Entire student households are caught cheating on online college exams, lawyers have warned as collusion becomes “rampant.”
The shift from exam rooms to virtual assessments during the coronavirus crisis has seen a growing number of students accused of professional misconduct, threatened with expulsion or having to repeat the year, experts say.
Forced to take exams in their rooms, some students share questions with their roommates, photographing the answers and copying them, or taking turns filling out sections of the paper.
As MPs have stepped up their calls to ban paid ‘trial mill’ websites, lawyers warn cheating is becoming more prevalent among peers themselves and through social media sites such as Snapchat.
In a recent case, dozens of undergraduates were exchanging responses on a social media group in real time during an online exam, prompting one to take screenshots and notify those responsible for university.
University plagiarism software can detect identical errors and typos in responses, experts said, leading students to face disciplinary proceedings.
“Clients tell us that collusion is so widespread that it has become normalized, collusion is not the exception,” Dr Daniel Sokol, lawyer at 12 King’s Bench Walk, told The Telegraph.
“Some feel aggrieved to have been caught and punished when most of their year has been doing the exact same thing without penalty.”
This month alone, Mr. Sokol, who set up the Alpha Academic Appeals service that represents students in cases of academic misconduct, received more than 120 inquiries.
“The penalties for collusion can be severe, leading in some cases to repeating the exam with a passing grade ceiling, repeating the year, a lower grade classification or an ability to practice procedures,” he said. -he declares.
Robin Jacobs, a lawyer who deals with academic misconduct cases at SinclairsLaw, has also seen several students from the same household get caught cheating in recent months.
Grasping the scale of the rise in cheating is hampered by the lack of national figures, but in April, documents leaked to the University of Bristol said that “the online assessment has exacerbated collusion and breaches of the law. ‘academic integrity’, with plans to add supervision in some cases.
This summer, many universities have rolled out unsupervised online tests that allow students a window of 24 hours or even days to submit their work.
University leaders have been accused of “sticking their heads in the sand” over the collusion issue, with most undergraduates taking courses online in the past year.
Some tests use monitoring software that monitors eye and body movement and requires a 360-degree scan of the chamber, but institutions have been reluctant to impose draconian measures that invade privacy.
Mr Sokol said: “This is now a major problem that has reached endemic proportions. I had a student who said the degree was worthless – even students seem to think the degree is of no value. and they just have to get it.
“We are witnessing a massive increase [in cheating] but I still think the number of people captured is a small fraction. “
He wants tutors to give students examples of graduates whose degrees and job prospects have been ruined by cheating, rather than just telling them not to cheat.