Promoting Integrity in Online Courses

COVID-19 has forced us all to rethink the ways that we teach and support our students. The transition from face-to-face teaching and learning to remote/distance and online was too rapid for many of us to make careful choices or polish the implementation of these choices. As the winter term ends, we may begin to have a bit more time to reflect on our choices. We may also have more time to think about how we can promote academic integrity in our future courses.

It is important to keep in mind that a culture of academic integrity can be fostered more effectively when we use several strategies or approaches in our teaching. We must also be aware that implementing too many ideas at one time may increase our own stress levels or add unnecessary stress levels to students. Stress is an important determinant of poor decision-making – for both instructors and students.

With these considerations in mind, you may wish to implement a few best practices to support academic integrity in your remote/distance and online course.

General Recommendations for Promoting Academic Integrity
  1. Pay particular attention to how your course is structured (East & Donnelly, 2012). Are the objectives, learning activities, and assessment strategies aligned?
  2. Build and maintain honest, respectful, and trusting relationships with your students by staying in contact with them by emailing them regularly, and/or posting announcements, letters, or videos. Develop routines to build relationships with your students. Learn more here.
  3. Highlight the academic integrity policy in the course shell and provide a list of behaviours that would be classified as academic misconduct in your online course (Conway-Klaassen & Keil, 2020). Be clear about your expectations for your courses (Meizlish, 2003) and communicate to students that you expect them to make ethical decisions.
  4.  Create assignments that require students to post questions and comments about academic integrity on a discussion board (WCET et al., 2009).
  5. Remind students that providing their Learning Management System (LMS) login information to anyone else is considered ‘personation’ – a very serious form of academic misconduct.
  6. Direct students to learning supports and academic integrity resources available at your educational institution. These may include:
    • Online resources that will provide students with strategies and resources for successfully completing their term during this uncertain and stressful time.
    • A list of academic supports available for students, including individual tutoring, supplemental instructions sessions and workshops.
Best practice recommendations for online quizzes, tests, and examinations in online courses

Preventing all cheating in online quizzes, tests, and examinations in remote/distance and online courses is impossible, but you can reduce the risk by implementing a variety of ideas (Conway-Klaassen & Keil, 2020; WCET et al., 2009; Williamson, 2018).

  1. Limit the availability of the quiz, test, or exam using the restrictions in the Learning Management System’s (LMS) quiz tool.
  2. Set time limits for completion of the assessment that is based on the number of questions using the restrictions in the Learning Management System’s (LMS) quiz tool. Please keep in mind that some of your students will have accessibility requirements. Remind students to contact the your educational institution’s accessibility services to assist in arranging alternative or modified assessments.
  3. Create your own questions – this is key. If you feel you must use a test bank, edit each question and possible answers extensively so that they are different from the original. Test bank questions are readily found on file/note sharing websites, such as Quizlet and Course Hero.
  4. Create more questions than can be chosen at random for each student and randomize the order of the answers.
  5. Use a variety of question types (e.g., short and long answer, multiple-choice) that ask student to critically think and apply information rather than simply testing their recall ability.
  6. When writing multiple-choice questions, be sure to write wrong answer options that are plausible.
  7. Create questions that have multiple correct answers.
  8. Show one question at a time.
  9. Disable right click and instant messages and alerts.
  10. Do not allow students to move backward or toggle back-and-forth between questions.
  11. Force students to move forward only.
  12. Require forced completion; that is, once a student begins the assessment, they are required to finish it in one sitting.
  13. Limit the number of assessment attempts to one.
  14. Release quiz, test, and exam scores only when all students have completed the assessment.
  15. Allow open-book and open-notes quizzes, tests, and exams. It is difficult to prevent students from looking at their notes in unproctored or unmonitored settings, so this reduces some pressure and students are more likely to use approved rather than unapproved test-taking supports.
  16. Do not release graded quizzes, tests, or exams (i.e., the test questions with correct/incorrect answers), but do provide feedback to students about areas they should focus on for their next assessment.
  17. Offer a practice quiz, test, or exam. Your students will become acquainted with your assessment format. Doing so will help reduce students’ stress levels and help to ensure fairer assessment.
  18. Reduce the weight of exams relative to the overall grade of the course and increase the weight of other assessment types.
  19. Require students to agree to an honour statement. This can be included as the first question in a quiz, test, or exam. It serves as a reminder to make ethical choices. Additional support can be found at Brightspace Tutorials and Moodle Tutorials.
Recommendations for assignments and online engagement
  1. Provide direct links to resources for writing and citing.
  2. When appropriate, ask students to submit their reference articles or other supporting material with the text they cited highlighted (Meizlish, 2003).
  3. Compare the writing that students post on discussion boards with their other written work (Hill, 2010).
  4. Assign specific books or articles to be used for completing writing assignments (Hill, 2010).
  5. Check the file properties for the creation date and author for writing assignments.

Review copyright considerations as you move your courses online. For more information on this subject, please see Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton’s writing on Learning, Teaching and Leardership: A blog for educators, researchers and other thinkers.

If you are uncertain whether you can use a resource or require assistance obtaining permission to use materials, contact your educational institution’s copyright office.