Academic Honesty - Study Edge

We’ve spent 10+ years in online education. Our company started as a tutoring service for college student athletes. Because of the strict rules regarding tutoring for college athletes, we built transparency into online tutoring resources from the beginning. For example, all the online tutoring we provided was on one common discussion wall, so that anyone can see the questions asked and the answers given. We’ve taken that attitude of anti-cheating into every aspect of our work, even as we expanded beyond helping student athletes. Because of our work in this space, we’ve also become a bit of experts into how and why students cheat — and what parents and educators can do to help prevent cheating.

Why do students cheat?

Cheating is contagious: For our hyper-connected students, it’s easy for them to see how their peers are cheating (a simple Reddit or TikTok search reveals students bragging and showing off their cheating methods). It’s also easy for students to feel like everyone else is doing it, so they should too (or else, they’ll look dumb in comparison, or fall behind everyone else). This leads to a race to the bottom, and cheating becomes ever more prevalent.

Cheating is low-risk, high-reward: It’s easy to cheat online (Googling answers, texting friends, hiring companies to take course…), and students are rarely caught. In addition, if students feel like all their peers are cheating, there’s a confidence that teachers can never catch them all. While the downside to cheating is low, the upside is high. Cheating means passing, or even acing, courses with minimal effort.

Cheating is the “savvy” move: It doesn’t matter if the academic stakes are relatively high (a finals test, for example) or low (a simple homework assignment), if students can save time by cheating, they are going to cheat.

Cheating helps cover up gaps in learning: It doesn’t feel good to be academically lost or confused. It is upsetting to struggle and not be able to understand or succeed on a given assignment or subject. Cheating is a way to circumvent these unpleasant feelings. Cheating also can seem the only way to achieve success, because actually catching up on the material feels so impossible.

Cheating is a way for students to cover up learning difficulties: Students may have undiagnosed difficulties in learning and/or processing information. This may mean that students put in as much effort as they possibly can, and they still don’t understand why they are not successful.

Student don’t think they’re actually cheating: We think most students would agree that peaking at another student’s answers during a test would constitute cheating. However, not everything is so clear cut. Is it really cheating if you’re just asking your friend what topic was covered on the test? Does it really count as cheating if you’re taking an online quiz (it doesn’t even seem so official!), and you just copy down the notes from the reading and referencing it during the quiz? Because the adults in the room are just starting to have the conversation about cheating in online education, most students have not really had “online cheating” defined for them. As a result, students who cheat may not even think they’re actually cheating.

What can educators do?

Online learning should not be treated exactly like in-person learning. We know that a lot of what works for in-person learning does not directly translate in online-learning. This extends to assessments as well! Instead of one version of a multiple-choice test, teachers can consider using assessments or tools like EdgeXL that allow teachers to readily generate different iterations of tests, so it is tougher to simply search for a test (and its answers) online.

Shorten the time allowed for assessments. We’ve heard of cases where teachers allow students a week to finish a test. While we advise teachers to be somewhat flexible with time allocated due to the potential for technology failures or resource constraints at home, evaluating those cases on a case-by-case basis is better than a blanket amount of time for assessments.

Clearly define what is allowable or not for the online assessments. Consider the intent of each assignment and establish boundaries for those assignments. Which assignments would be better suited by students having full reign to research their answers online? Which assignments can benefit from student collaboration? Which assignments should be done strictly independently (and how can students and their families be made aware and buy into those assignments)?

Proctor exams if/when possible. Using Zoom, Teams, Skype, etc., it may be possible to actually proctor test taking. While it may not be possible for teachers to proctor every class for every assignment, choosing a few to proctor (potentially randomly, after letting students know that this is always a possibility!) may help educators get better insight into what students are doing.

Mix it up! There’s a lot of things that online education allow for that are harder to do for in-person. For example, there are resources that are adaptive to a student’s skill level that can be incorporated into assessments. Consider adjusting the formatting of the assessments so there are more formative assessments. Ask students to record video responses for a few questions. Use online tools that may help fill in gaps in student knowledge, so there is less dependency on cheating to overcome perceptions of falling behind. Set

What can parents and families do?

Have conversations with your student about cheating: What do they think is cheating? What does cheating look like? Consider sharing some possible scenarios and see what they think and learning more about what your student (and their friends!) are thinking and doing regarding online education. Explain that cheating is often something that hides issues that should be solved and may get in the way of later success.

Monitor your student when they are taking the test: If possible, monitoring would help ensure that your student isn’t googling the answer or sharing resources during an assessment or assignment.

