Online Cheating During Remote Learning

Sharp Increase In Online Learning And Surveillance Technologies

Have you or your loved one been accused of cheating online? You are not alone. Academic cheating accusations have been on the rise since colleges and universities across the country have pivoted to remote learning. Many institutions, anticipating an enormous opportunity for students learning remotely to cheat on tests and assignments, installed proctoring systems with various live and computer surveillance capabilities. With teachers wrangling new, unfamiliar surveillance technology and putting their blind faith in AI systems, it's more than likely data will be misinterpreted. In a rush to judgment, teachers and administrators could easily falsely accuse students of cheating.

What To Do If Your School Accuses You Of Cheating

If you face academic misconduct allegations, you should read your school's policies and any updates to those policies they made to accommodate the pandemic. It is in your best interest not to plead your innocence, but keep the allegations to yourself and try to collect as much information as possible. Even if you are on good terms with your professors or staff, they are now in an adversarial position. Because the consequences are so severe, any student accused of academic misconduct should take the allegations very seriously and seek immediate legal counsel.

Students Are Tempted By Countless Ways To Cheat Online

When Purdue University first switched to online learning, an engineering professor gave students extra time to finish an exam online and said he found “rampant dishonesty.” Some students organized videoconferences and shared answers. He said since the students knew the professors couldn't watch them, they “knew the game was up for grabs…You cannot give an exam if it is not proctored.” With the documented increase in cheating with online testing, many schools went on the offensive to combat the perceived threat. A professor from ASU-Tempe declared, “If a student is going to do it, they’re going to do it, but we try to make it as difficult as possible.”

Using Technology To Stop Cheating Creates An Arms War

Some academic experts believe that the whole premise of asking students to recall information under pressure without access to their course materials is flawed. Tom Haymes, a consultant at IdeaSpaces design lab, agrees that taking a test becomes a game for students, and “the focus often turns to how you beat the test. It’s rarely about learning anymore because most tests do such a poor job of measuring actual, deep learning.” Haymes describes the never-ending game of cat and mouse in this scenario. It creates an “arms war between the student using technology to defeat the game and the teacher trying to use technology to defeat the student’s attempt to defeat the test.

Online Proctoring Services Struggle To Outpace Student Hacks

Students can easily find online tips and tricks for duping remote proctoring services...It’s also easy for these remote proctoring services to find out about these cheating methods, so they’re continually coming up with countermeasures. The pandemic forcing schooling to migrate online in record numbers has been a financial boon to Virtual Proctoring services. The companies keep up-selling their new technology to professors chasing the latest cheating workaround that students not only use, but often share publicly online. The outcome? Students are policed more than ever with increasing abuses of student and family rights.

Students Resent Schools' Paranoia About Cheating And Are Pushing Back

The University of Washington used a digital proctoring system from a service called Proctorio that uses a combination of robots and video feeds to make sure students didn't cheat. Many students were upset, including Marium Raza, when she realized that her school would rely on artificial intelligence and a webcam to monitor her while she worked. Raza said any form of webcam-based monitoring makes her uncomfortable. Furthermore, Raza addressed the breach of privacy, “We don’t have any transparency about how our recorded video is going to be used or who is going to see it…The status quo should not be visualizing each student as someone who is trying to cheat in any way possible.” Many students have flooded social media with grievances about anti-cheating software, and some have taken action against it. Student protest actions range from publishing privacy concerns in school newspapers, starting online petitions and amassing signatures, to filing appeals against suspensions for academic misconduct charges.

Anti-Cheating Software Can Be Invasive, Distracting, And Inequitable

The University of California Berkeley has already banned online exam proctoring for privacy concerns and accessibility issues for students without the required Wi-Fi connection and students with disabilities. Berkeley senior Erin Liao explained, “The rigidity of the proctoring raised a lot of concerns for students — including myself — who don't have reliable access to Wi-Fi at home, suitable testing environments or even the technology to support online proctoring itself,” Liao said. Most students report an increase in stress and distraction while taking an exam under the snooping eye of a webcam and keyboard monitor. One facial movement function beeped every time a student looked away, breaking concentration as students needed to look down frequently to work out problems on scratch paper.

Artificial Intelligence Has Its Limits Resulting In False Cheating Accusations

Many other professors across the country oppose the anti-cheating surveillance technology and will not use webcams and microphones to monitor students. Most anti-cheating software using webcams and microphones relies on varying levels of automation. The proctoring software uses AI to verify students’ identities, analyze their keystrokes, and, to conduct gaze detection, which tracks whether a student is looking away from their screens. Students with disabilities, such as those who practice self-stimulatory behavior or have severe anxiety, may get flagged repeatedly for suspicious behavior, or have to disclose sensitive medical information to avoid this. The facial recognition software used to confirm a student's identity before an exam disproportionately misidentifies people of color, transgender, and nonbinary people. The requirements needed for the software to function are not equitable for all students. Students of color have reported that the software facial detection algorithm seemed to struggle to recognize them, forcing them the inconvenience, stress, and distraction of finding an alternate location in the full light of the window, which made it more difficult to see their computer screen.

Defending Yourself Against Cheating Accusations

If you face academic cheating allegations, you need to contact an attorney who understands academic dishonesty proceedings and the latest technological surveillance. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help you strategize the best defense to help you protect your future.

Possible Defense Strategies Include:

Student Misconduct Allegations Are Serious—Do Not Face Them Alone

Cheating allegations jeopardizes your academic standing and future. For many years, attorney Joseph D. Lento has fought for students' rights while gaining a reputation as one of the country's preeminent experts in student discipline defense. Give Lento Law Firm a call at (888) 535-3686 for a case consultation today.

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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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