In a virtual learning environment, cheating is inevitable. We aren’t around to monitor students’ progress and honesty. There’s a temptation to get wok done as quickly as possible so that they can do something else. Or, to be fair, some students are watching their younger siblings all day and are struggling to find time to do their school work. But the problem persists, and more so than in our regular classrooms.
Here are some things your students are likely doing:
- Giving work to other students to copy
- Crowd-sourcing work by having each student answer one study question and then distributing the answers to others
- FaceTiming while taking quizzes in a secure environment
- Copying from online sites
You’ll never be able to stop all of the cheating, of course. It’s just not possible when they aren’t under your watch as much as they would be in the classroom. And you might be wondering if it’s worth the trouble to police it. After all, shouldn’t we cut them a break in these difficult times?
The answer is this: Intellectual honesty needs to be valued and encouraged no matter what.
I get it. Students want to help out their friends. They like to work together. However, we have a responsibility to protect the academic integrity of our learning environment as best we can.
Here are some easy steps you can take to cut back on the cheating. You won’t eliminate all of it, but you’ll introduce some friction that will make it a little more difficult for many.
First off, how do you know they are cheating? Here are a couple of strategies to figure out if you have a problem that don’t require much work on your part.
Grade in batches.
If you grade a set of worksheets in one sitting you’re more likely to notice patterns across work. For example, you may see that a number of them use the same phrases. Or you’ll start to get the same sentence in your head and think “I’ve seen that before.” It’s much less likely you’ll see it if you’re grading a few assignments at a time.
Use different fonts across classes.
You might be on a team of teachers that are all giving the same assignments. If you are concerned about students copying the same assignment for different teachers, have each teacher use a different font for the worksheet. It will be immediately apparent if they have grabbed the assignment from someone in a different class.
If you think you have rampant cheating, here are some steps you can take. We want to add just enough friction for students that it acts as a deterrent for many, but doesn’t require us to spend all our valuable time policing it.
1. Don’t do quizzes for a grade.
Even in a secure environment students are FaceTiming each other and taking it together. You can still do quizzes, but make them risk free. Use them as formative data, or for the students to check their understanding.
2. Add an honors statement to their assignments and have them sign it.
Your student handbook may have one. Mine is something along the lines of “I have neither given nor received help with this assignment.” I put it at the top of every assignment now. If they don’t add it and sign it, I won’t grade it. This won’t prevent all cheating, but this small amount of friction will act as a deterrent for many because they have to not only lie, but sign their name.
3. Prohibit group work.
I hated to do this because I think a lot of students have good intentions. But the problem I found was that students weren’t working together to do BETTER work. They were doing it to do LESS work. If they were knocking it out of the park every time, I might have thought differently. But that wasn’t what I was getting. Unless you specifically spell this out, they will assume they can do it together. That’s fine is you’re okay with them doing that. But be clear for each assignment what your expectations are.
4. Email parents.
Many parents are working from home and not able to monitor their child’s work. And especially at the secondary level kids are able to work independently they may not feel like they have to.
I sent an email to my parents explaining the cheating I saw. I received a lot of positive feedback. Some parents even expressed frustration at their child’s work habits and were glad to have me put clear boundaries in place that encouraged them to work harder. It’s good for them to know what’s going on so they can help because many of them want to.
5. Have conferences with students.
If you’re able to, have video conferences with students. Mostly you can also just chat about how things are going. If you need to address serious issues, you can do that, but it’s mostly just an excuse to check in with them.
When you take the time to do that, they might be more likely to value the work you are asking them to do and work just a little bit harder.
6. Have them do handwritten work.
If you’re 1:1, you already know how easy it is to copy work that’s typed. It’s a little more difficult if you have them handwrite their assignments, either on their device, or by having them write it out by hand and submitting a photo of it.
7. Do “potluck” assignments.
You know how at potlucks people are assigned different things to bring based on their last name? Do the same thing with your work. If you have ten study questions, have each third of the class do different numbers. Or ask each third to respond to a different page in a novel.
Intellectual honesty should always be a priority. And that if we want to emphasize that true character consists of what happens when no one is looking, virtual learning is a perfect way to practice being an honest student.
However, as with any case of cheating we want to focus on the behavior, not the student. If students cheat, it’s the behavior that’s bad, not the student. All students are on different stages of their moral development, and we want to help them on their journey while also setting them up with boundaries that help nurture the traits that they need to have.
And here’s how to make it all more fun!
We need to keep our classes lighthearted and one way to do that is through comics! If you teach ELA I have a series of comics that tackle serious language arts concepts in a lighthearted way your students will love. I have a series of lessons done as comics that address various ELA topics like grammar, poetry, editing, and Shakespeare, all of which are well suited to a remote learning environment. All the fun is there for you, and your kids will love studying any of these topics because they’ll get a new comic every day! Please check out my resources and let the learning begin! Click on Robert Frost below to get a free lesson!
If you need more resources ….
Here are some blog posts that might give you some more ideas for teaching poetry online (or anytime, really.)
Plus some more blog posts on remote learning: