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US Air Force Academy Cracks Down on Cadets Caught Cheating in Online Tests


The US Air Force Academy (USAFA) has placed nearly 250 cadets on probation and remediation after the students were caught plagiarizing their assignments and cheating in online tests last spring.

Most of the students admitted to cheating by using unauthorized online tutoring websites to answer questions, taking tests in small groups, and failing to cite sources properly in assignments.

One cadet was expelled and another resigned from the academy because of misconduct. A majority of the students have been put on six months of “probation and remediation” because the school hopes such measures will dissuade students from violating the rules in the future.

“Cadets in violation of the honor code are not allowed to represent the academy until they complete the required remediation,” USAFA said.

Schools Facing Academic Scandals

The incident at USAFA has once again brought to the forefront the challenges of digital education, particularly as the pandemic forces educational institutions across the globe to go virtual.

Additional colleges and universities are dealing with their own spates of cheating that have spiked since Zoom classes replaced in-person instruction.

In another academic scandal at a military academy, more than 70 cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point, the army’s premier training ground for officers, were accused of cheating on a calculus exam in early December.

The academy, which believes “a cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do” faced serious backlash after it allowed many of those guilty of cheating to enter a rehabilitation program. 

That same month, administrators of Texas A&M University found a large group of students had answered their online tests too quickly, revealing they were taking help from unauthorized websites to finish their work. 

Students were believed to have used online platforms such as Chegg to post questions online so someone else could answer them.

There have been rampant complaints concerning the tutoring website by university administrators. Last spring, Georgia Tech University took action against students in a physics class who posted questions from their final exams to the online tutoring service where tutors provided them with answers. 

Boston University professors also investigated students in their Physics and Chemistry departments for inappropriately using Chegg.

Colleges Probe Cheating Students

When colleges shut down and classes abruptly went virtual last year, many people predicted cheating rates would skyrocket. 

Education technology journalist Derek Newton wrote in Forbes, “Online, no one is looking over your shoulder. No one is there to see what you’re doing or how you’re doing it. And so, Pandora’s Box is open. The chat rooms and Reddit threads are already overloaded with students sharing their cheating plans and hacks. It’s open season.”

However, higher education institutions have also stepped up to control cheating on tests, making the transition to online academics somewhat less problematic. 

While some like Virginia Commonwealth University have advocated open book tests, others have begun using digital tools and platforms to meet the learning and teaching needs of students and faculty members. This included tools like Proctorio and Respondus which allow for the recording of test-taking sessions, the device screen, and web traffic. 

The University of Oregon is now pressuring faculty members to find ways to minimize the chances of students using Chegg or similar online services to cheat on their exams. 

Senior instructor of biology Alan Kelly explained, “It’s readily accessible, it doesn’t take any effort, it’s not hugely expensive, so what a temptation.”

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