Reports of cheating at universities across the nation have risen sharply in recent times. Greater use of online testing services is one explanation for this, but in-classroom cheating remains an issue as well.
Universities should never assume that a student is guilty of cheating without providing due process—especially when an exam grade, or more serious consequences, are at stake. Unfortunately, there can be a major difference between theory and praxis, and schools routinely employ a policy of "shooting first, and asking questions later (or not at all)".
When professors, conduct officers, and school administrators address allegations of academic misconduct with such a mindset, this will always be to the detriment of an accused student. Because of what is involved and what is at stake when facing alleged wrongdoing during a proctored exam, professional help is needed from as early as possible in the process. If you or a loved one have been accused of cheating during a proctored exam or you face another type of proctored exam issue, consider hiring an attorney-advisor to resolve your case.
What Is a Proctored Exam?
Examinations often determine whether a college student passes or fails, graduates cum laude, or walks without honors. Depending on your area of study and other factors, an exam may be:
- A hybrid of written, oral, and interactive components
A proctored examination means that you are monitored in some way while testing occurs. Monitoring may occur in a classroom or lab setting by a university staffer or teacher's assistant or virtually by a remote human or AI software.
What Proctored Exam Issues May You Face as a Student?
Cheating is the primary examination issue that college students and universities encounter. Because examinations generally comprise much of a student's grade percentage, many students are tempted to find an edge, even if it means skirting the rules. Universities know this and take steps to identify cheating—proctoring being one of those steps. Cheating is not the only exam-related issue, though. As a student, you may have an issue with:
- A proctor's behavior being distracting or badgering
- A proctor failing to insulate you from distractions in the testing setting
- A proctor failing to honor extended time or other special accommodations
- A remote proctoring service malfunctioning in a way that interferes with your test-taking (perhaps even preventing you from taking your examination)
Other issues can arise with proctored examinations. One or more of these issues may cause you to suffer academically and/or face unwarranted sanctions from your university.
You may be more or less likely to face certain issues based on whether your exam occurs online or in a classroom-type setting.
Common In-Person Proctored Examination Issues
Taking an examination in a classroom setting or equivalent environment is rarely ideal. As a student, you may:
- Have a proctor who makes continuous announcements or monitors the room in a disruptive way
- Be distracted by other students around you
- Be distracted by environmental factors, such as unplanned alarms or sounds outside of the testing room
- Fail to receive specific accommodations that you are entitled to
These are all issues that may entitle you to retake an examination, especially if you performed below your standard. An attorney-advisor can inform you of your options in these cases.
You may also be accused of cheating while taking your test on campus. A proctor or student may accuse you of:
- Using your phone or another digital device to locate exam answers
- Using a physical aid to copy test answers
- Copying answers from another student's paper
- Copying answers from a version of the exam that you obtained prior to testing
Being accused of cheating on an exam will almost certainly trigger adjudication processes. Let a lawyer seek the best possible outcome for you, whether or not the accusations against you are credible.
Common Online Proctored Examination Issues
A widespread shift towards online learning has exacerbated the perception of online cheating. At the same time, online learning has raised faculty members' suspicions in a way that can lead to false accusations. As an online student, you may be accused of:
- Accessing the internet during an examination in violation of testing guidelines
- Sharing answers through digital means during an examination
- Utilizing your unmonitored surroundings to cheat (such as posting test answers on a wall that the camera does not capture)
- Engaging in other forms of academic misconduct
Whether or not you actually cheated as you've been accused of, you have the right to defend yourself. Cheating is not the only issue that we see with online students.
Human proctors and AI-assisted software are trained to detect cheating in online settings, but they are not perfect. Online software operates under the assumption that cheating is happening, and false positives do occur in addition to other issues. Human proctors monitoring students remotely are susceptible to false reads of student behaviors just as the software is fallible.
As a law firm that fights for students, we have seen specific issues arise in the most popular remote proctoring services. Those services include:
Proctorio’s flaws have been highly publicized and are even the subject of legal cases. Concerns range from whether Proctorio is even effective to whether its requirement of high-speed internet is discriminatory.
If you face an issue involving the Proctorio test monitoring software—including but not limited to a false accusation of cheating—then our firm can help.
Examity is one of the most well-funded remote proctoring services on the market, and yet it remains imperfect. Examity-related student issues include:
- Login issues, which may prevent students from taking critical examinations
- Poor technical support
- False positives
Some schools have stopped using Examity because of these and other problems. Live proctors provided through Examity may also cause issues, including but not limited to disruption of your test.
ProctorU is among the remote proctoring services questioned by the U.S. Senate. Concerns included racial and disability-related biases that may directly affect students' exam scores. Of course, ProctorU is also vulnerable to false cheating positives, login issues, and other issues common to all remote proctoring services.
Our firm understands the specific problems that ProctorU can pose and can help students dealing with such problems.
Do a Google search for “Pearson VUE,” and you may find a rash of dissatisfied parties facing service outages and other technical problems. A service outage can prevent you from taking a test and may result in a failing grade. This is just one of the many problems that can arise when using Pearson VUE software.
ExamSoft is another commonly used remote proctoring service. It may present the same sorts of issues detailed above. Glitches, biased software, and baseless cheating allegations issued by ExamSoft may disrupt your academic performance and lead to serious consequences.
A resolution is necessary no matter which remote proctoring service you have an issue with, and we can help.
