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Are Your Online Students Cheating?

As many traditional classrooms move online, there is a concern over academic dishonesty. Many of us who have primarily taught in-person classes are left wondering how to navigate these challenges. I myself have wondered how common online students cheating is and how to overcome this. Read below a summary of how students cheat online and what to do about it. 

Why do we care about cheating when it comes to distance learning? 

As educators, one of our priorities is to uphold a standard of fairness to students. It is frustrating when some individuals break the rules and unfairly pass a course and receive credentials they do not deserve. This causes graduates to possibly obtain jobs they are unqualified for, and this can in turn reflect poorly on schools and teachers. If you move your in-person class to online, it is important to be aware of the extra challenges that come with this change in regards to academic dishonesty. Read on for tips on how to reduce the potential to cheat.

Is cheating more common in online classes than traditional courses?

According to this article in Forbes, teachers say that academic dishonesty is more common in online classes. However, an interesting study shows the reverse result; students cheat more in live classes. This discrepancy is interesting. Why do you think this is? Comment below with your thoughts!

It is difficult to know for sure whether academic dishonesty is more common in online or in-person classes. However, many of us are prepared for catching cheating in traditional classrooms but have not yet had to deal with cheating in online classrooms. So, how do students cheat online and how can we prevent it?

How do students cheat online?

Unfortunately there are several methods that students can use. According to this article, students can hire someone to impersonate them and take the online class for them. Students have also admitted to texting or looking up information using a handheld device during an exam, copying someone else’s work without credit or copying answers and work from someone else. There are even services online that will write term papers for students.

How can we prevent cheating in classes online? 

Luckily there are many resources online that can help prevent cheating. Pearson shares some ideas as well as EdTech. The main advice will be summarized below. I highly suggest checking out the EdTech article too, which contains a helpful infographic.

  • Clearly state expectations: By making sure students are aware of what constitutes cheating and the associated repercussions, this can make students think twice about cheating. The more clear the standards are the better.
  • Require identity verification: Luckily there are many free tools available online (blog post coming soon!) that help require students to verify their identity. When students must use student ID’s or passcodes this can help reduce the chance of someone else doing their assignments for them.
  • Vary assessments each term: Certain websites encourage students to share past exams, homework assignments and answers with each other. Changing them up will reduce the effects of cheating in this way.
  • Focus on written assessments and projects: When tests are multiple choice, it makes it easier or students to message each other and share what answers they got. With different assessments such as discussions, group activities and projects, students will have to produce work instead of just selecting an answer. This can help reduce cheating.


Whether or not there are more online students cheating than in live classes, it is an important concern. Fortunately there are many ways to decrease the risk of this happening in your classroom. With methods such as setting clear expectations, verifying identity, varying assessments and creating written projects, the overall risk of academic dishonesty will surely be reduced.

Check out this article to find out the best online tools to prevent cheating.

Join the discussion!

What are your tips? Have you dealt with any issues with online students cheating? Share your stories and opinion in the comments below!

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