Edgenuity and Online Cheating

As the spread of distributed learning continues, many school districts, colleges, and universities have come to rely on various online education platforms to deliver their curriculum. For K-12 education, one of the most popular platforms is Edgenuity. Edgenuity started life as Education2020 (E2020) in 1998. In 2019, the CEO reported serving more than four million students. In the United States, Edgenuity is used in all of the ten largest school districts, and 21 of the 25 largest.

However, the sharp rise in the use of Edgenuity products has outpaced the company's ability to keep up. Negative reviews of the platform from students and parents are rampant, and some schools have also reported problems with the software. While every online platform presents new opportunities for cheating, the extremely frustrating experiences with Edgenuity have made cutting corners more attractive than usual. Even straight-A students are resorting to less than the most forthright means for completing their work.

An Imperfect Program

Edgenuity touts features to prevent cheating, but really provides minimal obstacles to misconduct. The first feature is called “IP Registry” or “No Access IP Registry.” When activated, this feature limits what content a student can access when not connected to the school's network. For example, a student may be able to complete lessons and assignments at home but would have to return to school for assessments. While this setup might work for a hybrid (remote/in-person) instructional model, the opportunity for cheating still exists for whatever can be accessed at home. When the instruction model is wholly remote, this feature prevents cheating not at all.

The next anti-cheating feature Edgeunity sells isn't actually theirs. The SecureLock Browser Experience is really an implementation model that requires a complicated integration by a team of experts at the school district level. Implementation at the local level could be uneven, given that Edgenuity can work without it. The fine print also says the SecureLock Browser Experience requires the IP Registry feature—if the IP Registry feature doesn't work for remote instruction, then neither will SecureLock, leaving Edgenuity exposed to numerous cheating strategies.

What might be most surprising is this: When using Edgenuity, teachers do not review all student answers. While it is reasonable that teachers use automated grading for multiple-choice exercises, Edgenuity also uses artificial intelligence to check write-in answer blocks. However, describing Edgenuity's algorithm as “artificial intelligence” might be a stretch, as students have found that just submitting lists of key words in the answer box brings top scores. This dodge is made even easier by copying keyword lists that can easily be found online. Others report good results from just copying the question and pasting it in the answer box.

Fast-Forward and Free Answers

Cheating is only one sort of academic misconduct. On the less egregious end of the misconduct spectrum, students have found other hacks to defeat Edgenuity. Normally, Edgenuity requires a student to view instructional videos in their entirety before moving on to the next lesson or exercise. For those who don't want to sit through the videos, users have posted instructions on how to jump to the end of the video, so students take only minutes to bypass hours of video lessons. The assumed consequence would be failing marks on the test that follows, but with answers posted and easy to find online, no one is the wiser. At least one dissatisfied user has created a website dedicated solely to providing Edgenuity answer keys, boasting over 200 contributors of nearly 3500 answers to more than 35 courses. Sifting through test answer banks cribbed from websites might seem a high mountain to climb, but the Edgenuity question recycle rate is so high, this is an easy hurdle to get over. During a second attempt at a 50-question test, students can expect to see an average of 37 identical questions repeated.

Edgenuity knows students are cheating. The Edgenuity website lists several statistics from a survey by the International Center for Academic integrity of more than 70,000 American high school students:

  • 64% of survey respondents admitted to cheating on a test
  • 58% admitted to plagiarism
  • 95% said they participated in some form of cheating, whether it was on a test, plagiarism, or copying homework

Edgenuity's recommended solution is telling schools to establish honor codes and enforce them by “Address[ing] any instances of cheating right away.” All of this predisposes teachers to see cheating, where there may be none. Whether or not cheating has occurred, teachers and school administrators want to deal with the matter and put it behind them quickly. They may want to make an example of an alleged offender to discourage other students from taking shortcuts. When this happens, schools may overlook extenuating factors affecting a student or ignore due process. As government entities, public schools have a duty to provide some level of due process when determining consequences for academic misconduct. Not every student accused of wrongdoing is guilty, or deserving of the attendant devastating consequences.

You Need a Strong Defense

When a student is accused of cheating or any other type of academic misconduct:

  • Don't respond immediately, even to defend yourself
  • Don't admit to anything
  • Don't to try explaining the circumstances
  • Do review the school's code of conduct
  • Do try to understand the allegations
  • Do note any disconnects between allegations and conduct policy
  • Do write down the events (date, time, text/e-mail messages, potential witnesses, screenshots, and any other relevant facts or details
  • Do contact an academic misconduct violation lawyer

If you or your child is accused of cheating on Edgenuity, the best help you can get is an attorney-advisor who knows the challenges students face and has experience representing them with school administrators. Joseph D. Lento has the skill to negotiate the best possible outcome for the student, ensuring the administration understands the full picture of the student's circumstances, conducts its investigations following published policy, and allows the accused to present a defense.

A student found guilty of cheating may face course failure, probation, suspension, or even expulsion, and these consequences can have a lasting impact on future educational opportunities. At times, matters can be resolved diplomatically, but to maximize the prospect of a fair process and favorable outcome, you need the right attorney in your corner. Joseph D. Lento ensures the student's rights are protected, no matter the situation. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to discuss your options.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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