Cheating in Online Classes: Instructor’s Fault or the Student’s?

In a traditional classroom, when an exam is given, the instructor can watch and be sure that every student is practicing academic integrity and completing the assessment on his or her own. What about in an online setting? According to this article by Jason Koebler, there may be a technology that, when utilized properly, can help to cut back cheating in online courses.

Is cheating in online classes easier than cheating in traditional classes? Either way, there is a technology used to curb cheating in online classes, and it is further questioned if it’s not actually the instructor’s fault. (Photo courtesy of

It is discussed that this technology will not only target and analyze keystroke patterns and use webcams, but it will also be able to analyze a student’s stylometry—which is a combination of vocabulary and syntax used in typed language—to detect when a student is submitting work that is not their own. While the project being directed by Pace University is still under research and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future, there are more questions that arise from its efforts.

It has been questioned that whether or not a student uses web search, a friend’s direction, or reads from the book, if they are still the one typing, how will the software detect it? This is where academic integrity is called to the fore. But how can a student have a true moral connection in an online course when many online classroom environments feel so stilted and impersonal? There are a good number of private online universities that charge the same amount in tuition costs for a traditional face to face class and an online class; a lot of students report that they feel like what the course has to offer is nowhere near to what a traditional classroom can give in terms of education and understanding of the curriculum. There is sometimes no direct contact with the instructor. So if students feel that way, then what’s there to stop them from cruising through the course if they can?

This is where it becomes the instructor’s job to interact directly with students. The instructor needs to make the environment more personal and strive to implement creative online assignments and projects that get the students interested to participate and study, and that gives students a chance to use their creativity in the class as well. The instructor also needs to create a sense of community, even through an online course. Along with that, it is important to discuss the importance of online academic integrity while explaining exactly why it is important for students to learn the material. Ultimately, at some point, the student will need to use some of the pertinent information in the future. This is the reason, which instructors need to keep repeating, for students’ attendance in the degree program. While it may seem a little bit more difficult to maintain academic integrity and work ethic within an online school environment, there are ways to increase awareness and academic honesty online.

With that being said, the decision is solely up to the student in terms of how much they want to learn and then succeed, or if they just want to pass and earn an easy grade. But it is up to the instructors to learn, modify, and deliver interesting, fresh, and motivating lessons and assignments and maintain direct contact with students. With continuous communication and online teaching strategies to make the online environment supportive and collective, instructors can engage students more personally and ultimately reach out to students and reduce the want and need to cheat.

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