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Cheating at Colleges Soars During the Pandemic

Mariam Aly, an assistant professor at Columbia University, has tried everything to keep her students from cheating. In her cognitive neuroscience class, she gives her students a week to complete an open-book exam. And, as part of that exam, the nearly 180 students in the class have to sign an honor code.

But they're still cheating. And dealing with student misconduct is the worst part of her job. Aly says, "It's just awkward and painful for everybody involved. And it's really hard to blame them for it. You do feel disappointed and frustrated. Students are facing unprecedented levels of stress and uncertainty.”

As college moved online in the COVID-19 crisis, many universities are reporting increases, sometimes dramatic ones, in academic misconduct. At Virginia Commonwealth University, reports of academic misconduct soared during the 2020-21 school year, to 1,077--more than three times the previous year's number. At the Ohio State University, reported incidents of cheating were up more than 50% over the year before.

Annie Stearns will be a sophomore this fall at St. Mary's College of California, where misconduct reports doubled last fall over the previous year. During the pandemic, the challenges of learning online were entwined with social isolation and additional family responsibilities. On top of that, tutoring services and academic resources scaled back or moved online. Some students, facing Zoom burnout, stopped asking for help altogether. Stearns explains, “If you're in class, and then you have to go to office hours, that's another Zoom meeting. And if you have to go to the writing center, that's another Zoom meeting. People would get too overwhelmed with being on video calls and just opt out.”

The story goes on to say, “We're going through such an unprecedented time that (cheating is) bound to happen. They prefer to take the shortcut and risk getting caught than have an email conversation with their professor because they're too ashamed to be like, 'I need assistance.’”

Possible Preaching Angle:

We are living in unique and extremely stressful times. Each of us will be tested in various ways, whether in academic honesty, sexual purity, substance abuse, apathy, depression, or anger issues. We must keep trusting God and lean on his strength and his Spirit to “pass the test.”

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