A Student’s Thoughts on Cheating During COVID-19

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GradingOnline LearningStudent Success
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Chloe Adamowicz is a Marketing major with an Economics minor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst


Back on March 15, 2020, a wave of excitement spread across the country: Two whole weeks off from school. What a dream…or so we thought. Our dream soon turned into a nightmare. Two weeks soon turned into two months, and two months turned into two years. Two whole years of online learning, having 24/7 access to the internet and cheating.

The COVID-19 pandemic and cheating were like two peas in a pod. From Chegg to Course Hero to Socratic, numerous websites provide quick access for students to everything from study aids to fully completed assessments, making it nearly impossible for users to get anything besides an A.

How these sites stay in business

When I first learned about these homework-help websites, I was confused about how universities would not try to shut them down. I assumed colleges held more power than a website used for cheating. But that wasn’t the case.

These sites charge a monthly subscription price. Chegg is $14.95 per month, Course Hero is $19.95 per month, and Socratic is free! In 2022, there were 8.2 million Chegg services subscribers and over two million Course Hero subscribers. Students can post questions and have other users answer them or browse already posted content. All it takes is a few keywords related to what you’re looking for, and within seconds you will be presented with answers. And now with ChatGPT growing in popularity, students have even more ways to cheat.

The reason behind cheating

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) found that in the 1940s, just 20% of college students admitted to cheating. Now, that figure is up to 98%.

Why? Here are some reasons that students might feel the need to cheat:

  1. Not having enough time or using time poorly
  2. Fear of failing
  3. A concern for grades
  4. Wanting to assist classmates
  5. Academic overload
  6. Stress

The history of cheating

Although we like to credit COVID-19 for the spike in cheating, it has existed forever, and the school system is, in part, to blame. Students feel pressured to always perform strongly, which isn’t realistic, nor a standard most people can achieve. We often feel like we have two options — fail or cheat.

Failure is, objectively, more honorable than cheating. Even if students get the answer right when cheating, they don’t gain anything and are more likely to make a mistake the next time the question is asked. Even though they might feel horrible if they fail, they will still have improved because of the experience. However, cheating is often more enticing, as it’s easy to do and most students know they won’t get caught.

My experience with cheating

I don’t feel honest writing a blog post on cheating without sharing my personal opinion on it.

Do I fall into the 98% of college students who have cheated before? Yes. To my fellow students who happen to be part of the 2% that have not, I applaud you. But just because I have does not mean it is something I am proud of.

Having almost half of my college experience taken over by a pandemic was beyond frustrating. Two whole years of my college career were fully remote. I was unmotivated. I was angry. I was careless. I felt as if I was not even a college student. I believed I was doing no one injustice by cheating. Two years later, I am taking all my classes in person again and I am grateful. I have learned that cheating does nothing but hurt you in the long run. I have the opportunity to learn and receive an education, so I am going to do it honestly.

How to help students succeed

Open-note exams are a great way to help students. They inadvertently force students to study and prepare for an exam by using their own work to succeed. I’ve found myself doing best when a professor allows us to bring a page of notes to our exam. It lets me jot down information I’m not as familiar with, which I can use as a refresher when I get stuck.

This way, students only put the information on their sheet that they really feel is valuable. Most importantly, I feel that open-note exams provide students with an opportunity to trust and respect their professor for caring about student success.

Another great way to help students feel confident before taking a test is by giving out study guides. Speaking from past experiences, there’s a huge difference in my performance when taking a test I prepared for using a study guide, and when I took a test without one. Study guides assist students with the synthesis and summarization of the data. You may consider your study guide to be a little outline. It is especially helpful for topics or subject areas that are challenging or complex. Additionally, they are often a similar format to the future exam and allow for students to feel more comfortable and prepared going into a test.

The bottom line

Cheating is always going to exist. So, it’s the responsibility of the school system to support students and try to prevent it. Sites like Chegg, Course Hero, and Socratic are just a few of the hundreds of websites that are accessible with a click of a button. While upholding academic integrity is crucial, it is difficult to eradicate cheating altogether given how swiftly technology develops. So, meeting students where they are and guiding them away from cheating is key.

To learn more about how cheating affects students, and how you can help prevent it, download our “Cheating and Academic Dishonesty” eBook.