Why Do Students Cheat? One Student’s Perspective

Image of a student studying in a library.
GradingOnline LearningStudent Success
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Sarah Gido is a Marketing and Communications major at Anglo-American University in Prague, Czech Republic


Cheating has always been an issue in school. When I asked my friends if they had ever cheated in school, the response was almost always yes. Some said that in high school they wrote answers on water bottle wrappers or even on their legs to be seen through the holes of their jeans. Another said they took an online public speaking course and had their script written above their computer. But if we all know it’s morally wrong, why do students cheat? And why are more students cheating now in 2023 than ever before?


Online learning makes cheating easier

The shift to online learning in 2020 drastically changed the relationship between students and learning. From a student perspective, it is much easier to cheat on virtual tests and homework assignments. With any answer at their fingertips on the internet, students turn to search engines for help on exams. Digital learning puts a barrier between students and professors, but also between students and learning content.

It’s difficult to feel connected and interested in information through independent learning that arises from digital assignments. When students don’t have an emotional stake in the learning process, they retain less of what they learn and cheating is an easy solution. From splitting screens between tabs and studying websites, technology has made student cheating easier—and harder for instructors to detect—than ever before. When it’s that easy, students often find that it doesn’t feel as wrong. Furthermore, it’s easier on the conscience to cheat without a professor or your peers looking at you.


Students are losing motivation

Students’ plates are fuller than ever before. The switch back to fully in-person learning was jarring but a welcome change for many! However, many students fell into a cycle of choosing convenience over studying during virtual and hybrid learning courses. Being back in the classroom meant the return of intense schedules, public speaking, and rising stress levels. Staying motivated in class is much more difficult when balancing the stress of a job, relationships, sickness, or hunting for an internship. According to a survey completed by the American Addiction Centers, 88 percent of students reported their school life to be stressful. Dwindling levels of motivation can lead to procrastination and resistance to do assignments that weigh on students’ minds. Homework, essays, and exams turn into dreaded obligations completed with haste by cheating rather than opportunities for enhancement.


Students are focused on passing courses

In the minds of many students, there’s more emphasis on passing classes than there is on learning. In the stress of coursework, focus on exam scores can be overwhelming. Finishing a degree is difficult and there has been a distinct shift in the perception of college courses and the end goal. The COVID-19 pandemic put an abrupt halt to the “normal” progression of school life, and many students now are just looking to finish.


Curb your students’ desire to cheat

The students of today are unique and are looking to regain motivation. Making content relatable is the best way to tap into the minds of students and have them invest time and energy into the course. This is as simple as using relevant real-world resources and references. I look forward to courses that challenge me in a fun way as a learner and individual. As a Marketing student, my favorite college course I have taken utilized nontraditional assignments, including oral exams and examining current advertisements. Fostering a classroom that welcomes opportunities for career and personal development may energize your students and make them less likely to cheat.


Want to learn more about how and why students cheat, plus strategies for preventing and detecting cheating? Download our free eBook, “Cheating and Academic Dishonesty: How to Spot it — and What to Do About It.”