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Online Cheating Charges in Dartmouth Medical School Spark Tension

Online Cheating Charges in Dartmouth Medical School Spark Tension

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United States – 17 students in Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine are accused of cheating during remote examinations. One first year student, Sirey Zhang, received an email accusing him of cheating on 3 remote exams. He was on spring break when he learned about the administrators’ accusations.


Canvas, a learning management tool used in online exams, had data which showed Zhang looking up on course materials while the exam was taking place. Based on Geisel School of Medicine’s Student Honor Code, a student must not “give or receive prohibited aid in tests or assignments.” In Zhang’s case, he violated the honor code, which is grounds for expulsion. Although he informed the institution that he did not cheat, he was advised to plead guilty to have lesser repercussions.


“What has happened to me in the last month, despite not cheating, has resulted in one of the most terrifying, isolating experiences of my life,” said Zhang. The freshman medical student had no choice but to agree and face suspension and a misconduct mark. Aside from him, other accused students had less than 48 hours to make a decision or a few minutes to attend online hearings about their cases. Data logs were not completely presented to the students before they decided on what to do.


Geisel School of Medicine strongly upholds academic integrity. “We wouldn’t want people to be able to be eligible for a medical license without really having the appropriate training,” said Duane Compton, Dean of the Medical School. He denied the allegations that the student affairs office told the accused students to show remorse and plead guilty.
The other 7 accused students have had dismissed cases due to Canvas’ automated processes instead of being a deliberate activity by a student. In the institution, Canvas was used for posting and submitting assignments between students and professors. It was not a tool to check cheating and misconduct. According to Cooper Quintin, a senior staff technologist, any student can be easily accused based on the slightest technical evidence. He was also the one who analyzed how Darmouth did the cheating investigation.


Last January, ExamSoft was used to lower down online cheating incidents. This is a separate tool that prevents students from checking study materials during the exam period. But a report revealed that some students used their back up electronic device as a way to look into course materials while taking the test in their original device.
Sean McNamara, senior director of information security in Dartmouth revealed that they developed a method in which cheating can be seen through the activity on Canvas. Data gathered is clear as there is a pattern seen when a person reads and selects pages on the pages.


However, there are accused students who deny cheating and said that automated Canvas activity is misinterpreted as cheating. Those who made an appeal had charges against them dismissed. Regarding data issues, Dartmouth has not yet responded.


Last April 21, many students wore lab coats and protested in front of the Dean’s office. They are afraid of unfair judgement without having the chance to prove their side.


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