Cheating Goes High Tech at Home and in the Classroom

Education, Technology

Cheating used to be a lot more difficult. To cheat in school, you had to steal a physical copy of a test, get someone to write your papers for you, or write the answers on your arm. To cheat at home, you had to actually leave the house or risk suspicious hang-up calls if you wanted sexy access to your paramour. Well, not anymore. Technology has changed the game completely, not only by making all kinds of cheating a whole lot easier, but also by revolutionizing the ways we prevent cheating and/or catch those who are doing it. Here’s how:

Cheating in the Classroom

Certainly cheating in the classroom has existed since the invention of education, but experts say it has become an epidemic in recent years, with an estimated 85 percent of high school students having cheated at least once. This new prevalence is due to a combination of technology that makes it incredibly easy, and the mindset that comes with growing up with information readily available at your fingertips. Many students see accessing the information they need to get high grades not as morally wrong, but as just another way the internet provides for them. Technology–and smartphones in particular–has made cheating as easy as photographing a test while you’re taking it, texting your friends test questions, programming answers into calculators, or accessing an endless number of essays and term papers online.

Online Classes

Just as technology has revolutionized cheating, it has also revolutionized education. Online courses make it possible to learn from virtually anywhere, on your own time, and more affordably. Many universities now offer online courses even to students who live and attend some classes on campus. However, professors have discovered that online classes allow students to cheat in cunning and hard-to-detect new ways. One student, for example, coordinated with several friends and used file sharing through Google Docs to tip each other off to test answers during an online exam that gave instant feedback as to whether a question had been answered correctly. Though the professor had limited the time in which the test could be taken to ensure that, even if the test was open-book, students would have to know most of the material, the file-sharing idea made cheating simple and nearly impossible to detect.

Cheater Detection and Solutions

Teachers have had to implement new solutions to counteract technology-aided cheating—for example, coming up with three or four times as many questions and shuffling them from class to class. Of course, this means the teacher must spend three or four times as long on test prep. Likewise, teachers who assign essays and term papers now must use online sites that can detect plagiarism. Some schools are implementing technology that can wirelessly track calculator use. Schools with online classes are exploring keystroke detecting programs and the possibility of using webcams to make sure the correct student is the one taking the test. In fact, the College Board has implemented a new requirement for SAT and ACT tests where students must upload a digital photo of themselves at the time of registration to prevent stand-in test takers. Although the technology for catching academic cheaters is increasingly advanced, some teachers argue that rethinking the way students are taught and assignments are designed is an easier solution.

Relationship Cheating

Cheating isn’t just confined to academics, of course. It’s also commonly found in relationships, and technology has kept up with demand. Much of modern cheating is facilitated online; between emails, digital photos or video, and sexting, you barely have to spend face-to-face time with another person to be a cheater. And while lock screens and password-protected email accounts can help keep your cheating ways under wraps, those with more suspicious partners have a variety of apps to choose from that will help them keep their illicit secrets. For example, apps like Mobile Vault will hide certain contacts, texts, photos and videos and keep them backed up in a private cloud so that you can still access them if you lose your phone. The Vaulty Stocks app hides your naughty photos behind a screen that looks like a Wall Street feed. Tiger Text (apparently not named for a certain cheating golfer) automatically deletes text messages you send to another phone after a certain amount of time and can recall messages as well, regardless of whether the other party has read them yet. Other apps will delete emails and text messages with one finger tap, or allow you to call directly into someone’s voicemail. Of course, if you are not the cheater but the suspicious partner, there’s technology for you, too—primarily through GPS to trace your lover’s every move. Private investigators, it seems, are becoming more obsolete with every iOS update.