This week, Fox Business published an article detailing an alarming new trend: virtual learning, necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to a huge increase in cheating. Specifically, the article explains, students are using “homework help” websites to cheat on digital essays and exams – and this has been a reported issue at Boston University, Princeton University, Texas A&M, and more. While there’s no cut and dry way for schools to eradicate cheating completely, you can make a big difference by talking with your kids about cheating. Here’s how.
Empathize about the stressful circumstances and pressures they’re facing.
Often times, students cheat because they feel overwhelmed with responsibilities and the pressure to do well is too much. They may be treading water in their classes and struggling to find time to study. Maybe they’re balancing work and athletics on top of their academics. Perhaps they’re grappling with problems caused by this pandemic. Whatever is going on, open your discussion with empathy and compassion. By not minimizing the factors that may push them into cheating, you can have a more honest conversation.
Explain how cheating actually hurts their classmates.
Students may view cheating as a victimless crime; the powers that be (their professors and their schools) aren’t really hurt by it. Give them a little context to see that there is a victim, and it’s their own peers. Cheating hurts those who have taken the time to actually learn the material. It hurts their classmates who are under the same amount of stress yet choose not to cheat. This behavior hurts the entire class by potentially ruining any curve the professor may offer.
Additionally, cheating their way to a good grade may hurt the quality of instruction their class, and future classes, receive from the professor. If every student in the class fails a section covering one particular unit or concept, the professor knows immediately that their teaching on that area is lacking. When students cheat, professors don’t get this type of feedback, and therefore don’t know to alter their approach.
Discuss how cheating for a higher grade now can hurt them in the long run.
When you cheat, you don’t learn. Period. Cheating on an online quiz right now might seem inconsequential, but what happens when that same material is covered in an in-person final exam down the road? While your child may feel overwhelmed or exhausted studying right now, it’ll only be worse if they’re playing catch-up on several units in the future. This “shortcut” won’t be a shortcut for long.
Remind them of the very real and potentially life-changing consequences of cheating.
It’s 2am. Your student is bleary-eyed, finishing up a quiz that they feel wildly unprepared for. Cheat, and they’ll get an A. Don’t cheat, and it’ll likely be a C or D. Even worse than a C, D, or failing grade, though: getting caught, which can result in failing the entire course, suspension or expulsion from school, losing scholarships, and more.
Schools don’t mess around with cheating, and they shouldn’t. Most universities have a zero tolerance policy, and it’s one strike and you’re out. If your child thinks they’re too smart and savvy to get caught, remind them that there are hundreds (thousands!) of students who thought the same thing… yet they’re now the reason we have this data about cheating during online learning. The consequences of cheating can derail their entire academic careers, and it is never worth it.
Make sure they have the help they need (or know where to get it).
Studies have shown that even the most motivated, most capable students will cheat in certain scenarios, and a big one is struggling with course content. And while cheating may seem like the easy way out, it’s actually much easier to get some extra help with the material so they can competently tackle it solo on all future assignments and tests. Empower them to ask all the questions they have, and assist them in finding extra help if they need it. Remind them that while putting in that extra time now may seem like a monumental ask, they’ll be able to walk out of the classroom with a sense of accomplishment and, most importantly, integrity.
For the past year, school has looked drastically different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the format has changed, the rules have not. If your student needs a little extra help to keep up right now, The Enrichery’s academic coaches are here! Contact us to learn more about how we can help, and schedule an academic coaching session today.