Post Episode 27: Lessons from pandemic online learning carry forward

Journalists discuss how they investigated virtual cheating and how hackers broke into student information

InvestigateTV – In this month’s episode of POST, we discuss stories about online education and how students and educators dealt with the ups and downs of learning during COVID-19.

Tawnell D. Hobbs, a senior special writer on the investigations team at The Wall Street Journal and Jennifer Forsyth, Deputy Chief of Investigations at The Wall Street Journal and an IRE board member, joined the show to discuss virtual learning and the impact it has had on education systems and school districts.

They told POST transitioning to online learning due to the pandemic brought to light many challenges like cheating, grade disruptions and even breaches in security.

Transitioning to online learning brought upon many challenges for parents and teachers – especially when it came to academic dishonesty.

“Cheating was just rampant. A lot of these homework help sites, they’re really just cheating. They saw their users almost double. A lot of them did. And then we saw where some of these auction sites were coming online, where basically kids could go on the site and actually auction off their homework to the highest bidder,” Hobbs said.

Teachers were the first to catch on to the rise in cheating and saw some of their students’ grades change drastically compared to when they were learning in person.

“It was hard on teachers, you got an F student, that’s all of a sudden they’re an A student, so you know, something is going on,” Hobbs said.

In addition to cheating being more accessible for students, another problem was on the rise. Hackers began to take advantage of student’s grades and other sensitive information. The breach in information also put the school district’s own servers at risk.

“We saw a real ramp up during the pandemic in which hackers just basically got into school districts and used ransomware to hold their information hostage. And in some cases, when the school districts didn’t respond quickly enough, the hacker started putting very sensitive information, including student grades, out in the public view,” Forsyth said.

Stories featured in this episode:

NPR, School Enrollment Drops for Second Straight Year

LA Times, Surge of families seeking remote learning overwhelms L.A. public schools

InvestigateTV, Buy the Book

The Wall Street Journal, Cheating at school is easier than ever, and it’s rampent

The Wall Street Journal, The Results Are In for Remote Learning: It Didn’t Work

Post is a media review program from InvestigateTV, Gray Television’s streaming channel dedicated to in-depth and watchdog reporting. Post is presented in partnership with the journalism organization Investigative Reporters and Editors. The monthly program is taped at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, a partner of InvestigateTV.

Episode written and produced by: Justine Arens and Jamie Grey, InvestigateTV

Production by: Director Travis McMillen and production assistants Jared Rubenstein and Maggie Turner, RJI

Video Editing by: Jon Turnipseed, InvestigateTV

Graphics and Animations by: Owen Hornstein, InvestigateTV

Copyright 2021 Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Jamie Grey

Jamie Grey

Jamie is InvestigateTV's managing editor. She coordinates content and produces stories with a particular passion for digging into government programs and waste, health care policy and education.