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Virtual Schools and Academic Honesty
posted by: Ruthie | September 17, 2013, 03:46 PM   

As virtual education continues to expand, teachers, administrators, and principals are constantly seeking ways to improve rapidly changing programs. While virtual schools provide students the opportunity to learn at an individualized pace, to attend school at a flexible location, and to fill in gaps in learning, educators are still working to decipher the best way to ensure academic integrity and to combat cheating.

In-person exams are one safeguard for academic integrity. Another safeguard is requiring students to have a licensed proctor facilitate major assessments for virtual courses.

Surprisingly, students are not the only ones culpable for the lack of academic integrity in virtual learning. While virtual schools often require parent involvement and guidance, there is a fine line between monitoring and “dishonest intervention.” Some schools require parents to have their own login, allowing them to follow children without actually submitting work for them.

"If you look across the range of full-time online learning programs ... there are different parent roles, and some programs involve the learning coach and parent at a much higher level, said International Association for K-12 Online Learning President Susan Patrick. “Each of those programs is developing their own guide for parents in terms of [their] role."

While some say virtual learning can make it easier for students to cheat, the extra safeguards made possible by technology often help to mitigate the threat of dishonesty. Websites such as make plagiarism next to impossible. Web conferences, webcams, and other forms of virtual communication allow teachers to communicate directly with students, providing built in accountability.

Robin Winder, Florida Virtual School’s director of student learning said, "The teacher is checking on authenticity and asking higher-level questions to make sure [students] comprehend the material.” Many argue that virtual teachers are not only responsible for teaching material but for taking on additional responsibilities via technology.

Similarly, adaptive and timed tests make it easier for teachers to catch discrepancies in learning. Banji Judge, a 4th grade teacher for the Arizona Virtual Academy, said time-stamped student assessments, make it possible to see possible signs of cheating, “If a student goes in and they take an assessment and fail it, and then five minutes later they take it again [and do significantly better],” that red flag is in my system."

In any classroom, student-teacher relationships are paramount to ensure authentic learning and academic integrity takes place. By developing this relationship, online students see their teachers as real people, not just voices on a screen.

How do you ensure academic honesty in your classroom? 
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