Increased Online Studying Raises Concerns about Cheating

By BEN KRONENGOLD and SABRINA BERMAN
Originally published May 2013
Social media has revolutionized the way that students in Jericho High School study and collaborate with classmates, but it has raised concerns regarding the fine line between cheating and collaboration.
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Junior Chloe Shakin uses the Facebook mobile app to access her online AP Biology study group.

According to a JerEcho survey, 87% of students at Jericho have used social media to collaborate with others on schoolwork. Facebook, iChat, and Skype are the most widely used applications to study online; however, only 31% of students admitted to getting fully completed work from classmates, while the majority claim to use these Internet tools to “combine socializing with studying” and to “receive helpful information about assignments.” One student responded, “people use [these] groups to find dates for tests and for others to explain difficult topics [to them].” In regards to the social aspect, senior Chase Landow said that “using iChat and video chatting in particular to chat and work with friends is a great way to balance [one’s] social life and homework during busy weeks.”Although the majority of students would not hesitate to tell their teachers about their use of social media groups for specific classes, some teachers worry about how some students might abuse this practice. Ms. Kakounis, a history teacher who admits she has a reputation for being staunchly opposed to any form of cheating, says that social media groups for her class, when used correctly, do not bother her. “I feel that it can be a gateway for people to learn new things from their peers,” said Kakounis. She believes it is acceptable “when you’re getting others’ opinions to get different perspectives.”

Ms. Zahn, a math teacher who is known for her progressive use of collaboration in the classroom, concurs that, while there may be many benefits from “social studying,” it is significantly harder for teachers to catch students cheating. “It is difficult for teachers because we are not as aware as you are, and we don’t know the many ways that you can be in contact with each other,” Zahn said.

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Junior Julie May works on a collaborative project through Google Docs.

One of these “many ways” is a social media website known as Edmodo that several teachers in the school have used to promote collaboration. Senior Cindy Hassan feels that Edmodo is a great site that can promote socializing with teacher regulations, but many teachers believe that face-to-face communication is indispensable. Ms. Zahn agreed that looking at peers in the eye and communicating with body language are crucial social skills.Ms. Valenza acknowledges the prevalence of social media use when it comes to schoolwork and thinks that the line between cheating and collaboration is obvious. “When one student is taking the work of another and representing it as his/her own, that’s cheating. If it isn’t a group assignment, it’s cheating.” The English teacher spoke about the abusive practices that she witnessed in her own class of freshmen when several students “handed in the same written assignment that they copied over video chat.” It was revealed that only some of the students were responsible for actually completing the work while the rest simply copied. Junior Jessica Fuchs said, “I think collaboration in these groups can be great, but when you have certain kids ‘mooching’ off of others’ work, I think people start feeling uncomfortable.”

Although there may be several issues that arise from social media study groups, Ms. Kakounis believes that, if used correctly, this new type of studying can be “a great way to have a study group without going to other people’s houses.” When it comes to cheaters, Kakounis said “while they may seem to have an advantage short-term, the students who work hard will be the ones who achieve success in the long run.”

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