Opinion: How to prevent cheating in the age of online school

Graphic by Michelle Jin

Cheating has been a big issue ever since before the pandemic, but now it’s even more of an issue since teachers can’t directly monitor what the students are doing with distance learning.

Students cheat in their classes for all kinds of reasons, such as being overwhelmed by their coursework and wanting to make sure that their grades are not jeopardized. By cheating, they can alleviate their worries.

Yet cheating in class can leave students with more worries because of the risk of getting caught and failing the class or being suspended.

Cheating, of course, is not helpful for students, as they don’t learn anything and end up wasting time and becoming less prepared for the future. But it takes a team effort to prevent cheating, requiring students, parents, teachers and schools to work together to stop cheating in schools. 

 

How students can prevent cheating 

Students may feel that cheating solves their problems, giving them good grades and reducing their stress. But in the end, it’s detrimental to a student’s actual learning and education, and cheating over the years can build up to a lot of missed opportunities to learn.

However, the stress of grades makes cheating tempting. There are many ways to help reduce the temptation to cheat. For one, students can begin by signing an academic integrity contract and following it.

James M. Lang, English professor and author of Cheating Lessons, a book about how to deal with cheating at school, reports that there is substantial research evidence that honor codes and contracts do in fact reduce cheating.

The contract helps to put students in a proper frame of mind, reducing their chances of actually giving in and cheating. If their classes do not have a contract, students can contact their teachers to make one because it benefits both the student and the teacher.

The stress of school and grades can really make cheating seem like the answer but reminding yourself to be honest and also getting help when you need it can reduce your chances of giving in to the temptation of cheating. 

 

How parents can prevent cheating 

Parents play a big part in their student’s education, and they can help students resist cheating by supporting their education in a positive way.

For example, if their student is having trouble in a class, parents can provide them tutoring lessons to help them learn more and be more prepared for tests, easing their stress. Further, to teach values, parents can reassure students that good grades are less important compared to honesty, that the parents value honesty over high performance.

If students are given strong values, they will not build a habit of lying or cheating. Sometimes, parents can accidentally put excess pressure on kids to get good grades, so instead, they should help their students realize the value of learning over a test score.

Parents should not compare grades or performance with others in the same class or grade. This will ease the pressure off the students so that they will not try to cheat to do well at any cost and instead focus on learning. Students should be held accountable for cheating by their parents when it happens.

If parents support their child, then there would be no need to cheat.

My parents have always supported my education, and when I have trouble with subjects like math and English they give their support by hiring private tutors for me to do well in my classes and to learn. They also helped me realize that learning and absorbing the information is far more important than a grade letter.

This has made cheating very undesirable for me. 

How teachers and schools can prevent cheating 

Though obvious, the importance of teachers and schools in reducing cheating cannot be overlooked.

One potentially effective way to prevent cheating is to pledge one’s honor. Earlier, this was suggested for students to do for personal accountability, but if the teacher and the school require it, then all students may benefit from this practice. If mass honor contracts are conducted, then all students will be using this method that can possibly reduce the temptation of cheating.

In an article about reducing cheating in online testing, Al-Fanar Media, an independent nonprofit news organization, suggests starting and ending each test with an honor statement. The statement can ask students to make sure they are practicing academic integrity. 

Teachers can also make the students sign an academic integrity contract at the start of the school year and often remind them of it. There could be a contract signed digitally before every test or assessment. This can systematically remind students to value their integrity and encourage them to perform honestly. 

Another way for teachers and schools to help prevent students from succumbing to temptation is to reduce the temptation.

One way to go about this is to try to monitor a test in a way that makes cheating harder. Students may be video recorded during the exam, with any suspicious web browsing reported. Although this might be effective, it’s a crude approach and creates an atmosphere of distrust.

Various online proctoring services are available, but none of them are complete solutions. This would be suggested to be used as one of the last methods to prevent cheating. Still, sometimes reminding people of moral ideas can get them to live up to them.

In an Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration article about cheating in online student assessment, scholar Neil C. Rowe explains a cheating policy might make students distrustful, but tests are central to education because “the main purpose of an educational institution is to validate student knowledge.”

These are just some of the strategies that schools have been using so far to prevent students from cheating.

For example, my school, Westview High School, has been monitoring most of the tests, such as science and biology. Students are divided into different breakout rooms by themselves, and they have to keep their cameras on and unmute during the entire test, so the teacher and the TA can monitor the students. It’s been working so far and it reduces the temptation to cheat because the monitoring makes the tests harder to cheat on.  

Cheating has been a long-term problem and in reality, it will never stop. Despite this, teachers, parents and students themselves can still try to prevent cheating by using these methods. The efforts will not be wasted. 

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