WVU Warns Students of Digital Footprint During Online Activity


“All academic institutions wanna uphold standards and rigor and honesty.”

Including West Virginia University.

 Nine students charged with academic dishonesty at the end of the Spring semester after cheating on a Chemistry exam using Apple watches are on the third level of the University’s appeal process, awaiting hearings from the student conduct board, while the administration reminds the rest of the consequences of cheating.

“It’s a very serious offense and it can stay with you,” said Dr. Paul Kreider, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Affairs. “I do believe that we have to make sure that students understand the importance of achieving and completing their goals and doing it in an honest manner so they really are improving their knowledge, their training and their skills.”

Not only can the offense stay with you, so can the information spread online. In this case, it was previously deleted emails that helped identify these students.

“Once it hits the internet it’s there forever,” said University Police Chief Bob Roberts. “You can’t track it down. You can’t get it off. “Don’t say things on the internet that you would not say to a person face-to-face because you can’t take it back.”

An important reminder for students and anyone who uses technology for work or personal use, e-mails, photos, anything you send on the computer, on a cell phone, or any other device can never be fully deleted.

“Cell phones now, people put their whole life story on cell phone,” said Chief Roberts. ”Just because you push delete it doesn’t go away. It there’s a footprint there, our folks are specifically trained and have the equipment to go back and retrieve that information.”

This advice doesn’t only apply to e-mails, but also to photos and other social media posts.

“You shouldn’t be texting pictures you wouldn’t want your mother to see or your grandmother to see,” said Chief Roberts. “Don’t send them because once they hit the Internet they’re there.”

No student conduct policies have changed after this incident, but the University is looking at other options for testing.

“They would go to a testing center when we can we can ensure that the person taking the test is the person who should be taking the test,” said Dr, Kreider. “We can also then monitor with electronic means or with persons that are trained to monitor tests as they are being taken.”

WVU emphasizes that this group of students is only a very small population, and says there’s other options for students who need help.

“Taking the easy way out when you come up against a roadblock is not the way to learn,” Dr. Kreider said. “It’s not the way to progress. We’re committed to helping students with tutoring and all different facets and components of making sure the students are successful.” 

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