A student reads a textbook while taking a test at home. (Illustration by Kailyn Thai)

Education

The unexpected effects of students cheating during e-learning

86% of high school students have reported academic cheating at one point in their educational career. For having been taught to practice academic honesty and integrity throughout our educational careers, the number seems awfully high. But is it really a surprise? Well, it shouldn’t be. In recent years, the goal of high schoolers has progressed toward achieving…
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anirudhc2005

August 31, 2021

86% of high school students have reported academic cheating at one point in their educational career. For having been taught to practice academic honesty and integrity throughout our educational careers, the number seems awfully high.

But is it really a surprise? Well, it shouldn’t be.

In recent years, the goal of high schoolers has progressed toward achieving the grade rather than actually learning, leading to students doing whatever it takes to do so — primarily in the form of cheating. And the pandemic only fueled students’ urge to cheat since they were still expected to perform well under such trying circumstances.

Yet, cheating has proved to be a double-edged sword. While many students finished the year content with their grades due to the help of cheating, it also caused them to fail to grasp foundational concepts and form substandard work ethics — both of which have prompted a wave of anxiety among students entering the Fall semester in person.

“During e-learning, because I didn’t have access to resources to help me succeed online, like good internet or technology, I relied heavily on cheating to complete homework assignments and get through tests,” Sam, a rising junior at Palisades Charter High School who asked to be referred by only her first name for anonymity, said. “My reliance on cheating instead of actually learning the required material has made me nervous about how I will perform during the Fall when cheating resources won’t be as accessible.”

Perhaps the most blatant effect of cheating is that students don’t learn. Despite being online, students were still required to comprehend and be tested on rigorous course material.

Yet, due to cheating, many students still missed out on grasping foundational concepts that will be built upon in the upcoming school year. Precalculus students entering AP Calculus, Spanish 1 students entering Spanish 2, honors chemistry students entering AP Chemistry — these are just some of the scenarios where students will be required to know basic concepts to succeed in their upcoming courses.

But many failed to learn these fundamentals due to cheating, which has contributed to students’ anxiety entering the 2021–2022 school year.

“Many concepts in my biology class were difficult for me to learn on my own, so I often cheated just to get the grade,” Alex, a rising sophomore at Palisades Charter High School, said. “But now that I’m going into AP Biology next year, these concepts are only going to get more complex and I’m getting kind of scared thinking about how I’m going to succeed since cheating won’t be an option anymore.”

Students feel alike, especially in tougher AP classes.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned during high school, it’s that teachers don’t have time to cater to students who fall behind during class time — especially for fast-paced AP courses,” Olivia, a rising junior at Palisades Charter High School, said. “Because teachers don’t have time to explain every single topic that you are expected to previously know in detail, I can see why students who lack this knowledge are on edge entering the new school year.”

Not only does cheating affect students’ learning, but it also damages students’ attitude toward their work along with their overall work habits — another factor contributing to students’ uneasiness.

“This past school year, cheating just made me overall care less for my work, exams, and school in general.” Ava, a rising junior at Palisades Charter High School, said. “After a certain point, I was just cheating because it was easier than actually just doing the work.”

Chronic cheating results in students not valuing learning as much and them putting lackluster effort into assignments and exams. However, cheating will not be as easy to get away with in person. Students will be required to submit original, quality work if they want to achieve high scores. And students are worried that this will be a tough transition.

“I’ve stopped valuing the benefits and practice that each assignment is supposed to give me because of cheating.” Noah, a rising junior at Palisades Charter High School said. “I just want to get the assignment done and receive a satisfactory score.”

School during the pandemic made it easier for students to cheat resulting in worsened work habits.

“I keep asking myself — am I going to be able to manage my time wisely and complete each assignment legitimately and still receive a good grade?” Oliver said. “Cheating has made me unconfident if I can actually complete all my schoolwork how I’m supposed to going into this school year in-person.”

In the end, cheating may have allowed students to survive a difficult school year but many are realizing it will not help them succeed in the upcoming one. Cheating seems to have caused feelings of stress among students entering the Fall semester in person, as they realize how it has affected their ability to learn and prosper in school the right way.

“I often reflect back on this past school year online and what my academic performance would have looked like without cheating.” Emma, a rising junior at PCHS, remarked. “Then, I think about the upcoming school year and how I can’t rely on cheating whenever I’m struggling — it’s a frightening thought but it makes me realize how much I have to turn around before school starts again.”

The last names of subjects interviewed have been removed for anonymity.