Students are often confused by university policies regarding cheating, especially when it comes to group messaging platforms.
According to USC’s Honor Code, “When a student is uncertain as to whether conduct would violate this Honor Code, it is the responsibility of the student to seek clarification from the appropriate faculty member or instructor of record.”
This is really not helpful in a situation that has already occurred or is actively occurring. Because information travels so fast with GroupMe, students can find themselves knee-deep in an academic integrity issue before they recognize the signs. All activity is recorded and accessible on the platform for anyone with screenshots to see.
Students must find ways to protect themselves from academic integrity violations and should ask for clarification from the university and their professors about what generally constitutes cheating or academic dishonesty on GroupMe.
USC does recognize in its online academic integrity materials that “[s]haring test/quiz answers or papers in GroupMe” is cheating, but does not elaborate on other behaviors on the app that are considered academic dishonesty.
Some schools, such as the University of Central Florida (UCF), take the time to flesh out their policy more, including examples on their Academic Integrity page. Making the policy clear and standardized will help students collaborate when appropriate in ways that improve understanding of the course material.
Unstandardized policy leads to student confusion and frustration as students try to understand the different ways professors view collaboration on GroupMe and other messaging platforms.
The more involved professors are in determining their policy for GroupMe behavior, the more secure honest students will feel using the app. The two best experiences I have had using GroupMe in a class setting involved the professor or the TA being in a GroupMe with the students. When students are aware that the professor has easy access to the chat, there is less desire to cheat.
Barring a clear policy, there are some ways you can protect yourself. First, never share current or past quiz or test material in a GroupMe setting. Generally, if the assignment is graded and the professor has not specifically allowed students to work together on the assignment, then sharing answers on GroupMe could be considered an academic integrity violation. Also, do not post during quizzes or exams.
Second, if you see cheating, do not respond to the messages and leave the group immediately. On UCF’s Academic Integrity page, it says that posts such as “Thank you” or affirmative emojis posted after quiz answers are “Potential Academic Misconduct Violation(s).” Though USC’s policies aren’t laid out as clearly, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The safest but often hardest step to take when a student sees cheating in a GroupMe setting is to share it with the professor. The only way you can prove without doubt that you aren't complicit when you see cheating in a GroupMe is to report it. Some students choose not to take this action because it is seen as disloyal to other students, but unless you are sure no other students are going to snitch, then it might be your best way out.
Lastly, know that your behavior on a class GroupMe is permanently documented and has many witnesses. Though the professor might not have access to it right off, the more people there are in the group, the higher the risk someone will tell the professor about what is happening in the group. With that in mind, people active in their class GroupMes need to write as if the professors are reading their posts.
GroupMe and other messaging apps are great tools for students to collaborate with their classmates, but both the university and the students need to work together to identify and get rid of behaviors that violate student academic integrity.