As online learning becomes the new normal, algorithm-based technology is an increasingly important tool for colleges to monitor cheating. Anti-plagiarism apps have long been used for written submissions, but the last year has seen an influx of schools embracing proctoring software, some of which co-ops students' webcams to record their activity during exams.
While innovative, there is a problem: it's not always accurate. This is nothing new. If algorithms were fool-proof, you'd be tempted to buy every product advertised on your social media feed.
Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped universities, such as Dartmouth College, from treating information obtained from these algorithms like a smoking gun. Once an exam has been flagged, instructors will often trust the conclusions without hesitation, leaving undeserving students facing consequences for academic misconduct.
Why Is This Kind of Algorithm Used?
Remote education has made cheating easier and more prevalent, and institutions are trying to find solutions that discourage dishonesty. Sending individual proctors to each student's home isn't realistic, so proctoring software is seen by most schools as the most effective option available.
The software (of which there are many competing brands) functions by monitoring activity during exams in a number of ways, including tracking visits to prohibited websites or by using facial recognition to study the student's eye movement. If the algorithm detects anything it considers abnormal (such as looking away from the screen), it triggers a red flag for educators to review.
Because the algorithm reacts to certain stimuli, false conclusions are possible and common. A person who stares into the distance while problem solving is just as likely to be flagged as a person blatantly reading the test's answers offscreen.
In most cases, the decision to pursue academic misconduct rests largely with the instructor. In short, the issue isn't necessarily with the algorithm itself, but with the educators' reactions (or overreactions) to it. The cheating that is found is usually assumed and not confirmed without a doubt. This means there is a lot of room for error.
If an algorithm accuses you of cheating, try not to panic. You have worked hard to be where you are now. Rather than accepting the punishment unchallenged, consider having an attorney help fight back.
The Lento Law Firm Offers Experienced Representation
Allegations of academic misconduct should always be taken seriously, regardless of their truthfulness. As with other forms of online cheating, consequences for algorithm-supported offenses typically range from suspension to full expulsion. These penalties can have a huge impact on your academic future and desired career. When there is so much at stake, it's always best to consult a professional in an attempt to reach the best resolution.
Highly-experienced attorney Joseph D. Lento specializes in student defense cases across the United States. He and his expert team have defended hundreds of students against academic misconduct accusations. You are not alone. Contact the Lento Law Firm via the online form, or call 888-535-3686 for a consultation.