• Christopher Shearouse

How Does Penn Foster Track Cheating?



Penn Foster uses different methods to track instances of academic misconduct. Cheating is one of the most common forms of academic misconduct. Cheating may refer to any act of dishonesty, deception or fraud in a university or college. Penn Foster is an online school, and it uses an online proctoring system to deter students from cheating or committing other forms of academic misconduct.


The Penn Foster student handbook defines cheating as follows:


Any effort at inappropriate collaborative activity where the work submitted to the school does not represent the work of the enrolled student.”


Cheating may also include the following behaviors:


  • Duplicating submissions

  • Fabrication

  • Collusion

  • Misrepresentation

  • Conspiracy

  • Cheating

  • Bribery

Online proctoring at Penn Foster


In 2014, online proctoring was used at Penn Foster to reduce instances of cheating. The online proctoring system was a replacement for face-to-face proctoring. Less than one percent of proctored exams are associated with instances of cheating. Students are less likely to cheat during an examination proctored online by Penn Foster faculty and staff.


Penn Foster provides guidance and instruction regarding taking online proctored examinations. Students may take online proctored examinations at any time they prefer. If students want to take their examinations before the end of the semester, they can decide when to take the examinations associated with their courses.


Students at Penn Foster have the option to take their examinations according to their own schedule. Penn Foster provides students with online proctoring to ensure that students do not cheat or commit other forms of academic misconduct.


Students at Penn Foster must not misuse the tools and programs available to them. Penn Foster students must not cheat on examinations or assignments. The online proctoring system fosters an atmosphere of honesty and accountability.

Informing students about the benefits of online proctoring


Students do not have to wait for any specific length of time to take their examinations at Penn Foster. Students receive information regarding online proctoring through the student handbook and orientation sessions. Penn Foster students are provided with specific instructions regarding what they can and cannot do during an online examination.


Online proctoring may include automated programs that use software applications to analyze a student’s behavior and body language during an examination. A live proctor may observe the students by using cameras on laptops and desktops. Automated software applications may sometimes fail to recognize some cheating behaviors.


Secure examination browsers are also used to prevent students from cheating during examinations. These applications limit what the student can access inside a web browser during the examination. Secure examination browsers reduce the likelihood that students will use their browser to review content that would help them cheat during an examination.

Methods of tracking online cheating


Several methods exist for tracking the methods students use to cheat while taking online classes. Online proctoring and plagiarism trackers may not always be sufficient for detecting how students cheat on examinations and assignments. Penn Foster also uses other methods to reduce instances of online cheating. Other universities and colleges also utilize these methods to detect episodes of academic misconduct.


Limiting IP addresses

By focusing on IP addresses, universities and colleges can guarantee that a particular student is taking an examination in a specific location. Most examinations need to be taken in a student’s home, a school classroom, or in a library. Restricting IP addresses permits universities and colleges to make sure students are not taking an examination together, or taking an examination in a place where students have cheated in the past.


Utilizing group learning techniques

Professors, lecturers, and graduate assistants may use collaborative learning assignments to deter students from cheating on an examination or an assignment. Students who are working on assignments and examinations together must submit their work as a group, and this reduces the likelihood that students will submit plagiarized documents. Also, students are less likely to cheat if their assignment must be completed as a group.


Students are less likely to cheat while working in a group of their peers. Individuals in the group have less of an incentive to cheat when they are responsible for other students. The majority of students want to work together in an honest, straightforward way to reduce arguments and problems that may arise during the group assignment.


Honor code violations

Honor code violations are an effective method to deter cheating among the Penn Foster student body. Students are responsible for adhering to the provisions outlined in the honor code and the student handbook. Students often sign an honor code statement indicating that they will not engage in any form of academic misconduct.


Penn Foster can perform statistical analyses regarding instances of cheating and other forms of academic misconduct. Students who exhibit patterns of academic misconduct can be analyzed and documented. Understanding how and why students cheat can help institutions such as Penn Foster reduce the overall rate of academic misconduct.


Variable testing methods and devices

Penn Foster students may attempt to cheat by using old copies of examinations and assignments. Students may be tempted to cheat if they realize the same examinations and assignments have been used during past semesters. Studying with old examinations and assignments may cause students to simply memorize the correct answers to the examination or assignment questions.


Professors can create different versions of the examination or assignment to deter Penn Foster students from cheating. Students cannot find the answers online because they have all received different versions of the examination or assignment. Variable testing can help faculty and staff determine who may be attempting to cheat using old versions of examinations and assignments.


Keystroke verification software applications

Students have a difficult time bypassing keystroke verification software. These software applications document, analyze, and record how an individual student uses a keyboard to type. Keystroke verification software applications document the speed, patterns, and other characteristics that make that individual student’s typing style unique.


A student will submit a document and its contents are analyzed with reference to the typing sample stored by the keystroke verification software application. This is an effective method of tracking individuals who attempt to cheat or copy other documents during an examination or assignment.


Search engine analysis

Professors, lecturers, and instructors use search engines to analyze documents submitted by students for academic credit. Students may attempt to plagiarize specific passages from documents found on the internet, and search engines are great tools for tracking acts of plagiarism among students.


A search engine analysis can use a student’s submission to find matches on different webpages. Students may plagiarize entire passages from online sources without properly citing the sources in their academic essays. Using a search engine analysis is one of the best ways to track cheating among students at Penn Foster.


Websites designed to detect plagiarism

Plagiarismchecker.com, Turnitin.com, and Copyscape.com are tools used by professors, lecturers, and instructors to detect and track instances of plagiarism. Entire documents, individual passages, and sentences can all be submitted and analyzed using plagiarism websites.


These websites maintain databases of essays and other forms of content that students may use when plagiarizing. Also, plagiarism websites search for matches with essays and documents that are posted online. Some websites produce essays for a fee, and students may submit these essays for academic credit. However, these activities can be tracked by using plagiarism websites.


Also, Penn Foster and other universities may use plagiarism detection software that analyzes the documents a student submits over the course of multiple semesters. Students who recycle their academic work and submit it to multiple classes may be tracked using plagiarism detection software.


Social media applications

Universities and colleges such as Penn Foster may also check a student’s social media application pages to determine if the student committed academic misconduct. For example, a professor may prohibit group studying under any circumstances. If the professor discovers that a student created a Facebook study group, they may suffer severe consequences.


Students may not be aware that their activities online are tracked by professors, lecturers, and instructors. Many students may attempt to cheat by using social media applications. However, these students are often tracked and discovered due to the persistent techniques universities and colleges use to track cheating.

The importance of tracking where, when, and how students cheat


Penn Foster upholds its academic integrity by focusing on tracking students who cheat. The various methods have positive and negative characteristics, but each method provides Penn Foster with a toll to maintain academic integrity. Online educational institutions must focus on making sure that students can grow by completing their coursework and earning academic credit. Instances of cheating are tracked and documented to foster an environment of equality and integrity for present and future students.

Contact K Altman Law today if you need an academic misconduct lawyer


Contact K Altman Law today at (888) 984-1341 to learn more about how an academic misconduct lawyer can help you. If you are facing allegations of academic misconduct, retaining an academic misconduct lawyer is the best thing you can do. Call K Altman Law today at (888) 984-1341 to learn how an academic misconduct lawyer can help you.



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