How concerned are college instructors about cheating? Not as much as they were in 2020

Strategies employed by institution leaders and professors have worked, most notably proactive warnings to students.

The big shift to remote learning in 2020 sparked a slew of concerns from higher education instructors, including whether students would be inclined to cheat on exams and coursework. At the time, more than 60% expressed worries that they would be unable to control deceptive practices and students taking advantage of being in online environments.

Nearly two years later, those tensions have eased. According to the new study Is Concern About Academic Integrity Falling? released by Wiley, only one-quarter of 2,860 college instructors surveyed said they have those same fears now, buoyed by their positive impressions of virtual spaces. “Many college instructors worried about problems with academic integrity when courses shifted to online instruction early in the pandemic,” said Jason Jordan, Wiley Senior Vice President of Digital Education. “Our findings, however, suggest those concerns were greatly allayed as instructors gained more experience with remote coursework.”

Wiley also polled more than 680 students to see whether those instructor impressions were accurate. Only half said online learning makes it easier for them cheat, and that same number said remote courses don’t make them any more inclined to break the rules. Four factors appear to stoke their fears about cheating: knowing they can be caught, whether proctoring is in place, whether cheating would affect their grade and whether instructors addressed penalties for cheating before classes started.

What has sparked the change in mindset from instructors? Researchers said that the more public push by institutions to highlight cheating has helped, along with many strategies employed by instructors, namely amending assessments with more essays, projects and open-ended questions. Wiley and other platforms have built-in solutions to dissuade cheating, such as randomizing questions, restricting availability and allowing for different questions to go to different learners.

More from UB: Strategies to diffuse cheating during remote instruction

Although instructors say they aren’t catching any more students cheating online than they do in person, there are still a lot of students who might make the attempt. When polled as to why they might cheat:

    • 71% said it was because of pressure to get good grades
    • 43% was because their workload was too high or struggled to balance it with other responsibilities
    • 43% said the cost of college and the pressure to do well was a factor
    • 40% said it was because of uninspiring content

Despite the positive trends, instructors said there are still challenges and consequences around academic misconduct. Nearly three-quarters of instructors worry students may turn to cheating because they struggle to comprehend materials or lectures in an online environment. More than 50% believe students who resort to misconduct may be less prepared for future classes or life after college.

Aside from adjusting assessments, instructors have turned to a few strategies to heighten awareness, including adding a section to their syllabus and making students sign an honor code. A little more than a third said they have penalties for lowering grades when students cheat.

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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