I'm a full-time mom and a part-time college instructor and I've come across a situation that I am struggling with. I've prayed for guidance, because I don't know what else to pray for! And as I'm on semester break, there's really no colleagues I can discuss this with, except my husband who also teaches at the college level.
I taught two classes this past semester - one in-person/on-campus, and the other online. In my online class, I discovered that a student cheated on the final exam. I knew something wasn't right as I was reading her answers and the language was just not hers. I used the publisher's testbank to generate the test (all short-answer/essay) and as I compared the answer key to her answers, they got much more similar. I use a service the university provides to check papers and such against internet sources, and one of her answers matched over 90% to an older edition of our text's answer key.
I'm working through the University process for what to do but here is my dilemma:
She's written me several emails apologizing and offering reasons but none of them explain the evidence but all are terribly desperate. I feel a bit violated and am in disbelief that one of my students would resort to such measures - and that they would think so little of my abilities as an instructor that I wouldn't notice? And I'm angry too, I suppose. And shocked.
At the same time, this is serious stuff. It would be easy for me to drop it but I don't feel I can. She will wind up failing the exam, and possibly failing the course, and the University will likely flag her file as well.
I'm also feeling guilty for my own ethical lapses - watching internet videos that violate copyright laws (for my own use, but still...). Fibbing at times. Fudging my course evaluations that determine my contract renewals (by removing aggrieved students' evals). And I did use a cheat sheet once on an exam in college 20 years ago. And made some bad decisions with dating/sex/etc. before I met my husband and converted to Catholicism.
I do the best I can and am trying to be more ethical. I'm sure this is weighing on me because of the seriousness of the effect on my student and my own personal failures. I'm also personally exhausted, overwhelmed, and overworked and so all of my emotions are raw and inflamed. My husband thinks I am taking it too seriously and he's likely right as well.
Please help me get some perspective on this. What should I do? How do I resolve my own failures with "judging" my student's failure?