Online Universities

Online universities are a more recent form of higher education that provides students with the opportunity to take classes and earn degrees entirely through E-learning. Some colleges exclusively offer online courses, but most offer online degrees while still maintaining traditional, in-person classes. In fact, most of the Ivy League universities now offer online degrees.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, even more classes have been pushed online. While there are numerous benefits to online education, such as increased access and reduced cost in some cases, there are drawbacks as well.

For example, Title IX accusations are often the result of miscommunications. With an influx of online classes and remote interactions, there can be questions as to what behavior constitutes a violation. Online communication is often lacking context, and misunderstandings are more frequent. Additionally, students often encounter accusations of academic misconduct or must deal with classes that don’t provide the necessary accessibility options for their disability.

Misconduct Violations Are Severe

Students facing disciplinary action for misconduct or academic performance need and deserve an advocate who can defend them against the allegations leveled by their academic institutions. Disciplinary actions initiated by an online college may result in serious consequences such as suspension or expulsion.

Accusations of Academic Misconduct in Online Classes

Academic misconduct is a broad term that encompasses many scenarios. Online schools are often quick to call out a student for violating academic misconduct policies because there is a misguided belief that students in online classes are more likely to cheat or plagiarize an assignment.

Although it may be easier for students to commit these inappropriate actions in online courses, it doesn't mean they are actually doing so. Still, the tendency to assume the worst of a student can give rise to disciplinary investigations that may cost a student time, money, and professional opportunities.

If you find yourself in the situation of defending your academic and personal reputation to your school, you should contact an experienced attorney who's well versed in advocating for students' rights. The Lento Law Firm understands exactly what's at stake when you've been accused of wrongdoing by your online college.

When You're Accused of Cheating in an Online Class

Cheating is a frequent claim made against students participating in online courses. From the perspective of educators, students have more opportunities to take shortcuts if they aren't in the classroom. Presumably, cheating on exams is tempting when a student is sitting alone in their own home without the physical presence of a proctor.

Although faculty might be quick to suspect cheating because it's easy to accomplish in a remote setting, there is reason to believe that students are in fact, cheating more. In a study performed by Missouri State University, analysts actually found that students enrolled only in online classes are less likely to cheat than their counterparts enrolled only in in-person classes.

Still, what matters is whether or not you've been accused of cheating. Cheating violates academic policies that you agreed to adhere to when you enrolled in your classes. Depending on the severity of the accusation, you could lose scholarships, jeopardize your class ranking, and suffer the loss of class credits that you've paid for.

Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm understand how important the defense of your academic record is and have unparalleled experience aiding students through this type of disciplinary action.

Online Colleges Take Plagiarism Seriously

Plagiarism is something academia has long frowned upon and continues to keep a sharp eye on. With access to so many online resources, it's easier than ever to commit acts of plagiarism. Importantly, it can be just as easy to detect plagiarism with the use of online software, and instructors frequently employ the use of these tools.

The consequences for plagiarism are severe. Students who have been accused of plagiarizing face the threat of failing their class or assignment, or they may even be suspended. These punishments can be overly harsh if you didn't realize that you were plagiarizing when you wrote the paper, or of your instructor misrepresented the nature of the assignment.

Depending on their policies, the school may weigh the seriousness of the plagiarism accusation and whether or not you've been accused of it before. There are numerous factors to consider if you're accused of plagiarism or other academic misconduct. It's important that you seek the advice of an experienced attorney who understands how the disciplinary process works so that you can contest or mitigate plagiarism allegations.

Academic Performance in Online College

As you move through your higher education, perhaps no issue is more important to you than your grades. After all, that's why you're enrolled. Whether you're obtaining your undergraduate degree or you're working on a graduate degree, the slightest infraction or appearance of infraction can put your entire future in jeopardy.

Much of the policy regarding academic performance is the same in online colleges as it is in traditional schools. If you receive a grade that you think is unjust, you do have rights. Even if the grade doesn't seem like a big deal at the time, it can bring down your overall GPA and negatively impact your ability to get into graduate programs or find opportunities in highly competitive markets.

Appealing Unfair Grades

When you undeservingly receive a bad grade, you may be able to appeal it. There are several reasons a student might receive bad grades through no fault of their own. For example, sometimes an instructor is biased. Perhaps the instructor even discriminated against you. Incorrect grades may also result for less nefarious reasons, like simple miscalculation or error in grading.

While instructors do have a duty to give clear and correct guidance to their students, the fact is that sometimes they don't. What's important to remember is that if you've been given a bad grade you don't feel you deserve, then you shouldn't just accept it.

Sometimes simply communicating the issue to the instructor is enough to get the correction you need. They'll see their mistake and recalculate your grade. This can be more difficult, or even impossible, when malice or discrimination is the root cause of the bad grade. In these instances, you should absolutely hire an attorney to ensure your online college is adhering to the laws and its own policies.