Ask your student to show their scratch work for accountability. Ask your child to show you their work. They can show off their scratch work, explain their reasoning, or “play the teacher” — they can teach *you* how to go about solving the problem.

Get involved. Ask your students what they’re learning, where they are confused, and how you can help.

Academic Honesty Pledge

Research has shown that if students sign an honor code before taking an exam, they are less likely to cheat. Here’s a Sample Academic Honesty Pledge you can download, edit, print, and have your student sign before an exam (or at the beginning of the course). 

Blocking cheating websites as well as websites that are sometimes used for cheating

While there are many Chrome browser extensions (such as Block Site) that will block certain sites, it’s relatively easy to get around them — students simply open a different browser such as Firefox or Safari. Below are solutions that block the websites across internet browsers for a user-defined period of time. Please note this is only for informational purposes. We do not endorse these companies, get paid any type of referral fee from them, or work with them in any way. 

  1. For Mac users only:  SelfControl (free)
  2. For Mac users only:  1Focus (14-day trial, $9.99/year)
  3. For Mac or PC: Cold Turkey (free for websites. $39.00 one-time Pro version to also block messaging and other apps on your computer, and if you want to  use a password to unlock instead of just a schedule)
  4. For Mac or PC: Freedom (free for the first 7 sessions then various plans and discounts totaling approximately $30 per year)

You can also use your home internet router to block websites (free, but requires logging into your router and changing settings). 

  1. OpenDNS is used by tens of millions of people to block inappropriate content such as pornography, as well as malware and phishing sites. The free consumer version will block websites, but the Home VIP ($19.95/year) will let you block every website except your ‘allow list.’ This is much faster and easier than blocking every site you do not want. 
  2. Many routers have ‘blocked websites’ or ‘website blacklist’ functions. Typically, this is called ‘access control’ or ‘access restrictions.’  Unfortunately, every router is a little different. For instructions, you can google the brand and model of the router along with ‘user manual’ to find the manual online, or google the brand and name of the router, along with ‘block websites’ or ‘access control’ or ‘access restrictions.’  Here are website blocking instructions for 5 of the most popular routers:  TP-Link Linksys and Netgear   (Amazon Eero and Google Net Wifi don’t yet allow blocking specific websites).
  3. Perhaps the simplest method if you have a Windows computer is to use Microsoft Family Safety, which works on Windows computers, android devices, and Xbox.  You can allow only certain sites to be accessed by your student, or you can block certain sites. The downside is that students have to use the Microsoft Edge browser (the replacement for Microsoft Internet Explorer), which may not be optimized for some websites that your student needs to use for school. That is, Google Chrome is widely accepted as a better internet browser than Microsoft Edge, but it’s worth a shot. Here are good instructions for those with Windows 10 and here are Microsoft’s general instructions.  
  4. Perhaps the simplest method if you have a (relatively new) Mac with macOS Catalina is to use Screen Time, which is built right in.  Click Spotlight in the top-right of the screen, type in ’screen time’ and open the program. You can block individual websites, or only authorize specific websites. Here is Apple’s overview of Screen Time.

Cheating websites and websites sometimes used for cheating

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of websites used for cheating. Luckily, most students don’t know very many. It’s important to realize that while some websites will write your paper for you (outright cheating, by anyone’s definitionsee and, there are also sites that were initially created for legitimate purposes and are used for legitimate purposes by some students, while other students use the sites for cheating. Study Edge makes no allegation that the sites below are “cheating websites” or that they are used for cheating often or even at all. Instead, we are simply posting links to articles so that parents, educators, and institutions can make more informed decisions.

To prevent cheating, students should be given more legitimate resources to help them succeed. To that end, Study Edge creates its own engaging concept videos and follow-along study guides, as well as practice problems with video explanations that align to state standards (for K-12), or to specific college courses. There are no resources available from Study Edge that were not created by Study Edge — thus, it’s not possible for Study Edge to be used for cheating purposes. 

Because of COVID-19, Study Edge is offering its Math Nation program (middle school and high school math) free of charge to all students and families through December 31st, 2020. Please visit to get started. To learn more about Study Edge’s response to COVID-19, or more about Study Edge’s services for students, educators, and institutions, please click on the menu at the top of this webpage. 

For other online resources to consider, please visit this list of 101 resources from the Today show, this list of the best free resources from the non-profit Common Sense Education, this list of 345 free K-12 resources from District Administration magazine, and/or this list from the Florida Department of Education.