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Tuesday, March 2 • 2:30pm - 2:45pm
Talk Session 4: Academic dishonesty in the age of COVID-19: Student perceptions of cheating reveal assessment problems

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Academic integrity builds character that transfers over into the job force, establishing a code of ethics critical for STEM careers. A student’s perception of cheating is influenced by both internal and external factors that develop and change through time. For students, the COVID-19 pandemic shrank their academic and social environments onto a computer screen. In a Spring 2020 survey, we asked 299 biology and chemistry students from 31 different institutions if they believed cheating occurred more frequently online than in-person, and if so, why and how. Although only a handful of students described real cases of cheating, more than 80% of students indicated that they believed cheating occurred more frequently online than in-person. When explaining why this was the case, students touched on proctoring, pressure to cheat, and extenuating circumstances due to COVID-19. Students also described methods of cheating including surreptitious behavior by their peers. Interestingly, we found that students in anatomy and physiology courses had less of a change in perception of cheating than students in genetics, introductory biology, and organic chemistry courses (all Kruskal-Wallis p < 0.030). Our results can aid all STEM departments in their efforts to tackle cheating and improve online assessments during emergencies. Student responses suggest that directly addressing the importance of academic integrity, implementing alternatives to the standard closed-book exam, and reducing the weight of individual assignments can mitigate student concerns that their peers are cheating. Our results suggest such interventions are especially important in pre-requisite courses.

avatar for Lisa Walsh

Lisa Walsh

Postdoctoral Researcher, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Professional Development, Emergency Remote Teaching, and Opossums

Tuesday March 2, 2021 2:30pm - 2:45pm CST