Can You Cheat in an Online Class?
December 26th, 2012

can you cheat in an online college class?Plagiarism detection sites and software have been in the business of foiling academic cheating for quite some time. But when it comes to cheating in the online classroom, preventing dishonesty can get a bit trickier. Read on to get answers to six frequently asked questions about the hot-button issue of deception in online degrees.

Is the issue of academic integrity unique to online education?
Absolutely not. Students have been finding creative (and not-so-creative) ways to cheat since the dawn of civilization. Unfortunately, online institutions tend to be the ones bearing the brunt of the bad press, as the very nature of the online platform makes it more susceptible to dishonest practices. But cheating did not originate here.

But isn’t cheating more common in online classes than in brick-and-mortar classes?
Not necessarily. In a study of 635 undergraduate and graduate students, a slightly higher percentage of students admitted to cheating in online courses, but a larger number of students admitted to cheating in live classes. Bottom line that bears repeating: cheating happens everywhere.

What are online schools doing to prevent cheating?
Most online schools have instituted proctoring systems, and some have even eliminated exams altogether. If exams are required, proctoring is a must – in one study, 73 percent of online students admitted to cheating on at least one of 14 non-proctored quizzes during a semester. Online professors are also eliminating multiple-choice tests in favor of essay-oriented exams; requiring students to provide ID numbers and passwords; checking IP addresses; varying assessments by class and year; assigning papers that require multiple outlines and drafts; and providing a short window of time to take online tests so students don’t have the chance to collaborate for answers.

What good are honor codes?
Many colleges – traditional and online – require students to sign an honor code, promising they will maintain academic integrity. For students who place a premium on keeping their word, an honor code can be a healthy motivator to keep their behavior above board. Unfortunately, honor codes have limited success rates, with studies revealing that students who sign honor codes cheat as often as students who don’t sign.

What’s the deal with educational testing software?
The latest anti-cheating innovations come in the form of educational testing software, which can place a webcam and microphone at each student’s computer so human proctors can watch students remotely and listen to their keystrokes. These programs may utilize face recognition software and analyze a student’s typing style. Some products even scan fingerprints and capture a 360-degree view around students.

Will the issue of online cheating cheapen my online degree?
The issue of academic integrity can be an obstacle to the quality of online education, but not an insurmountable one. In fact, your online degree can work in your favor should the question of academic integrity arise in a job interview – take the opportunity to demonstrate your personal commitment to honesty even when presented with the temptation to take shortcuts.

As long as the world keeps turning, the academic deception dilemma will be a reality. Whether you’re taking online courses or classes on campus, you can take the high road of real learning or opt for the easy way out and fib your way through finals. Which path will you choose?

Robyn Tellefsen

Robyn Tellefsen is an NYC-based freelance writer and editor who specializes in career education. In addition to writing for The CollegeBound Network and Employment Network's suite of sites, she provides proofreading and copyediting services for various publishing companies. She has a bachelor's degree in communications from Wheaton College (IL).

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