5 ways to avoid online cheating accusations

Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC
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The college experience has changed a lot over the past year. Since the COVID -19 pandemic began, millions of students across the country have had their first taste of 100% online classes as well as the new territory of online exams.

Unfortunately, online exams have given rise to a lot of new ways to cheat, which means students are facing more accusations of online academic misconduct..

At DC Student Defense, our attorneys represent college students accused of online cheating every day. We know how to build a defense and walk students through the disciplinary process at colleges and universities.

But before you even get to that stage, it’s better for everyone if you can avoid being accused of online cheating in the first place. From DC Student Defense, are 5 tips to avoid online cheating accusations:

1. Don’t cheat

 

Okay, maybe this one was pretty obvious. But there are a lot of different activities that fall under the umbrella “academic misconduct” that not everyone might consider cheating.

These are the major things to avoid if you don’t want to get that “cheating” label slapped on your work:

  • Chegg: This new app has some pretty useful resources for students, but a lot of its services are widely considered cheating, especially if you use it during a closed-book exam. When in doubt, air on the side of not using Chegg.
  • Phones: Using your phone to cheat during an exam is easier than ever, without an in-person professor breathing down your neck. That being said, professors have their ways, so it’s best to avoid using your phone at all. This even applies to opening a new tab on your laptop.
  • Collaborative work: Screen-sharing, communicating during an exam, and other forms of collaboration are all surefire ways to get accused of academic dishonesty.
  • Impersonation: Logging in to take the test for another student, or having someone else take your test for you, are both common ways students cheat, and get caught doing so.
  • Plagiarism: It can sometimes be confusing what does and doesn’t constitute plagiarism. Check out this handy guide from Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (Purdue OWL) for more information.

2. Follow testing protocols to the T

 

Even if you genuinely didn’t cheat, any suspicious activity can give your professor an excuse to accuse you of academic dishonesty.

It’s best to follow all of their instructions and not cut any corners when taking an online exam. Here are some examples of corners you shouldn’t cut, even if you can:

  • Identity authentication
  • Secure exam browsers
  • Zoom rules, like having your camera on or mic off
  • Time limits
  • Assignment deadlines

3. Don’t use your phone during exams

 

Another innocent behavior that might get you in trouble for cheating is using your phone for something else during an exam.

Even if you’re just checking Twitter or texting a friend about your plans for the weekend, any use of your phone is often an automatic violation for some professors.

It’s best to turn your phone off or place it out of reach for the duration of your exam to avoid any misunderstanding.

4. Cite your sources properly

 

One of the easiest ways to get accused of plagiarism is to not cite your sources properly. Even if you didn’t intend to misuse someone else’s work or present their ideas as your own, forgetting to cite your source or even misusing quotation marks can be misconstrued as intentional plagiarism.

Again, Purdue OWL is a very useful resource that can give you all the information you need about how to cite your sources within the style guide (APA, MLA, or whatever) your professor has assigned.

5. Don’t freak out if you’re suspected of online cheating

 

So, let’s say you did everything right. You followed all of your professor’s testing protocols, you hid your phone in another room, and you cited every source. Yet your professor still finds some way to accuse you of online cheating.

Take a deep breath. There are still ways to protect yourself against academic consequences. Here’s what to do if you’re accused of online cheating:

  • First of all, read through your official accusation carefully to make sure you understand everything that you’re being accused of, and become familiar with your school’s guidelines for pursuing cheating accusations.
  • Next, make sure you don’t talk to anyone at your school about the accusations – especially the professor. Don’t try to argue with them or defend yourself without first talking to an attorney.
  • Finally, you’ll want to contact a student defense attorney who has experience defending students against accusations of cheating. These attorneys will know exactly what evidence you’ll need to gather to support your defense, and how to protect your rights from being violated by your university.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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