Online classes create concerns over cheating

The rapid shift to online learning leaves unanswered questions about academic integrity

A student who was not interviewed for this story studies their textbook in the T Building, at Langara College. Photo By Emma Gregory
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By Emma Gregory

With courses and exams going online there has been a significant rise in cheating and violations of student integrity that the college and instructors are struggling to control.

With college now online, students get to take their exams unsupervised. The online format opens the opportunity for students to call each other and discuss the answers or exchange files as they are both taking the test. While others have been taking advantage of the lack of supervision to simply search for the answers online.

Manager of Student Conduct and Judicial Affairs Maggie Ross said that incidents of cheating are being reported by Langara instructors more often.

“Figures for spring 2020 show a 50 per cent increase in reported incidents over the same period in 2019. Faculty are vigilant in identifying and reporting student Academic Integrity Violations,” Ross said.

In an anonymous Brightspace reflective assignment conducted by Langara instructor Jessica Kalra PhD, some students said they did not realize the impact that cheating can have on the value of credentials. “I didn’t realize or think about how an individual not adhering to the college policies could diminish the credentials of the entire school,” one student commented on the survey.

Students have mixed opinions on cheating

“Everybody cheats,” said Gurkiratpreet Singh, a third-year geography student. Singh said he does not cheat. “I write my notes. I read them twice. I don’t need to cheat.”

On some exams, the teachers make it impossible to cheat.

In one of his honour-system, closed-book tests, Singh was given 35 minutes to answer 35 questions, and he does not see how a student would have enough time to consult their notes if they wanted to cheat. 

One student, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared disciplinary action from the college, said they didn’t think cheating was morally wrong.

Especially if teachers are not giving students enough time to think about their answers in high-speed tests.

“I need time to stop and consider my answers,” the student said. “But it depends. I don’t think medical students should cheat.”

Proctor services create privacy concerns

Some schools, such as the University of Regina, have employed proctor services such as Proctortrack. This software monitors live video feed, tracks student eye movements and identifies any open applications on the student’s screen.

Langara College has no plans to use a proctor service, said Erin Hagen, a student conduct officer. “We try to promote academic integrity as a concept.”

Second-year, psychology student Alyssa White said she does not cheat, and she thinks cheating is morally wrong.

But when presented with a hypothetical situation in which a student worked 30 hours a week plus had a four-course workload and cheated on one or two questions on an online exam, White was less categorical about her stance that it was morally wrong.

“No,” she said.

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