According to the Geisel School of Medicine of Dartmouth, it is dropping an online fraud investigation that led to the school wrongly accusing some students, allegations that led to a scream among faculty experts, alumni and technology.
In March, Dartmouth charged 17 students with fraud based on a review of certain online activity data on Canvas – a popular learning management system where professors place assignments and students submit their work – during remote exams. The school quickly dropped seven of the cases after at least two students argued that administrators had mistaken automatic Canvas activities as human fraud.
Now Dartmouth is also abandoning the allegations against the remaining ten students, some of whom face expulsion, suspension, course failures and misconduct in their academic records, which could have derailed their medical careers.
“I have decided to dismiss all the honor code charges,” Duane A. Compton, dean of the medical school, said in an email to the Geisel community on Wednesday night, adding that the students’ academic records will not be affected. “I apologized to the students for what they went through.”
Dartmouth’s decision to dismiss the charges followed a software review by The New York Times, which found that students’ devices could automatically generate Canvas activity data, even when no one was using it. Dartmouth’s practices have been condemned by some alumni and a faculty at other medical schools.
A Dartmouth spokesman said the school could not comment further on the charges being dropped for privacy reasons. The school’s agreements with the accused pupils are not yet final, and the students did not immediately return requests for comment.
The fraud investigation turned the pastoral Ivy League campus into a national battlefield over increasing oversight of the school during the pandemic.
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While many universities, including Dartmouth, require students to use special software that shuts down their devices during remote exams, Geisel went further by using a second system, Canvas, to track the activities of students with remote activities remotely. . This was unusual because Canvas was not designed as a forensic tool.
Technology experts said Dartmouth’s use of Canvas raises questions. Although some students may have cheated, these experts said it would be difficult for school administrators to distinguish fraud from non-cheats based on the type of Canvas data photos Dartmouth used.
The case was also noteworthy for Dartmouth’s proceedings after the students were accused.
Some of the accused students said Dartmouth hampered their ability to defend themselves. They had less than 48 hours to respond to the charges, and they did not receive complete data logs for the exams and were advised to plead guilty, although they denied that they had cheated or were only given two minutes to put cases in online hearings, according to interviews with six of the students and a review of documents.
In an interview in April, dr. Compton said the school’s methods of identifying possible fraud are fair and valid. Administrators, he said, said accused students provided all the information on which the charges of fraud were based. He denied that the student affairs office advised those who said they had not cheated to be guilty.
In his email Wednesday, he adopted a different tone.
“As we look to the future, we must ensure fairness in our process of reviewing the code of honor, especially in an academic environment that includes more distance education,” said Dr. Compton wrote. “We will learn from this and we will do better.”