Cheating is a word that is on the lips and the keystrokes of many an academic in higher education. Online instructors are anxious to ensure that their students demonstrate academic integrity when participating in college courses.
This article will offer some concrete steps that can help reduce students’ ability to cheat in an online course, but more importantly, it will offer ways to encourage students to show more integrity in their academic efforts.
We will start by looking at how instructors can promote academic integrity then move into those concrete steps to deter cheating.
Promoting Academic Integrity
Online instructors can do much to promote academic integrity before, during and after the lifecycle of an online course. They can do this by:
- Setting expectations around academic integrity
- Making real connections with students in the online space
- Developing an understanding of academic integrity in the course
- Focusing on small group engagement
This particular concept is true about so many different aspects of any online course. Just as you let your students know what is expected of them in terms of assignment instructions, discussion etiquette, and presence in the online course, being specific about what to expect in regards to academic integrity will benefit both the students and the instructor in the long run.
Do not just assume that students will know what the expectations are about submitting academic work. "Phygitals" - first-generation college students - have been living in a world of open access and may not automatically know what rules and policies apply in that situation.
Students who feel more connected to the online instructor and the course are less likely to feel the need to cheat in any given situation. When possible, make an effort to learn who the students are in the online course. Leverage synchronous and asynchronous activities to allow relationship building between the instructor and students.
Students who understand what cheating is and is not for the course are less likely to exhibit those behaviors. Use the first week or orientation unit in your course to begin the conversation about Academic Integrity with the students. Create an activity like “behavior lists” that will help them identify cheating behaviors. Leverage an online discussion forum to discuss what academic integrity means. Within reason work with the students to create an academic integrity policy for the course. Giving the students a way to speak to the academic integrity promotes buy-in and encourages them to do better in the course as a whole.
Focusing on Small Groups
Just as in large face-to-face classes, students can feel lost in a crowd in the online space. When students cannot connect to peers meaningfully, it costs less for them to cheat academically. When appropriate, engaging, small-group activities cause students to connect to each other and help each other be accountable. When utilizing a class discussion, break it out into groups of five to ten students, and then have all come back to the larger discussion and summarize.
Other methods instructors can use can also help like using frequent and varied assignments, or allowing opportunities for fun and exploration in the course. Making just a few of these changes can go a long way toward fostering academic integrity in your course and reducing the need to solely relay on punitive measures.
Best Practices to Reduce Cheating in the Digital Space
In Online Tests
In Online Assignments
Have shorter, more frequent quizzes
Require Lockdown Browser and Monitor
Have students sign honor pledge at first quiz question.
Remind students about technology during test
Be subjective (when possible)
Use a plagiarism checker
Utilize an assignment journal
Use ‘Application’ assignments
Leverage assignments that require presentations
Foster a culture of academic integrity
- Be clear about your expectations and rules for completing every assignment and test. Feel free to use reminders during the process.
- Instructors can also model integrity by citing courses, being present and prepared in the digital space, and modifying exams and assignments from year to year.
- Be wary of publisher exams as many of those already live online where students can get to them. If you needs to use publisher content, remember to randomize and limit time.
- Remember to lean on your instructional designer, as he or she can be a tremendous help when sorting through all the ins and outs of academic integrity in the digital space.