Instances of cheating at UCA have more than doubled during the course of Covid-19 from 2020 to 2021, leaving students and teachers asking whether online learning is the right path for the future. 

In the spring semester of 2019, UCA recorded 21 instances of academic dishonesty. In the fall of the same year, UCA recorded 25 instances of cheating, and in the summer of 2019, five instances were recorded, according to numbers obtained from Fredricka Sharkey, Director of Media Relations.

As UCA shifted online due to the pandemic in the spring of 2020, the number of cheating instances rose sharply in the fall semester of 2020. 

In the spring semester of 2020, UCA reported 29 instances of cheating, four instances during summer sessions, and 60 instances of cheating through the fall semester. 

During the spring semester of 2021, 42 instances of academic dishonesty were reported to UCA officials, exactly double the amount reported only two years prior. 

UCA has an extensive academic integrity policy that is outlined in each student’s handbook and discussed at the beginning of every class while going over the syllabus. 

“Allegations of violations of academic integrity are often managed at the course level. If it is worked out at that point, there is no documentation of the alleged incident,” UCA Provost and Executive Vice President Patricia Poulter said. 

The UCA board policy describes academic misconduct as cheating, “to take an examination or test in a dishonest way, as by improper access to answers;” plagiarism, “the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work;” and fabrication, “to fake; forge (a document, signature, etc.).”

This policy also states that “each instructor will decide on a case-by-case basis what penalty will be given to the student for his/her academic misconduct.”

The policy outlines penalties and states that institutional responses “to allegations of  misconduct fall into two categories: (1) automatic penalties based on an official allegation and (2) additional penalties that will result if the student is not exonerated.”

These penalties can include “a failing grade on the assignment, a failing grade in the course, or any other course-related sanction the instructor determines to be appropriate.”

All official allegations against a student, whether undergraduate or graduate, made by the instructor and confirmed by the department chair, will be maintained in a permanent electronic record by the registrar, according to the policy. 

“The Academic Integrity and Discipline Committee hears and makes a decision on officially reported allegations of violation of the academic integrity policy,” Poulter said. 

The UCA board policy on academic integrity and misconduct was adopted in February of 2010 and has been revised 3 times over the past decade. These revisions took place in 2013, 2014, and at the end of 2020. 

As college classes have moved to virtual learning, more avenues of cheating have been documented that could not have been used in the traditional classroom setting, such as website keys and open textbook quizzes. 

UCA provides documents that outline the academic integrity policy and also has detailed examples of academic misconduct available at uca.edu/integrity

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