Teachers concerned over student cheating during pandemic

Definitions of cheating, and strategies to minimize it, have forced teachers to get creative; students have still found ways around them

Under normal circumstances, cheating is hard to pull off, as teachers are ever vigilant and perfectly able to hit you with any number of punishments if they catch you. But we haven’t been living under normal circumstances for over a year now. With students learning from home and taking tests with barely any supervision, cheating has become a lot easier in almost every class.

This has caused an influx in cheating and the suspicion of cheating throughout the school. In some classes, teachers are of the belief that – at the moment – there is little they can do to stop this other than encourage students to come to school and learn in person.

Classes with big unit tests like the sciences, language, math and English have simply made it harder for students to do things that would normally be considered cheating. They make every test open note or “collaborative,” meaning students can work together on quizzes or tests. This expands the limits of “not cheating,” in place of cracking down on cheating.

Despite these efforts, cheating still happens, and the independent nature of e-learning is – while not always – still often abused; most commonly in language classes. Modern technology has played its part in this too, as there are accurate translation programs available all over the internet for every language. This makes cheating in language classes “almost too easy” as one anonymous student said.

Over Zoom, students can use translation apps on a separate, unseen device in the middle of class without alerting anyone. In math classes, apps like Socratic and Photomath solve relatively simple problems instantly. The applications of these programs are broad, and according to another student, the apps “carried me through my class.”

Programs like this are disheartening to teachers like Robert Rowe, a math teacher who believes that his students will for the most part do the right thing. Rowe has had to grapple with cheating like this before, but like everyone else, is new to cheating during a pandemic. This has put him at an impasse, and so he asks himself a question many teachers ponder this year: “Do I want to create rules and procedures that punish those who do the right thing or do I want to be kind and caring, knowing that a few students may take advantage of the situation?”

These programs also go along with the run of the mill “looking it up approach” of which so many students have used. In English classes, looking up the meanings of a text or answers to history questions almost always gives reliable answers, and has become a standard practice for students.

Though students have been able to do this for several years now, the extent of it has surely expanded in the last year considering the challenges that come with e-learning and student motivation. The same goes in science, with more memorization centered classes like Biology especially susceptible to this.

While labs are harder to find online, notes and tests are often filled with copied answers. Another anonymous student commented, “When a test is getting hard, I can always just call someone and I’m good.”