Virtual Learning = Cheating?


The coronavirus pandemic has led many school districts to provide an in-school or virtual option for their students. In response to this new way of schooling, many questions have arisen regarding the integrity of online testing: Are students taking advantage of the technology that they are given for school and using it to look up answers to their homework or classwork? How do you know that students are handing in their own work? Are they searching for the answers during tests? 

In March, schools were forced to close, providing districts with time to think of ways to effectively teach students for the upcoming school year. During the two months of summer break, it was decided that students at LHS would be learning primarily through platforms like Schoology, Castle Learning, and Webex, where students have access to all tests, meetings, classwork, and homework.

Does virtual learning, which provides easy access to the Internet and poses a lack of teacher oversight, mean students are more likely to cheat? Principal Joseph Rainis said, “Because the technology is something everybody is relying on, there are temptations for students to say, ‘Gosh, I can look it up’ and go to one of the search engines and type it in and see what comes up.” 

Like Rainis, many school officials across the country recognize that some students are cheating, and they are dealing with it in different ways. Rainis related this to the AP exams in May, administered by the College Board, which gave students one question to answer from home. This lent itself to some cheating concerns. 

“Even the College Board is up against the same issue,” Rainis said. “But, students who cheat are just selling themselves short.” Rainis also explained that a student might want to cheat on a test because of the extreme pressure for high scores. “The emphasis that people put on grades is very, very high. Those grades are a measure of a child’s ability and a measure of success,” he said. 

Permanent substitute Brian Donaldson also recognized that fear of failure and high pressure to get into college is a reason some students turn to cheating. “Students are more likely to cheat,” he said, “if the assessment is worth a large portion of their grade or if they have low expectations of being successful due to perceived lack of ability or test anxiety. Many students fear if they perform poorly on a test, it will affect their college prospects.”

Cheating is a very serious problem that is more prevalent now than ever, especially since teachers cannot see what exactly students are doing during class. Yes, teachers can see their students’ faces – or just the tops of their heads — but they cannot see what their students’ hands are doing. It can look like a student is paying attention during class while at home, but that student might be doing homework for another class or looking up answers.

During class, many students strive to sound smart or knowledgeable, so they look up the answers to their teachers’ questions in order to deliver the correct responses. However, this is not a wise choice. If students continue to search up answers to questions that they do not understand, instead of asking the teacher to explain it, they will never learn the information correctly. By searching the answers online, a student might get a better score on his test, but he will not be taking full advantage of his education at school. 

Annmarie Jacobs, a librarian at Mineola Middle School, said that she has seen a huge uptick in plagiarism since schools went virtual. “Since paper is taboo right now, it is easier than ever to just cut and paste research, submit it, and call it a day. Students do not realize the severity of these actions.” Jacobs also shared that in some high schools, students can fail a class for plagiarizing and in college, students can be threatened with expulsion.

The LHS Academic Integrity guide states that students should “avoid, including cheating, plagiarism, copying, falsifying data, improper use of the Internet, and sharing. Students who choose to engage in these types of actions threaten their academics standing, their reputation, and the reputation of Lynbrook High School.”

LHS Library Media Specialist Maureen Bertolini explained that by using detectors on computers, teachers can find definitive proof of their students cheating and no longer have to rely on catching someone in class. “I do not know if it is easier or more difficult to cheat using technology,” she said. “However, I do know that technology provides evidence of cheating.”

Schools have seen a rise in cheating, likely due to the temptations of virtual learning, and it appears easier now than ever before for teachers to catch it. These actions should be avoided at all costs to protect the educational value and reputation of both the students and teachers of LHS.