Reports of cheating at colleges soar during the pandemic

As college moved online in the COVID-19 crisis, many universities are reporting increases, sometimes dramatic ones, in academic misconduct. At Virginia Commonwealth University, reports of academic misconduct soared during the 2020-21 school year, to 1,077 — more than three times the previous year’s number. At the University of Georgia, cases more than doubled; from 228 in the fall of 2019 to more than 600 last fall. And, at The Ohio State University, reported incidents of cheating were up more than 50% over the year before.

But while students may have had new and different opportunities for cutting corners in the online learning environment, it’s unclear how much cheating actually increased. Some educators note that there are other factors at play, such as an increased ability to identify misconduct.

“There was probably increased cheating because there were more temptations and opportunities and stress and pressure. And, faculty were probably detecting it more,” says Tricia Bertram Gallant, who researches academic integrity at the University of California, San Diego. “It’s easier to catch in the virtual world, in many ways, than it is in the in-person world.”

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