The New World of Online Cheating

It is no surprise professors are seeing an influx of cheating happening during the COVID-19 pandemic as online classes have become the new norm. After all, students are now only a friendly text or quick Google search away from receiving better marks on tests. Without the ability to watch what is happening behind the screens of students, there is no way of monitoring which students are following codes of academic honesty.

With slow or weak internet connections being a big problem for many students attending online classes, many professors will allow students to keep their cameras off to save on internet band width. Without this visual component, professors do not always know who it is sitting behind the screens of their class, or even if there is someone listening to the lecture at all.

One second-year nursing student from Thunder Bay commented that “Our prof made one of our finals open-book because she knew people were going to cheat anyway. It was a relief, because it’s not fair for the students who put in the time to study to just get a worse mark than the cheaters.” People who decide to look up the answers instead of studying this year will likely pay for it in the future. The student also states, “Cheating shouldn’t be an option when it comes to nursing. You need to know that information to be able to do your job in the future. It scares me to think about students who will go into the field without actually having learnt the skills.”

Not only do professors need to watch out for students looking up answers or cheating amongst themselves, but they must also be wary of “contract cheating”. Contract cheating is a method in which students hire a third-party member to complete assignments and tests for them. Although there has been very little statistical research done into contract cheating, analysis done by The Conversation journal estimates that more than 70,000 post-secondary students in Canada may participate in contract cheating each year. With online schooling creating an influx in academic dishonesty cases, Canada will likely see new measures put forward to combat this. .

To combat online cheating, CTV News discusses new “guiding principles” that emerge from new technological systems that monitor students’ computers while taking a test. For example, Proctorio is a browser extension that monitors student’s activity while taking tests online and is now being implemented by professors and departments at Canadian universities such as the University of British Columbia. Although new ways of monitoring students’ actions at home are being implemented, students’ ability to text or look up information on their phones remains easily accessible.

One graduate student comments, “I have friends who say they have had to deal with a lot of plagiarism cases this year. It is so much more tempting to grab information from the internet when you are stuck staring at a screen the whole day. For some reason, it seems to be harder to manifest your own ideas and thoughts to put into essays lately. I think lack of motivation has influenced many students to take the easy way out.”

As the semester comes to a close, examinations are likely to see an increase in cheating. Many professors are trying to combat this by implementing take-home exams or leaving students with open book finals. Sadly, this method will likely affect students’ retention of information from this year’s (and potentially next year’s) classes, as many students will likely be filling in answers from their notes or online resources without bothering to really process the information. Although a lot of consideration and effort has gone into developing ways to maintain academic integrity in online courses, it seems that no perfect solution will be coming along anytime soon.


Author: Ashley Friesen

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