Scandalous software: How online school has gifted students new ways to cheat


Alex Thorne

Junior Ryan Groenenboom checks to make sure his Google Drive is restricted, preventing other students from taking his work.

Alex Thorne, Business Manager

Even before the times of COVID-19 and online school, many Pleasant Valley teachers used Google Workspace to help teach students their subjects.

Equipped with applications such as Docs, Drive, Slides, Sheets and Classroom, it was hard to find an assignment that could not be completed using Workspace — which all Pleasant Valley students received a login for in elementary school.

Due to how easy it was to stay organized through Google Classroom, more and more teachers began uploading their assignments and messages on the app, as opposed to passing out papers to students. 

While many teachers had already created a Google Classroom page for their class by March of 2020, all teachers were required to when word came out that students would not be returning during the 2019-2020 school year.

After finishing off the year with school being entirely online, Pleasant Valley students became beyond proficient in a majority of the applications offered by Google Workspace. The most commonly used applications were Classroom, Drive, Docs and Slides.

Senior Aimee Richards remembers all too well the dog days of online learning. “I would wake up everyday to a ton of notifications from teachers about what assignments had to be done that day. I probably spent more time behind a screen than not during those few months,” she said. 

Thankfully for Richards, that pattern only lasted for a few months. When Pleasant Valley returned to school in August, it was on a hybrid schedule. Instead of everyone having to be fully online, students had the choice as to whether or not they came to in person school every other day.

With having a fair amount of students in the classroom, many teachers went back to paper tests, but still kept their assignments through Google Classroom. In true capitalist fashion, some students were able to find a more efficient way to get their busy work done each week.

Upon opening a Google Classroom assignment, students could select the move icon. From there, if the second option was selected as “view only” it would lead the students to a folder full of turned in copies of that assignment from other students.

Junior Carson Knebel never engaged in such integrity-lacking activities, but does remember hearing from friends about how much easier it was. “I had friends tell me that they hadn’t had homework outside of studying for tests in months. Supposedly they could just copy and paste the answers from other documents directly into their own assignments,” he said.

Unfortunately for some students at Pleasant Valley, administration caught on just around the same time that the simple trick went viral on the popular social media site TikTok.

Pleasant Valley Business teacher Janene Murphy realized very quickly that much of the work turned in was fraudulent. “I did. They would turn in an exact copy of someone else’s work. Though I may have missed some, it really wasn’t hard to catch,” she said.

While some teachers have decided to punish their students for cheating, some students have brought up that they shouldn’t be blamed for cheating when they still have to do school during a pandemic.

To that, Murphy had to disagree. “Regarding that, I do think they should face the same consequences they would have if they cheated another way. Copying work is never okay,” she said.

In fact, Murphy also explained that it wasn’t fair to all students. “What’s worse in many of the cases I’ve experienced is the person they cheated from didn’t even know! More than one of my students felt violated when they discovered someone else had gone into their files and stolen their work,” she explained.

For those taking advantage of the hard workers in their class, Pleasant Valley Administration had all of the PV English teachers show their students how to switch their Google Drives to restricted. This will prevent the copying off of others’ work.

So although even more preventative measures have been put in place in regards to the cheating, surely students will find another way in the near future.