Academics & Research Coronavirus News

Academic misconduct cases double over course of pandemic

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Reported cases of academic misconduct have doubled at UH through the course of the coronavirus pandemic as most students continue online instruction.

Just 204 cases were reported in Fall 2019, but that number has spiked to 489 in Fall 2020, the first full semester of mostly online class instruction.

“The University of Houston uses a variety of strategies to ensure academic integrity during online testing,” said Provost Paula Myrick Short.

For essay and project-based courses, Turnitin is used, which scans student work for plagiarism, Short said. For timed proctored exams, UH uses the Blackboard Respondus Monitor software which locks down the test takers’ computer screens and records video from their web cameras, using artificial intelligence to flag suspicious video for faculty review.

“Regardless of the software used, UH encourages the use of problem sets for exams so that the likelihood of two students having identical problems is remote,” Short said. “We also encourage tests to include enough problems that students would have little time left to evade proctoring software and check online for answers.”

Referring to the course syllabus or seeking guidance from faculty regarding what is permitted or prohibited in completing assignments, taking exams, engaging in group work and using external online resources is important, Short said.

Other universities in Texas, such as Texas A&M University, have cracked down on academic dishonesty across their campuses with the increase of online classes bringing more cases to their attention.

A portion of the cheating increase has been caused by students using Chegg for answers, especially at Texas A&M University, according to the Houston Chronicle.

UH recently released an alert on Blackboard to say Chegg is coordinating with the University to prevent cheating cases.

The UH Academic Dishonesty Policy outlines procedures to prevent an increase in cheating cases, as well as prepare students for a fair assessment of reports.

“Creating an academic environment with high ethical standards is essential to protecting the integrity of any institution of higher education, and UH is no different,” Short said.

“While we expect all students to observe the principles of academic honesty, we recognize that a few will not.”

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