Canvas cheating calls application’s effectiveness into question


The logo for the site, which has been used by students to cheat on take-home-quizes.

Pilar Valdes, Art director

As long as there has been education, there has been cheating. Now, with the increase in technology in the classroom, students are finding more innovative ways to cheat on their schoolwork. An increase in cheating across the board, especially in the misuse of Canvas, has caused teachers, students and administrators to reevaluate how the tool is used in the classroom, junior Assistant Principal Kelly Dostal said.

“Technology in general has changed the academic integrity issues,” she said. “There is so much information readily available, it’s not just Canvas, it’s the internet, its phones, it’s a variety of things. People have cheated since the beginning of time, that’s not new. It’s just that the tools they are using to cheat are new.”

A committee of teachers and division chairs has been formed to revise the academic integrity policy which has not been revised in six years, Dostal said. One of the revisions that will be made is addressing how Canvas specifically can and cannot be used in and out of the classroom.

“There is a very powerful ability for Canvas to provide that quiz tool,” Director of Technology Services Ed Tennant said. “The question is: ‘Is the appropriate time for that quiz to be outside of school or do you facilitate it during school? Is the mechanism for determining how to do a retest really the right mechanism, or are you incentivising the cheating by putting a reward onto a tool that wasn’t designed to thwart that?’”

Despite misuse of the tool by some students, overall Canvas has had a positive impact on the classroom and learning environment. The focus of Canvas assignments has been to reiterate what students learn in the classroom and help them prepare for a test, Math and Science Department Chair Dr. Adam Roubitchek said.

“I think we can stop the need to cheat,” he said. “If a student realizes that the only reason they are doing this is to help them prepare for a test and show the teacher what they still need to work on in class, then there is no need for students to cheat.”

Additionally, the tool allows for teachers to see which questions students struggle with and go over those concepts again in class, Joe Abrahamson ‘20 said. It also encourages collaboration among students, which is another aspect of the academic integrity policy that will be revisited.

“We’re talking about educating students,” Dostal said. “I think that’s an important part of this. In some of the cases I’ve worked on this year, I don’t believe the students thought that they were actually cheating. They thought they were helping each other, but when does helping become crossing that line? That’s a really fine balance.”

Teachers are encouraged to have honest conversations with their students about their policies regarding cheating and plagiarism, Roubitchek said. This way, students will be able to clearly define what is considered cheating and what is considered collaboration.

“What does it truly mean to collaborate? It means we’re sharing ideas, truly helping each other out, not just copying another person’s answers,” he said. “No learning happens there.”

Still, this idea is not reiterated in every class, and some students remain confused, especially as collaboration becomes more of an emphasis in the classroom.

“I personally prefer working in partners and groups since I like getting other people’s thoughts and ideas,” Molly Corrough ‘21 said. “My teachers are good about having us work collaboratively, but also independently from time to time. I do feel that sometimes I’m not sure of what’s cheating and what’s collaboration.”

This will be an aspect of the academic integrity policy that will be reinforced and clearly defined to ensure that this confusion is dissipated.

“If the expectation is that you are supposed to do it yourself with no outside help, then you’re supposed to do it yourself with no outside help–whether its taking a piece of paper home or if you’re doing it online,” Roubitchek said.

Despite what seems like an increase in cheating junior year, there will be no administrative action taken across the board to punish students, Dostal said. Teachers and administrators will simply look into better ways to utilize Canvas and cheating cases will be evaluated and handled on an individual basis.

“I would like to believe that the type of student that goes to LT generally understands that cheating is not going to get them anywhere,” Tennant said. “However desperate they are at the time that they do this cheating, in the long run the lesson they get out of it is that cheating is not a long term road to success.”