While we have been focusing on how and what instructors and student conduct professionals can do to ensure integrity as we transition to online and remote learning, students have been experiencing fear and uncertainty about their courses. This week, the focus is on what students are going through. A student wrote the blog. Here’s what Isaac had to say.

I, like most other students, went into Spring Break for the week of March 9 with nothing more on my mind than enjoying some free time and procrastinating my homework. By the fourth day, my entire reality had completely changed. I’m sure everyone has their own coronavirus story, as not a single person’s life has been left untouched by its effects in the past month. The unique challenge for students has been adapting to the entirely new and unchosen online school environment while simultaneously grappling with the effects of a mounting pandemic.

Challenges to Moving Online

The biggest challenges of the transition to online school have been compounded by the everyday challenges of living through a pandemic, meaning they most likely affect teachers just as much as they do us students. Social distancing and stay at home regulations have led to a sedentary lifestyle that makes it extremely difficult to focus and stay motivated in completing assignments. Simply not having to see your professor’s face on a day to day basis can really decrease the drive to get work done. There is less personal accountability. 

It is worth mentioning as well that for many students, the at home Wi-Fi can be dodgy at best and non-existent at worst, as is the case at my parents’ house. Navigating the maze of the online school format, with its dropboxes, hyperlinks and dropdown menus that never seem to be in the same spot twice, can seem formidable and undesirable for the majority of students. Altogether, the combination of being stuck at home, confusion of the online submission format, and lack of face-to-face instruction does not make for a conducive learning environment. 

The Opportunity to Cheat

For professors concerned with upholding Academic Integrity, the challenges of a transition to online learning can be even more daunting. Especially considering the general difficulties listed above, including faltering accountability and technological difficulties. It is clear that the opportunities for academic dishonesty are even more common in the online format. 

The biggest issue undermining integrity as a result of the online transition is obviously the access to the internet; it has become infinitely easier and infinitely more tempting for students to look up answers for their online assignments with Google available just a click away. Of course, there is always the possibility of this happening in a traditional classroom setting, but it has never been easier than it is now for students to search answers for major assignments such as tests and quizzes. 

I hope that professors will continue to be just as stringent in monitoring Academic Integrity now as they would have been before, but it is likely many may let the Integrity policy fall to the wayside to make things easier for themselves and their students in the midst of a difficult transition. 

What Can We Do?

Is this a hopeless situation? Is the reality of online learning something we’ll just have to bear with until ‘this all blows over’? Certainly, there is nothing we can do on an institutional level to change the format or requirements of online learning until the pandemic is over. But small actions and habits we can choose to make as people working through this together can make this new reality a bit more bearable for all of us. 

Instructors should ensure they are communicating even more than usual with their students. This could mean sharing work phone numbers or setting up additional Zoom meetings, as many of my professors have. Students should be cooperative and patient with assignments and realize that despite the ‘suckiness’ of this situation, we are still paying for our education and should make the most of it. 

Most importantly, however, we should all remain cognizant of the fact that we are all living through an unprecedented pandemic. Everyone’s situation is unique, and you can make no assumptions about how this disease is affecting the life of the person on the other end of the Zoom call.