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COVID-19 examination provision abused


A flexible rule allowing remote examination resulted in cheating and expulsion

A recent case involving allowing candidates to undertake examinations remotely resulted in 18 caught cheating and expelled from the United States Naval Academy. If one takes it further, this, in reality, is not limited to just naval training.

Test to assess

The purpose of an examination is to assess if the candidate obtained a proper grasp of the knowledge, skill and aptitude for the topic. Not for mere certifying the candidate is fit for actual tasks, but to ensure optimum understanding and concerns to be effective on the job. When the Naval Academy administered the final exam “SP211 General Physics I” remotely through a website in December 2020, 105 midshipmen across 653 were identified to have likely accessed unauthorised resources.

In an investigation, 18 candidates were determined by the federal service academy to have improperly used external sources and chat platforms for the examination. This is despite explicit verbal and written instructions against it. The acts were only uncovered after a superintendent ordered an investigation.

The 18 were eventually expelled from the academy and another 82 were slapped with sanctions plus five months’ probation in violation of the Honour Concept. The academy is now strongly advising instructors to adopt paper-based and in-person examinations, plus other measures to prevent a repeat. All midshipmen would be required to write and sign an honour pledge at the commencement of each examination.

More than just character building

Sean Buck, Vice Admiral in the United States Navy and Superintendent of the Academy, stressed, “Character development is an ongoing process and midshipmen must make a choice to live honourably each day and earn the trust that comes with a commission in the Navy or Marine Corps. This incident demonstrates that we must place an increased focus on character and integrity within the entire brigade.”

Admiral Buck’s statement is also applicable to any seafarers undertaking certification tests. It is an art to navigate waters, which warrants a series of certifications. This unfortunately is not a simple matter of cheating. Having a sound grasp of the subject will also ensure seafarers’ safety – through making the correct decisions and executing proper procedures. When the unthinkable happens over an error, there may be losses nothing will be able to compensate. 


Crewing Online News Team
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