Switch to online classes during pandemic led to increased cheating at UC San Diego

UC San Diego
UC San Diego
(Courtesy of UC San Diego Publications )

A faculty survey also found that online instruction made it harder for students to meet deadlines, expectations


There was much more cheating in the online classes that UC San Diego offered during the pandemic than typically occurs during non-crisis, in-person instruction, according to a survey of the university’s faculty and instructors.

The survey also found that the hardships created by COVID-19 made it harder for the vast majority of UCSD students to meet deadlines and other academic requirements.

Similar findings were made throughout the University of California system, which surveyed more than 4,300 faculty and instructors at its 10 campuses from May 5, 2021, to June 1, 2021. More than 330 UCSD faculty participated, though not on every question.

Colleges and universities nationwide pushed most of their classes online in the spring of 2020, during the first major wave of the pandemic. Most stuck with them during the 2020-21 academic year. The majority are now returning to predominantly in-person teaching, including UCSD, where about 85 percent of classes will be held on campus when instruction starts on Thursday.

At UCSD, 28 percent of the respondents said that cheating was “much higher” than it is in traditional classes. An additional 32 percent said cheating was “higher.” The survey did not quantify the level of cheating. The figures were among the highest in the UC system.

The survey also found that 44 percent of the respondents at UCSD believe that undergraduates had a “lower” understanding of course material online compared to their experience in a traditional classroom, and 10 percent had a “much lower” understanding.

Those figures also were among the lowest in the UC.

The report further says that 42 percent of the UCSD respondents sensed that undergraduates were less satisfied with online courses compared to those taught in person, and 13 percent said the satisfaction level was “much lower.”

Nearly 80 percent of the respondents said that all students expressed the view that the pandemic made it hard for them to meet deadlines and other academic work. And 57 percent of the faculty said that their internet connection during online classes ranged from somewhat reliable to very reliable.

The majority of UCSD undergraduates are members of Generation Z, the first group of students who have always been exposed to the internet, cell phones and social media. But the school’s faculty and administrators are not rushing to offer a large number of for-credit online courses, partly for the reasons cited in the survey.

“People still don’t have confidence in the quality of online courses being equal to or nearly the same as in-person education,” UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla told the Union-Tribune recently, in a broad discussion of online education.

“I think we need a little bit more work on understanding the educational outcomes of the students and the experience.”