Remote learning presents the challenge of cheating

By Megan Chang, staff writer

Cheating has become an issue of concern, as Maria Carrillo High School ventures into the realm of distance learning.

The Academic Honesty policy enforced by Santa Rosa City School’s AR 5131.9 states, “Teachers are expected to carefully monitor their classes with regard to preventing cheating, collusion, plagiarism and the use of electronic devices during state and classroom assessments.” 

Given the circumstances, as students and teachers are confined to their homes and communicating through screens, the learning environment is no longer the same. Cheating policies will be harder to enforce, and cheating may prove to be unpreventable.

AP Biology and Earth Science teacher Nathan Holz adapted to the new barriers by instituting a new policy where students who completed their assignments will receive a five percent grade bump at the end of the year. This idea was first proposed by AP Chemistry teacher Joy Schermer, and other AP science teachers adopted this system, but the grading scale may still vary because it is “more on a teacher to teacher basis” says Holz. Holz came to this decision by focusing on “how to best support [his] kids,” and questioning how to assess students’ knowledge “without students being able to look in textbooks for answers.” Holz’s reasoning for five percent specifically is that “five percent [is] fair enough of an increase where there [is] a reward for doing the learning.” Instead of tests graded for accuracy, Holz assigns his AP Biology classes assessments on the website, where they receive credit for completion. 

AP Biology student Kaitlynn Tucker says that despite the new changes, “I don’t think it will stop students from cheating on assignments. If students aren’t supervised all the time, in my opinion, people will cheat.” 

Holz says that “there is a difference between students doing things for grades or points, versus being intrinsically motivated.” Tucker agrees with this, saying, “Since the assignments are for our own knowledge, I know that I will be gaining more for myself by doing it without cheating.” 

Tests and quizzes were the basis for evaluating the skills and material a student had absorbed, but now that cheating opportunities have presented themselves, many teachers have reformed their assessments to completion work to mitigate the possibility.

For the Math department, this is not the case. Both Honors Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus teachers Cindy Lui and John Hayden have decided to use Google Forms to administer quizzes. Sara Nguyen, a student in Hayden’s Trig/Pre-Calculus class, says, “I think [the quizzes] are actually good because they check if you understand what we’re learning since our grades can’t get lower.” AP Calculus teacher Cindy Lui similarly says it is about “[having] that mindset that this is good for me to learn to study properly.” 

In terms of the consequences if caught cheating, Lui says “It’s not about the consequence. If we do suspect someone is cheating, [we should] try to figure out why.” 

The SRCS Academic Honesty policy states, “Cheating not only deprives the person doing the cheating from a meaningful learning experience but is unfair to the student who has earned a grade fairly.” Tucker similarly said, “the people who are cheating aren’t actually helping themselves as much as they might think.”

Teachers are given the freedom to do what is necessary in terms of assessing their students. For Lui this means that “We need to have a conversation with students about how cheating isn’t going to help you in the long run.” 

This advice is applicable to the upcoming AP exams the College Board has made modifications to. All AP exams are now 45 minutes long and are to be taken online. The College Board will have information about each individual’s IP address and will be checking for plagiarism. Along with this, AP teachers will receive their student’s work within 48 hours of completion. The College Board has announced that exams will be open-book, and they note “the more time you spend looking for information, the less time you’ll have to use it in writing your answer.” 

Cheating on an AP exam will have severe consequences, as the College Board outlines the repercussions on their website. Students caught cheating will be banned from taking the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, other AP exams and the “College Board reserves the right to share information, including names of banned test takers, with their attending high schools and interested higher education institutions.” 

Nguyen says that due to the possibility of universities revoking admissions, “Honestly, I don’t think a lot of people will want to risk that happening.”

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