The coronavirus is upending nearly every aspect of life in America, and schools and colleges are far from the exception. Many have closed and send students home, and have even cancelled major sporting events like March Madness.
As students go home, though, they still have assignments to complete to get credit for the semester's courses. This means academic misconduct can still happen. As students work remotely, though, the task of determining whether a student has cheated or plagiarized on a graded assignment becomes far more difficult than it was, before.
In light of present circumstances, we may see far more groundless allegations of academic misconduct threatening to jeopardize a student's college career.
Most Schools Send Students Home to Stem the Spread of Coronavirus
One of the first big changes made in the U.S. to slow the spread of COVID-19 was to shut down colleges across the country and send students home. Around 300 have closed, already, impacting tens of thousands of students. An updated list of the schools that have closed is here.
Unfortunately, the timing of the coronavirus could not have been worse. The outbreak began too late to delay the semester, but too early to end it early.
The vast majority of schools have opted to close their campuses and move classes online for the rest of the semester. Students are attending their scheduled lectures online, and are interacting with each other and their professors in internet chatrooms and conference calling apps.
Graded Assignments are About to Get a New Wrinkle
The migration of college courses to an online environment is about to get a reality check when graded assignments begin to flood in to professors and concerns begin to emerge about whether certain students are cheating or plagiarizing.
While online courses and submissions are nothing new, the volume that professors are about to experience will be unprecedented. Perhaps worse, earlier online courses were voluntarily hosted online – often by faculty members who are internet savvy and who understand where they're getting into. Many of the courses that have been moved online because of the coronavirus are taught by older professors who are not going to be as technologically adept.
It would come as no surprise for there to be a sharp rise in misconduct allegations.
Misconduct Hearings are Online Now, Too
Another layer to the problem comes from the fact that these misconduct allegations are going to lead to hearings that cannot be scheduled on campus, in person. Instead, they will have to be conducted online, just like the classes.
This facet of the dilemma will be new. When students were accused of academic misconduct in online courses, before, interviews and their eventual hearing would be scheduled during the semester so they could be done face-to-face.
The difference is not minor. Many of these allegations turn on credibility determinations. Deciding whether someone is being honest or not is already difficult when they are in your presence. Determining an accused student's credibility online may be more difficult, and that is why, whether during this challenging time due to the health crisis or even under the best of circumstances, having an attorney advisor with the requisite experience and resources to effectively and successfully represent those accused is critical to in an effort to ensure a fair process and a favorable outcome.
Academic Misconduct Lawyer Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento defends students accused of academic misconduct. Contact him online or call his law office at (888) 535-3686.