Remote Learning and Extenuating Circumstances

Higher education students deal with a lot of anxiety. Their academic requirements can be extremely rigorous, and many of them have to balance that stress with work and personal obligations. While this is to be expected, there are certain times when extenuating circumstances result in poor academic performance, and appealing your grade is appropriate.

An excellent example of an extenuating circumstance is the Covid-19 pandemic. This unprecedented global health crisis undoubtedly added an entirely new layer to students’ concerns. In addition to worrying about the usual stuff, many found they had to contend with an onslaught of family illness, quarantine restrictions, having to transition to online classes, and more.

Taking online classes has its perks—they're flexible, generally accessible, and there's no commute time. That said, there are numerous distractions that come with attending class from your own home. Many families were stuck in their homes for months on end, leading to high tensions and disruptive or even abusive situations. Tragically, HealthDay News reported an influx in domestic violence resulting from Covid-19 stay-at-home orders.

Another extenuating circumstance that impacts grades is the death of a loved one. Again, with the painful onslaught of Covid-19, many students suffered through the deaths of immediate relatives. It can be near impossible to focus on studies when experiencing such loss.

If you've experienced the life-altering circumstances brought on by Covid-19, or some other cause, you're probably still feeling the impact and may not have realized the degree to which it was affecting your grades until you received them. You deserve an advocate to help you through the process of repairing your academic standing.

If you or your loved one's academic performance has suffered because of extenuating circumstances, you should consider appealing the grades you've received. Joseph D. Lento can help you do just that.

ADA Violations in Online Colleges

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), online colleges that receive federal funding must ensure that all of their courses are accessible to those with disabilities. With the influx of online classes in the last decade and especially in the last year, it may be unsurprising to learn that educators sometimes neglect to make their online courses fully ADA compliant.

Visual and hearing-impaired students are most affected by online courses that aren't sufficiently ADA compliant. If you're having trouble with the class materials, you should communicate the issue to your instructor. Hopefully, they will resolve any problems, but in some cases, they don't. They may also argue that they've already made the reasonable accommodations provided by law, and there's nothing more they can do.

A checklist for ADA compliance in online classes includes, but is not limited to:

  • Using fonts that are easy to read
  • Avoiding extremely bright background colors
  • Avoiding text that confuses screen reading software
  • Providing clear audio
  • Providing a written transcript for audio files
  • Providing video with closed captioning

If your disability is impacted by the neglect of your online college to adhere to the ADA, then your rights are being violated. Sometimes a school's neglect doesn't come to light until after a bad grade is handed down, but just because the grade has already been given doesn't mean it's too late.

Joseph D. Lento is a veteran academic issues attorney with many years of experience advocating on behalf of students who've received inappropriate grades for reasons beyond their control. When you or your child is appealing an unfair grade, you need to understand that academic institutions can deal hard blows. Further, they often have their own attorneys fighting for them. With your future at stake, you deserve your own advocate who will work tirelessly for you.

Student Misconduct in Online Classes

In some ways, online courses curb accusations of student misconduct. On traditional campuses, investigations into sexual harassment or violence happen regularly. Given the remote nature of online learning, though, there

is simply less physical interaction among students and faculty. This is not to say, however, that misconduct allegations don't occur. If and when you are accused of student misconduct, navigating the defense of it can be particularly difficult.

For one thing, interacting online can lead to an increased risk of misunderstandings. Think of a time when you've sent a text message to a friend or family member and, although you wrote it thinking it was funny, they assumed you were being mean. It happens all the time, but when it happens between students, or teachers and students, these miscommunications can wreak havoc.

Additionally, there have been a few scenarios in the news that highlight the complexities of interacting in zoom classes. For those unused to the format, they may accidentally forget to turn off their camera before changing clothes or worse. It's an honest mistake, but it may leave others feeling sexually harassed.

Increased Claims of Cyberbullying

Strictly online interactions may also lead to accusations of cyberbullying. When all group projects are completed online, it can be easy to inadvertently “Reply All” to that group email, resulting in a regrettable oversharing of feelings about another person in the group.

Unfortunately, online missteps are both immediate and permanent. Once you've sent the message through email, social media, or your school's online learning platform, you can't take it back, and it can be used as evidence against you in disciplinary hearings.

When this happens, you should contact an experienced student misconduct attorney who can help you build a defense. Even if you feel it isn't a big deal because the message or incident was an accident or a misunderstanding, you need to understand that the stakes are high. You could be suspended or expelled if you don't present a competent defense. In addition to risking your academic future, the stigma that comes with sexual misconduct allegations lives on long after you've resolved the dispute with your school.

Finding an Experienced Attorney

If you have been accused of academic misconduct, student misconduct, or have been given unfair grades for reasons beyond your control, you deserve competent and aggressive representation. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have unparalleled experience guiding students and their parents through disciplinary actions, the procedures for appealing grades and addressing all school-related issues and concerns both through the school process and beyond. He is an advocate who cares about your future. To learn more, call 888-535-3686 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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