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The global pandemic has brought with it academic problems. With more classes attended and taken online, allegations of academic dishonesty levied against students have risen. Here’s what you need to know to keep your academic world intact:

  • Academic dishonesty entails more than cheating on a test;
  • 12 types of dishonesty, how students become entangled in controversy; And
  • Consequences and tips for defending allegations, what students need to know about their academic careers.

Academic Dishonesty is Not Only Cheating

In education, academic dishonesty refers to fraudulent acts by a person(s) involved in teaching, learning, research, and related activities. It is also not exclusive to students but covers everyone in the academic setting.

Academic dishonesty is a broad term that covers cheating on an exam, plagiarism, and more extreme instances like bribery. Colleges and Universities take cases of dishonesty as an act of defrauding the academic institution. Although not looked at as a criminal act, academic dishonesty could lead to criminal charges in some instances.

The world of academics dramatically altered when the COVID-19 pandemic forced students out of the physical classroom and into the virtual realm. Finding help from teachers became difficult, and students turned to the Internet to find answers, leading to a rise in accusations of academic dishonesty.

Fraud in academics is nothing new. It happens every year, from elementary school to college. Cheating is commonplace, but it is not the only form of academic dishonesty.

Twelve Types of Academic Dishonesty (Bonus: “Chegging”)

Academic dishonesty comes in many forms, some obvious, others subtle. Here are twelve types of academic dishonesty that students, faculty, and staff need to be aware of, starting with the most obvious and moving to those lesser-known types:

  • Cheating – The use of information or materials to determine academic credit, like copying another student’s test answers or homework.
  • Plagiarism – Representing another’s work as your own. An improper citation or lack of one can lead to an accidental case of plagiarism.
  • Bribery – The use of money, goods, or services in exchange for passing grades or vice versa, “paying for a grade.”
  • Academic misconduct – Is violating an educational institution’s policy through tampering with grades or obtaining and distributing a test or assignment.
  • Fabrication – Creating or altering information. It often happens in sciences when data is changed or created to backup experiments.
  • Duplicate submission/self-plagiarism – Using work, like an essay, for two different classes.
  • Conspiracy/facilitation – Knowingly helping another or attempting to help someone with academic dishonesty.
  • Collusion – Is two or more students working together on an individual’s assignment.
  • Improper Computer/Calculator use – Unauthorized use of a school’s computer or programs, selling or giving away computer/calculator with information on it that will be submitted for grading, or sharing assignment and test answers by calculator/computer.
  • Improper Online use – accepting or providing outside help for online assignments or tests and obtaining testing material or questions beforehand through the Internet. (More on this in a moment.)
  • Disruptive behavior – This is any behavior interfering with the teaching/learning process, like posting inappropriate material on school discussion boards or disrespecting professors or students in class or online.
  • Misrepresentation – an act or omission intended to deceive a professor for academic advantages, such as lying to the professor to increase grades.

All educational institutions have their code of conduct for academic integrity, and they vary from school to school. Still, information about your school’s policy is in the student handbook.

Because of the global pandemic and the classroom expanding from the real world to the virtual one, many students have turned to online help. This help may come at the cost of being accused of academic dishonesty through improper online use. (See, told you there’d be more.)

Many teachers and students have heard of the homework help app Chegg Study, but some of us older folk (those who went to school pre-Internet in the ancient times) don’t know what it is. The app answers questions about assignments or offers study help for tests, but many students admit they used the app to cheat by copying down answers for lessons instead of doing the work themselves. There’s even a term for it, “Chegging.”

“Chegging” has risen in popularity as students no longer have someone supervising them in class since the pandemic has students and teachers alike attending class online. They make it easy for students to switch between browser tabs while taking an online test to get the correct answers.

The site does have an authentic and academic purpose of helping students with their assignments and studies. Unfortunately, some students have taken the easy road and used a legitimate app for academic advantage.

Any academic dishonesty comes with consequences, some of which could affect a student’s future job search.

The Effects of Academic Dishonesty on Students and Advice to Fight Accusations

The most apparent punishments come from the institution, but they are not the only consequences students accused of academic dishonesty face. Discipline ranges from minor, redoing the assignment or receiving a failing grade for the semester or assignment, to severe, like suspension or expulsion from the educational institution.

Punishment at the University of Maryland comes in the form of the dreaded “XF” mark on student transcripts for those convicted of academic misconduct. The mark carries with it the permanence of being on your academic transcript, which a potential employer may ask for as part of the interview process.

It does not look good to an interviewer to see an “XF” on an academic transcript, as it implies dishonesty and untrustworthiness. Landing a job when potential employers view the student in that negative scope is challenging.

There are also legal consequences. Yes, the school may pursue criminal charges based on the accusation of academic dishonesty. When bribery or fraud is in play, criminal prosecution is possible.

Paying for a grade leads to defrauding the school as students did not earn the grade through their academic merit. Fraud is also true if they cheated on the SAT or ACT and submitted those scores for college acceptance. An easy analogy is identity fraud, using someone else’s identity to obtain credit cards, loans, services, or goods. A student uses someone else’s answers or paper (the identity) to get a grade (the credit cards, loans, services, or goods).

Scary prospect to think you could be a criminal for trying to make the grade. Look, we know mistakes happen, and academia’s pressure can be overwhelming. If a student faces accusations of academic dishonesty, there are a few pieces of advice to heed.

First, consult with an attorney. JC Law offers free initial consultations to ask questions and answer the specific situation of academic dishonesty alleged. Don’t respond to the accusations until you have talked to someone familiar with these cases, like a defense attorney.

Secondly, look at your school’s code of conduct. It’s in the student handbook. Know what the school considers academic dishonesty and the consequences possible by reviewing your guide.

Thirdly, document, document, document. Keep track of all the evidence connected to the accusations made against you.

Next, hire a defense attorney. Trying to take care of it yourself could be detrimental to your case. Remember, the goal is to protect the student’s future, be it income, job prospects, or career. Let an expert help you spare your future. Our attorneys are very experienced with academic dishonesty cases and can represent students from any of Maryland’s colleges or universities.

Finally, keep the case, evidence, and any other information about the accusations to yourself.

Accusations of academic dishonesty have a lasting effect if not handled appropriately. We are all human, and mistakes happen, don’t let them cause problems the rest of your academic or working career.