Academic honesty: Transmitting trust through a screen

Teachers reshape their class tests and assignments to minimize cheating in distance learning


Photo courtesy of the Talon

GoGaurdian application used to monitor student screens from the perspective of a teacher.

In response to distance learning, teachers have tweaked and refined their assignments and tests to minimize potential cheating.

Trust is a core part of teaching any class. Even in person, with a teacher nearby to monitor most tests and assignments, cheating still poses a threat. Academic honesty through a screen remains a struggle given the freedom and resources available to students in an at-home testing environment. Teachers have chosen to adapt in different ways.

For example, math teacher Lisa Bregar has permitted her students to use their notes and calculators on the tests in CP Math Analysis and Finite Math. Bregar realizes that there is little she can do to monitor student cheating and communication through a screen, but believes that sanctioning notes reduces academic dishonesty.

With open notes provided, Bregar has additionally modified the format of her tests in order to create diverse, varied responses among students, and therefore, making it more difficult to cheat. Bregar’s students must include a step-by-step explanation on most of their assessments, proving they understand the material without online aid.

“I have implemented two main things to enforce academic honesty the best way I can. I force students to answer more open-ended questions on assessments (explain the solving process in words, choose their own unique numbers on certain problems) and give a strict time limit. The open ended questions at least prevent blatant copying of work from a math app or from another student, and forces students to understand a process,” Bregar wrote to the Talon.

Math teacher Robin Midiri has implemented some changes in her teaching to enforce academic honesty in her Math Analysis Honors and AP Calculus AB classes. Because she believes the moral value of following academic honesty is of high importance, she still expects students to be clearly seen on camera during exams and utilizes the cheating applications to monitor activity. 

“Our first step is to emphasize integrity and honesty. Doing the right thing just because that’s what you are supposed to do is such an important core moral value,” Midiri wrote to the Talon. “I also use GoGuardian. Allowing students to use notes and their calculator is hopefully helping. Cameras must be on and focused on students doing their work and as much of their environment as possible.”

Midiri also focuses on the end goal — the AP Calculus AB exam at the end of the school year. While she believes notes are a realistic and helpful way to combat academic dishonesty during tests, she emphasizes that students will not have access to outside sources during the AP exam. 

“I do think the idea of allowing notes is not horrible. In a realistic research situation, a scientist would look up information they might need. So, for me, this is a nice step into using the math in realistic scenarios. However, having information at your fingertips is important to making quick decisions. Also, students planning to take the AP exam will have to have the information known solid without notes,” Midiri wrote.

The Oak Park High School administration has provided the teachers with most of the power in this situation. Assistant Principal Natalie Smith believes in giving teachers leeway to revise and adjust the format of their material accordingly. As such, the OPHS policy on Academic Dishonesty has not undergone any alterations to accommodate Distance Learning. However, they are still prepared to handle virtual academic dishonesty.

“While we recognize that consequences may need to be altered during DL, we fortunately have not needed to prescribe anything more than an Official Warning or Saturday School (with date TBD) at this point in the school year … If [or] when a higher consequence needs to be assigned, Mr. Meskis and I will work with the student to serve their time in a meaningful way that allows them to learn from their actions,” Smith wrote to the Talon.

To enforce academic honesty, some teachers have opted to use as a portal for work, while others monitor screens using GoGuardian or rely on cameras showing student faces. However, the fact still remains that academic honesty is a struggle to maintain virtually.

“Each of my teachers have chosen a different path in setting up their online classroom, but most of them agree that ‘distance grades’ aren’t a true reflection of us as students,” junior Emma Rale wrote to the Talon. “I think more teachers are becoming skeptical of cheating and internet usage, which is inevitable given the circumstances.”