online learning last year, some students have found it increasingly difficult to understand the material being taught in their classes and prepare for the accompanying exams. With the onslaught of unconventional work and lack of in-person instruction, it seems probable that some students might feel inclined to cheat on exams being administered remotely.

“Cheating in distance learning is practically inevitable. For most people, if you can find an easier way out, you will. Many people turn to cheating, whether this is sharing homework or calling during a test. For the most part, there are minimal preventative measures stopping someone from cheating, which can be done relatively easily without getting caught,” one student said.

Using technology, such as a phone, during a test was easier for teachers to monitor during in-person learning, but at home, there is no way to see what students are really doing off screen. 

Another anonymous form responder admitted that, “while I didn’t end up needing to use it, I had my notes and phone readily available during a quiz.”

It seems that teachers can no longer rely solely on the integrity of their students to get accurate testing results. Though many teachers have begun experimenting with new measures to increase the security of their exams, like giving students open-note assessments or having students download lockdown browsers, there still is no 100% effective method to prevent students from cheating. 

“[Students] feel compelled to cheat because receiving help from others would make the test easier for them,” a form respondent said. “Also, having the resources available to cheat would probably motivate them to do so.”

However, some students feel that there is an increased need to rely on outside resources during tests because they are not being given adequate help during class. The drastic differences between traditional learning and online learning have made it difficult for some students to focus on or absorb the material.

When asked why they felt compelled to cheat, one student explained that “overall, students are receiving an insufficient [amount] of teaching instruction.”

This seems to be a common issue where students feel unprepared for exams or are stressed out by their classes because there is a disconnect between teachers and students. 

On the other hand, some students believe that their teachers are responsible for the supposed increase in cheating. In attempts to raise the security of their tests, some teachers are inadvertently increasing their students’ stress levels. 

“Teachers already assume students will cheat and try to cut test times significantly to ‘counter’ this,” a student said. “Often, the amount of time teachers give us to complete numerous problems on a test causes a lot of anxiety, and make us feel it is necessary to check [our] answers with online or other sources.”

IUSD schools have also started the transition to hybrid learning—a combination of online and in-person learning. Students will now have to adapt to a new learning schedule, particularly new exam schedules.

Teachers will have different ways of scheduling and administering tests, with some teachers giving a test only to the in-person cohort on a given day and some teachers administering a test to both cohorts on the same day. This change might just lead to another unfair advantage where students at home are still more likely to cheat than those attending the class in person. Students may also receive information about assessments from other students who take a test the day before them. 

On the other hand, in-person learning might provide students with enough comprehension to forgo cheating altogether. At this point in time, it is unclear whether more effective anti-cheating methods will be developed and if students will still feel motivated to cheat.