The Navy's service academy said that in December 2020, 653 Midshipmen took the final exam for General Physics I. The test was administered through the website myopenmath.com, and students were told that they were not to use outside sources or materials.
However, after the exam, the school said it became aware "of potential improper use of outside sources," including conversations on an anonymous chat platform.
"The superintendent immediately directed an investigation," the school said in a press release.
With the help of investigators from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the school "reviewed website browsing history during the exam timeframe for all Midshipmen who took the exam."
All told, 105 Midshipmen were found to have likely "accessed unauthorized resources," breaking the school's honor code, prompting further investigation. After that review eighteen were separated; 82 were allowed to stay at the school but were sanctioned and put into a five-month honor remediation program. Four Midshipmen were cleared, and one is awaiting adjudication.
The school did not disclose why some were punished more seriously than others.
Despite the large number of Midshipmen who were caught up in the scandal, the school said that the students all acted alone and "without any coordinated effort."
"Inadequate proctoring" was the biggest issue in the eyes of investigators.
The Naval Academy said it will now strongly encourage instructors to go back to in-person, paper tests or to use monitoring software for future online exams. The school also will block websites that the faculty agrees have a "potential misuse as a vehicle for academic dishonesty."
The Navy is not the first service to run into issues with cheating at its academy. In December, 2020, more than 70 West Point cadets allegedly were caught cheating on a math exam. And this past January, the Air Force Academy said it was investigating 249 of its cadets for allegedly cheating.