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5 ways to avoid online cheating accusations

By July 26, 2021September 25th, 2023No Comments

The college experience has changed a lot.

Unfortunately, online exams have given rise to a lot of new ways to cheat, which means students are facing more accusations of online academic misconduct..

At DC Student Defense, our attorneys represent college students accused of online cheating every day. We know how to build a defense and walk students through the disciplinary process at colleges and universities.

But before you even get to that stage, it’s better for everyone if you can avoid being accused of online cheating in the first place. From DC Student Defense, are 5 tips to avoid online cheating accusations:

1. Don’t cheat

Okay, maybe this one was pretty obvious. But there are a lot of different activities that fall under the umbrella “academic misconduct” that not everyone might consider cheating.

These are the major things to avoid if you don’t want to get that “cheating” label slapped on your work:

  • Chegg: This new app has some pretty useful resources for students, but a lot of its services are widely considered cheating, especially if you use it during a closed-book exam. When in doubt, air on the side of not using Chegg.
  • Phones: Using your phone to cheat during an exam is easier than ever, without an in-person professor breathing down your neck. That being said, professors have their ways, so it’s best to avoid using your phone at all. This even applies to opening a new tab on your laptop.
  • Collaborative work: Screen-sharing, communicating during an exam, and other forms of collaboration are all surefire ways to get accused of academic dishonesty.
  • Impersonation: Logging in to take the test for another student, or having someone else take your test for you, are both common ways students cheat, and get caught doing so.
  • Plagiarism: It can sometimes be confusing what does and doesn’t constitute plagiarism. Check out this handy guide from Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (Purdue OWL) for more information.

2. Follow testing protocols to the T

Even if you genuinely didn’t cheat, any suspicious activity can give your professor an excuse to accuse you of academic dishonesty.

It’s best to follow all of their instructions and not cut any corners when taking an online exam. Here are some examples of corners you shouldn’t cut, even if you can:

  • Identity authentication
  • Secure exam browsers
  • Zoom rules, like having your camera on or mic off
  • Time limits
  • Assignment deadlines

3. Don’t use your phone during exams

Another innocent behavior that might get you in trouble for cheating is using your phone for something else during an exam.

Even if you’re just checking Twitter or texting a friend about your plans for the weekend, any use of your phone is often an automatic violation for some professors.

It’s best to turn your phone off or place it out of reach for the duration of your exam to avoid any misunderstanding.

4. Cite your sources properly

One of the easiest ways to get accused of plagiarism is to not cite your sources properly. Even if you didn’t intend to misuse someone else’s work or present their ideas as your own, forgetting to cite your source or even misusing quotation marks can be misconstrued as intentional plagiarism.

Again, Purdue OWL is a very useful resource that can give you all the information you need about how to cite your sources within the style guide (APA, MLA, or whatever) your professor has assigned.

5. Don’t freak out if you’re suspected of online cheating

So, let’s say you did everything right. You followed all of your professor’s testing protocols, you hid your phone in another room, and you cited every source. Yet your professor still finds some way to accuse you of online cheating.

Take a deep breath. There are still ways to protect yourself against academic consequences. Here’s what to do if you’re accused of online cheating:

  • First of all, read through your official accusation carefully to make sure you understand everything that you’re being accused of, and become familiar with your school’s guidelines for pursuing cheating accusations.
  • Next, make sure you don’t talk to anyone at your school about the accusations – especially the professor. Don’t try to argue with them or defend yourself without first talking to an attorney.
  • Finally, you’ll want to contact a student defense attorney who has experience defending students against accusations of cheating. These attorneys will know exactly what evidence you’ll need to gather to support your defense, and how to protect your rights from being violated by your university.

Contact a student defense attorney in DC today

DC Student Defense has represented hundreds of students accused of academic misconduct, including many who were taking online exams during the COVID -19 pandemic.

We know how school administrators think, we have the experience to walk you through the process and we can guide you towards an outcome with your academic future protected. Don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation if you’re accused of cheating at your college or university.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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