What to Expect If You Are Accused of Academic Wrongdoing
Make no mistake: allegations of cheating are the most common issue that students face when it comes to proctored exams. Most universities have a detailed honor code that determines which acts do and do not qualify as cheating.
Universities may also have a detailed process for adjudicating allegations of academic misconduct. Once you are notified of alleged wrongdoing, you may:
- Meet with the professor in whose course you stand accused of cheating
- Have the opportunity to admit to or deny the allegations against you
- Have the opportunity to accept informal sanctions
- Face a formal hearing, at which time an attorney-advisor may present witnesses, cross-examine your accusers, and make a comprehensive case on your behalf
- Appeal any ruling against you
Before you make any consequential decisions, ask an attorney advisor's advice. The gravity of your case is great. Should you fail to defend yourself adequately, then you may face serious personal and academic consequences.
Potential Sanctions for Cheating
Formal punishments for academic misconduct may include:
- Failing an examination
- Failing a course
- Formal reprimands in your student file
- Suspension from your university
- Dismissal from your university
- Other university-issued sanctions
Academic sanctions often have a domino effect. Even the least severe punishment from your university may:
- Reduce your chances of securing employment or admission to graduate school
- Cause you to forfeit tuition and face immense debt
- Present an uncomfortable talking point that you must address with potential employers, graduate school admissions boards, and professional licensing accreditors
- Reduce your maximum potential earning power
- Have other negative consequences
Embrace all available resources, including an attorney-advisor, to avoid these potential consequences.
Combatting Allegations of Online Cheating
The issue of cheating is a complex, often subjective one. When remote proctoring software is involved, the complexity of your case may increase exponentially.
Your defense against allegations of online cheating will depend on the specific nature of those allegations. Possible defenses may include:
- Lack of clear and convincing evidence of your guilt
- A plausible explanation for eye movements, background noises, or any other indicators that the remote proctoring software flagged
- An outright denial of the allegations
- Identification of a software-related problem that explains away any allegations that you face
- Witness testimony that you did not cheat
The presumption of innocence generally applies to those accused of online cheating. The remote proctoring process is relatively new and remains riddled with technical issues. Determinations made by proctoring software or the humans who facilitate them are not the final say in your case.
An effective defense by your attorney-advisor may prove more persuasive than the case against you.
Combatting Allegations of In-Person Cheating
Some of the defenses against online cheating may also apply to an allegation of in-person cheating. Your attorney-advisor may defend you by:
- Presenting witnesses who were in the testing room with you, including anyone who can provide an exculpatory explanation for your actions
- Providing a plausible explanation for any behaviors deemed suspicious, such as accessing your phone during an examination
- Presenting witnesses who can attest to a proctor's inappropriate behavior
- Presenting any direct evidence that supports your case
- Identifying flaws in the case against you
Remember again that you are generally innocent until proven guilty. While some universities may use the preponderance of evidence standard, they will still have to prove that you are more likely guilty of cheating than not guilty. We can make the counter-case for you.
You Have Rights, Allow Us to Defend Them
College and university students have certain rights. Additionally, you have rights as a citizen of or legal visitor in the United States. Even remote proctoring services like Proctor U spell out specific rights that may be crucial as you seek a resolution to your issue.
These rights entitle you to due process, but you may have to fight to exercise that right. Take the necessary actions to defend your future. Hiring attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm is the first step.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
The Lento Law Firm can help you in a number of ways. We may begin by meeting with you, gathering all relevant facts that you possess, then conducting an independent investigation of your case.
At our first meeting, our advice may include:
- Not to admit any wrongdoing under any circumstances
- Not to speak with anyone—from professors to university administrators—that could use your words against you
- To continue focusing on your academics and personal responsibilities while we mount your defense
When you hire our Firm, then your defense becomes our responsibility. If your case calls for it, our team can:
- Reach out to a remote proctoring service to understand why you were flagged for cheating or why another issue occurred
- Speak with parties involved in your case, including but not limited to your accusers
- Learn how your university handles the adjudication process
- Develop a comprehensive defense against your pending allegations
- Mitigate the negative consequences that can come from allegations or when there was in fact wrongdoing
- Fulfill any other duties that you require of us
We handle our clients' cases from wire to wire.
We Can Handle the Appeals Process
Our initial aim is to have the allegations against you dismissed as early as possible. Depending on the circumstances, this can take place during your professor's or conduct office's initial inquisition into the matter. It can also take place during the school's more prolonged investigation into the allegations or charges. Our secondary goal is to have you exonerated through your university's exoneration process, which typically would involved a hearing or conduct board. If necessary, though, we will resort to an appeal.
Appeal requirements are often time-sensitive and unique to each university. We will complete your appeal in a timely and effective manner, ensuring that we use every opportunity to resolve your proctored exam issue.
Our team defends college and university students day in and day out across the United States because we know that mistakes happen, and students are not the only ones who make those mistakes - professors, exam proctors, teaching assistants, and even deans make mistakes. You may be unfairly accused of wrongdoing, or you may have made an error—we believe that many mistakes are forgivable, and leniency is often warranted.
Call Attorney Joseph D. Lento Today to Discuss Your Case
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm know the nightmare that proctored exam issues can cause college and university students and their loved ones. Attorney Lento and his team will be in your corner to advise you through every step of your case, from your first meeting to hearings and appeals (if necessary). Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team can handle your entire case from start to finish, freeing you to deal with your other academic responsibilities.
Call attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team today at 888-535-3686. You can also submit your case to our Firm using this link.