What can you do as an instructor to encourage your students to do honest work? Students cite many reasons why they cheated, plagiarized, or collaborated dishonestly. Some of the most common reasons can be illuminating regarding what instructors can do to encourage honest behaviour.
Focus on learning, not on avoiding cheating. Don’t assume that all, or even most, students will cheat. Research shows that compared with in-person assessments, online assessments do not necessarily lead to increased cheating. The frequency of online cheating depends on several factors related to the pedagogical and practical design of the assessment.
The remote / online learning context can pose special challenges to educational developers and instructors, but some of these challenges can be overcome by purposeful design of learning activities and assessments. In any assessment context, academic misconduct is more likely when students are in high-stakes situations and when instructors have not taken steps to uphold academic integrity.
When using this Tip Sheet, consider that many of these tips apply to all learning contexts. However, we have highlighted where a particular tip is especially important to the remote / online learning context.
Talk to your students about academic integrity. This is the most effective way to prevent academic misconduct. Educate your students on what is and is not acceptable and inform them of the penalties for not following University policies.
- Refer to Policy 71 - Student Discipline on your course outline. Explain the policies, verbally and in writing, and identify the penalties for failing to meet the University academic integrity standards.
- Proactively refer students to resources that can assist them with understanding the academic rules
- Remote / online learning contexts: Instructors can self-register for the Instructor Resources for Student Success Learn site to access resources on academic integrity they can import into their online course related to citing, integrating evidence, collaborating, and much more.
- Use an academic integrity tutorial or quiz in your course. On the Keep Learning with Integrity webpage, click Academic Integrity Tutorials and Quizzes. Explain why the principles of academic integrity are important in your discipline/profession.
- Report all cases of suspected academic misconduct promptly to the Associate Dean of your Faculty to improve the University’s efforts to educate students about academic integrity and to identify those who re-offend.
- Discourage students from posting assessments online by including intellectual property statements in accordance with Policy 73 – Intellectual Property Rights on your course outline and assessment descriptions/instructions.
- If using a text-matching tool like Turnitin, use it as learning activity rather than as a punitive tool.
- Educate teaching assistants (TAs) on academic integrity expectations. Refer them to the webpage on Academic Integrity for TAs for information on promoting academic integrity in their roles and responding to misconduct.
Show your students how to cite sources. Do not assume that your students know how to correctly acknowledge sources or that they will come to you with questions.
- Invite your Liaison Librarian to your class to discuss proper citation and paraphrasing practices.
- Tell your students that all ideas and information they incorporate into their work should be referenced, even personal communication.
- If your students are having issues with writing and integrating evidence, direct them to the Writing and Communication Centre Workshops.
- Provide information on how to cite sources and refer them to resources for more information. On the Writing and Communication Centre Resources webpage, click Citations for tip sheets you can give to your students or direct students to Citation / Style Guides from the University Library. Instructors can also download and customize a SSO five-minute presentation on citing and integrating evidence from the Instructor Resources for Student Success Learn site.
- Lead by example. Ensure all your teaching materials properly acknowledge all sources (including course notes, charts, data, tables, figures, maps, PowerPoint slides, etc.).
Student-to-instructor interaction is important to students’ learning. When students feel a connection with their instructor, they are less likely to cheat. Developing relationships with your students helps to build an atmosphere of trust and respect.
- Hold office hours so students can connect with you.
- Remote / online learning contexts: hold virtual office hours so students can see you are a real person.
- Tell your students a little bit about yourself, such as how you came to be a professor or graduate student.
- Make a serious effort to learn your students’ names.
- Establish an environment that is conducive to students coming to see you rather than resorting to academic misconduct if they have trouble getting an assessment done on time. Be available at “crunch” times before assessment due dates.
- Remote / online learning contexts: be explicit about the ways that students can reach you and your teaching assistants.
- Let students know you are all on the same side: the goal is learning!
- Remote / online learning contexts: watch Building Instructor Presence in Remote and Online Courses (YouTube, 59:46:00).
Avoid creating situations where students feel desperate. Avoid high-stakes assessments, such as those worth 30% of students’ final grade or more. Use low-stakes or scaffolded assessments to evaluate your students, and give them adequate time to meet deadlines.
- Make the expectations for your course reasonable and avoid assigning trivial work. Students are often taking other courses and have other responsibilities.
- Design activities that are worth an appropriate proportion of the final grade. The stress of a high stakes assessment can sometimes prompt a student to cheat; low stakes assessments are less likely to result in academic dishonesty.
- Provide students with copies of old exams and tests for practice.
- Ensure that students get feedback on all assessments in a timely manner, so they can learn from their mistakes.
- Remote / online learning contexts: Use delayed feedback so students can see the score they have achieved only after the test is over for everyone in the class.
Use timed assessments appropriately and only when learning outcomes warrant it. Recognize that timed assessments can be stressful (especially in remote / online learning contexts if students see the countdown clock during the exam).
- For low-stakes quizzes that are intended to assess students’ recall of information, keep the window of time short, so the quiz doesn’t end up assessing students’ ability to look up the answers.
- Remember to add extra time for students who have accommodation plans with AccessAbility Services so they do not face inequitable obstacles.
- Remote / online learning contexts:
- Keep both the timeframe for having access to the test, and the amount of time for interacting with the test, reasonable but short.
- Consider that students are in various time zones. Set a time window to start the assessment of at least 24 hours so that students elsewhere can access the exam during daytime hours.
- Recognize that many students may experience interruptions due to ill family members, unreliable internet connections, etc. Students may also become ill. Provide the opportunity for a make-up exam.
Make your expectations clear on the course outline, in lectures, and in assessment descriptions.
- Tell students that their written assessments need to be cited, the citation style they must use, and how to find help with citing sources if they need it. See “Educate students about Academic Integrity” above.
