In Part I, we discussed the case of 10 medical students at Dartmouth who were charged by the university for having inappropriately used online learning resources during an exam. The students were later exonerated, but the injustice remains a mar on the med school's record. It also raises a number of thorny issues about the role of technology in academic integrity.
What are the implications of Dartmouth's accusations that medical school students cheated during online exams?
As damaging as it could have been to the students' futures, the cheating scandal—or, rather, the accusation-of-cheating scandal—does draw much-needed attention to the issue of technology and its flaws. One of the major issues in the Dartmouth story is the school's use of Canvas, the online course management system, to track student activity in ways that some critics are calling dubiously ethical (and others are calling downright unethical).
One such way was relying on Canvas as forensic technology, a purpose for which it wasn't designed and isn't meant. Dartmouth used the system to investigate the students' activity after the fact. Even worse, say some academic integrity experts, they did so without the medical scholars' knowledge.
Upon learning that Dartmouth was pointing fingers at Canvas, several of the medical students whose honor was under the proverbial microscope protested that their devices would automatically and routinely “ping” to the LMS, without their having even accessed the software, let alone actively used it.
Implications for Academic Integrity in Our Post-COVID World
Others are calling to task the administrators who so avidly pursued the indictment of student integrity, saying that the institution, which was founded in 1769, has done 21st Century academia a disservice. Dartmouth relied heavily on technological evidence, they claimed that this evidence was unimpeachable, and, adding insult to injury, they actively discouraged the usual rigors of due process in student honor code cases. This has frightening implications for post-pandemic academic protocols.
Of course, Dartmouth is only one of hundreds of institutions of higher learning around the globe that has necessarily adopted additional technological tools in the wake of the coronavirus. These tools, and similar ones used by nearly every industry, have allowed life in pandemic times to remain as close to normal as possible.
Naturally, no one can expect colleges not to track students' activities during remote learning. But is the university itself a victim of our new normal's necessary evils? Or has it hastened us unwittingly toward a terrifying day when we can no longer distinguish between the human element and the one powered by bits and bytes?
In Uncertain Times, We Stand Strong
Honor code defense and academic integrity issues are our meat and potatoes here at The Lento Law Firm. We rely on both the best of technological assistance and the passion—and compassion—of the human heart when we defend students against unfair allegations of cheating, code of conduct violations, sexual misconduct, or other misdeeds. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you. Call (888)535-3686 today.