The rise of online teaching has revolutionized how teachers and students approach education. Applications such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams enable students to attend lectures, study texts, and participate in group discussions all from the privacy of their own homes. However, the prevalence of online instruction has also affected the methods students use to gain an academic

Students are able to complete a majority of their coursework at home. Also, students are able to take examinations at home as well. These conditions allow students to use resources and materials that otherwise might not be available to them in a traditional classroom setting.

Academic misconduct and cheating are problems that universities and colleges address in different ways. The honor code, student code of conduct, and student handbook are three tools that allow universities and colleges to explain to students how the educational institution expects them to conduct themselves. Online students who are studying remotely must also adhere to the provisions contained in the honor code, the student code of conduct, and the student handbook. However, many online students may find themselves accused of academic misconduct due to the conditions of remote learning.

The COVID-19 Global Pandemic and Remote Learning

The prevalence of online classroom instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the rate of academic dishonesty and instances of cheating in the United States. High schools, colleges, and universities had to suddenly convert their courses to an online format. Professors and instructors who had never taught online before suddenly found themselves learning how to navigate applications such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. However, the student code of conduct, honor code, and student handbook still dictated how academic misconduct would be identified and investigated.

Determining who may have plagiarized or cheated in an online classroom requires different tools from the ones professors used in traditional classrooms. The universities and colleges were not prepared for the abrupt changes brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Unfortunately, many students continue to suffer due to false allegations of academic misconduct and cheating.

Academic dishonesty protocols and procedures may no longer be relevant to online learning environments. Many professors and instructors have had to alter their syllabi to reduce the likelihood of academic misconduct. The students who are participating in this transitional period have suffered the most. From confusing course instructions to inconsistent assessment methodologies, students are facing false allegations of academic misconduct.

Instructors and professors may not have extensive experience with remote instructional tools and software programs. One student may have submitted an assignment but an instructor’s inexperience and impatience cause them to accuse the student of academic misconduct. These false allegations can have an enormous influence on a student’s life. Simply being accused of academic misconduct can cause a student to feel nervous, apprehensive, and insecure.

​Facing allegations of academic dishonesty can make students feel confused and unappreciated. No student should immediately respond to allegations of academic misconduct. The first thing a student accused of academic misconduct should do is read the honor code, student code of conduct, and student handbook. Many universities and colleges have amended these documents to account for changes brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Understanding the accusations against you is the best thing students can do when they first receive notice from the university or college.
Do not put your graduation at risk. Responding to allegations before investigating the matter may cause you to damage your case. Academic misconduct charges can cause you to lose academic credit and fail to satisfy the university’s requirements for graduation. A university or college may also suspend, dismiss, or expel students who are found to have committed academic misconduct. Contact a student defense lawyer as soon as you have a clear idea of the accusations you are facing. A skilled student defense lawyer will help you comprehend the details of the allegations and provide you with guidance for protecting your academic career and your future professional goals.

The Steps to Take If You Are Facing Allegations of Online Cheating

After a university or college accuses a student of academic misconduct, the relationship between the student and institution changes. Following are main characteristics of this relationships:

  • Distrust
  • Suspicion
  • Speculation

​The best thing a student can do is to remain silent and not discuss the accusations with anyone except a parent and a student defense lawyer. An accused student should not negotiate with authority figures at the university or deny the allegations of academic misconduct. Students should find out as much information as possible regarding the accusations of academic misconduct. Reading the following will help you prepare for the next stage in the academic misconduct investigation:

  • ​University’s honor code
  • Student code of conduct
  • Student handbook

​​Students should also read the course materials and discover if any protocols were in place to account for changes instituted by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Being aware of these changes is important to any academic misconduct allegation.

Syllabus Altering & Student Misconduct Allegations

If an instructor or professor altered a syllabus, a student needs to be aware of how this can be related to an academic misconduct allegation.  Some universities and colleges have not altered their academic misconduct provisions to account for the COVID-19 global pandemic. Educational institutions are still adjusting to the changes that have occurred during the past few years. Students should make sure to keep abreast of any amendments their university or college makes to the honor code, student code of conduct, or student handbook.

Also, individual professors and instructors will continue to adopt new policies and procedures to use in their online classes. Plagiarism detection software applications may be used more often by professors teaching online courses. Unique procedures for administering examinations and essay assignments may also be revised by professors who are new to online teaching. However, the policies that applied to in-class instruction still apply to online classes.

Unclear and Confusing Instructions

When you retain a student defense lawyer, it is important that you emphasize any course instructions you found confusing or ambiguous. An advisor or student defense lawyer needs to understand the elements of the course that may have seemed confusing or misleading to you. Accusations of academic misconduct may be displaced if you did not intend to commit an act that was contrary to your professor’s instructions.

A student defense lawyer will help you develop a case strategy regarding the allegations made against you. It is important that you not speak to anyone regarding the instructions you found confusing or ambiguous. Take notes about these facts, and make sure your student defense lawyer understands them.

Online Academic Misconduct

Misrepresented identity, cheating, and plagiarism are the three most common types of online academic misconduct. It is important to understand that these three offenses are prevalent at universities and colleges in the United States.

Identity Misrepresentation

Students may offer something of value to have another student log in and take an examination for them. Universities and colleges have tried to fix this problem by using identification software. Identity recognition programs are not infallible, however, and many students need to defend themselves against false accusations of identity misrepresentation.


Students attempt to gain an academic advantage by cheating. Many students may attempt to cheat due to the freedom they experience taking classes from the comfort of their residence hall or apartment. The prevalence of mobile phones has made it more difficult for universities and colleges to determine when a student is cheating by using online resources.  ​

Academic Dishonesty and Possible Sanctions

Students may not understand the possible consequences they may face if they are found to have committed academic dishonesty. Possible sanctions include losing academic credit and receiving a failing grade. More severe sanctions include suspension, dismissal, and expulsion. Also, a university or college may have the registrar make a notation of academic dishonesty on the student’s transcript, and this can make it more difficult for the student to obtain admission to a different university or college. A record of academic dishonesty can also damage a student’s employment prospects.

The student handbook is the best resource available for determining the consequences that can arise due to academic dishonesty. The nature of the misconduct and the particular faculty member who accused the student of academic misconduct will likely determine the consequences suffered by the student. Accused students should retain an experienced student defense lawyer to ensure that they have a strong case strategy.

Disabilities and Mitigating Sanctions

You may not have informed the university or college that you suffer from a disability, but it is important that you notify your student defense lawyer if you have a history of any type of disability. The stress and anxiety induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic may have exacerbated the symptoms associated with your disability. If this is the case, you may be able to plead your disability as part of your defensive strategy. If you do this convincingly, it is likely that the university or college will consider imposing less restrictive sanctions on you.

If you suffer from depression or anxiety you should inform your student defense lawyer. Also, contact the disabilities office at your university or college to inform them that your disability may have played a role in academic dishonesty allegations being levied against you. You are afforded specific provisions under federal law if you are a student who suffers from a disability.

Contact K Altman Law Today to Schedule a Consultation

The student code of conduct and student handbook at your university or college may state that you are not permitted to bring a lawyer to any of the academic misconduct proceedings or hearings associated with your case. The best thing you can do is retain a student defense lawyer if you are accused of academic misconduct. A skilled and experienced student defense lawyer can guide you and coach you through every phase of your case. Contact K Altman Law to learn more about the legal services we offer. We have a dedicated team of professionals who can help you develop a strong defense. Also, we have decades of experience representing students accused of academic misconduct. Contact K Altman Law today to schedule a consultation.

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