- Design well-structured assessments with clearly articulated questions and activities. Use this Assignment Design: Checklist.
- Indicate if group collaboration is acceptable, and the level of collaboration permitted, or if students must do all work independently. Indicate authorized and unauthorized aids. On the Keep Learning with Integrity webpage, click Infographic Icons for Assessments to clearly and visually demonstrate expectations.
- Remote / online learning contexts: assume all online, un-proctored tests are open book. Tell students which sources (textbook, course notes, etc.) they should use to respond to the questions.
- Remote / online learning contexts: Have your students complete an Academic Integrity Acknowledgment Form and/or an Academic Integrity Honour Statement on all assessments. As a best practice, introduce the form and the intent behind its use before the assessment.
Avoid re-using the same assessments from term to term. Making even slight changes to the questions and response options improves academic integrity, but it is best to make as many changes as possible. When creating a new assessment, prepare multiple versions to reduce future workload.
Tip for tests:
- Consider incorporating at least some written response questions.
- Use open-ended design questions where applicable.
- Avoid using test bank questions where answers can be found online.
- Avoid posting question banks/solution sets online as these tend to spread quickly and widely.
- Provide flexibility. Offer multiple quizzes during the term with the lowest one (or more) being dropped.
- Read Designing Multiple-Choice Questions.
- In-person tests:
- Provide sufficient distance between students taking a test. Reserve another room if needed and ask the departmental secretary to arrange for graduate student proctors.
- Have more than one order of questions on tests, and do not colour code different versions as this allows students to know which tests are the same.
- Proctor tests conscientiously. Avoid sitting or reading at the front of the space or allowing your teaching assistants to do this. Circulate in the room and monitor students’ behaviour carefully.
- Remote / online learning contexts:
- Create large question banks where each student gets a random sample of questions.
- Scramble the response options. This works well where “all of the above” is not one of the options. (Instead, write “all of the other options.”)
- For calculation-based questions, use an algorithmic question generator to create questions that have different parameters and numbers in the questions and answers. Using Mobius. Using LEARN (D2L Brightspace).
- The Mobius platform offers large question banks in the subjects of actuarial science, calculus, linear algebra, probability, and statistics.
- LEARN and Mobius offer several ways to give each student a different variation of a test:
- shuffling the order of questions, shuffling selection options (LEARN, Mobius)
- using question pools: one or more questions picked at random from a folder of questions (LEARN, Mobius)
- using (algorithmic) random variables in questions to supply different numbers, words, sentences, plots, or images to create many similar but unique question variations (Mobius)
Design assessments so that it is difficult for students to plagiarize or cheat.
- Make assignments relevant and interesting.
- Have students apply personal experience when answering question and incorporate self-reflection.
- Avoid having students submit a collection of facts; make the assignment more about the analysis of content and the synthesis of ideas. Use Bloom’s taxonomy to design questions and activities.
- Ask questions using why, how, what, what if, where, when, and which.
- Assign integrative and multi-stage assessments. Ask for topic proposals, outlines, drafts, annotated bibliographies and photocopies of the first page of each reference. Have students show evidence of the evolution of ideas in large projects. Provide feedback at each stage of the project.
- Design questions that cannot be answered easily unless the student has done previous work in the course.
- Assign very specific topics that would not be available from a commercial paper mill. Require the incorporation of unique resources like current newspapers.
- Use proctored time differently; have students research for an essay independently but write the essay while proctored.
Alternate standard assessment types like quizzes and midterms with case studies, ePortfolios, presentations, discussions, etc.
- Remote / online learning contexts: Use voice tools to do some oral testing or to have students explain their work to make sure that they formulated arguments on their own.
Create group discussions and use these as a basis to discern writing skills. Watch for changes in a student’s style, diction, and grammar – this may indicate they didn’t author the work
- Academic Integrity in Online Courses: Adapting During COVID 19 webinar (YouTube, 1:26:40)
- Communicating with Students (UW Keep Learning webpage)
- How to use Quizzes in LEARN (UW IST webpage)
- Instructor Resources for Student Success Learn site (OAI webpage)
- Keep Learning with Integrity for Instructors (UW webpage)
- Navigating Academic Integrity Issues in Online Teaching and Learning (UW slides)
- Christe, B (2003). Designing Online Courses to Discourage Dishonesty (PDF). Educause Quarterly.
- Christensen Hughes, J. (2003). Academic integrity: A renewed Canadian focus. Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 35, 7-9.
- Hart, M (2004). Plagiarism and Poor Academic Practice – A Threat to the Extension of e-Learning in Higher Education. Electronic Journal on e-Learning.
- Kennedy, I (2004). An assessment strategy to help forestall plagiarism problems. Studies in Learning Evaluation Innovation and Development.
- Krask, A.M. (2007). Curbing Academic Dishonesty in Online Courses (PDF). TCC 2007 Proceedings.
- McCabe, D. and Pavela, G. (2004). Ten updated principles of academic integrity (PDF). Change, May/June, 10-15.
- Petrie, O. (2003.) Core, January 2003, Volume 12, No. 2 (York’s Newsletter on University Teaching, edited by Olivia Petrie).
- Rowe, N.C. (2004). Cheating in Online Student Assessment: Beyond Plagiarism (PDF). Online Journal of Distance Learning.
- Stevenson, S. (2003). Academic integrity: What do students want from faculty? In Touch, November, 3.
- Van Gyn, G. (2004). General strategies to encourage academic integrity. Currents (Newsletter of the Learning & Teaching Centre, University of Victoria), Vol. II, No. 1.
This Creative Commons license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon our work non-commercially, as long as they credit us and indicate if changes were made. Use this citation format: Encouraging academic integrity in remote, online and in-person learning contexts. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.