Best Practices for Academic Integrity in Online and Blended Courses


Issues of academic integrity ought to be considered during the design, delivery, and redesign of courses, in particular those with an online component. Based selected research, the following strategies will be helpful to instructors. For background information and research, please see:

  • Henry Corrigan-Gibbs, Nakull Gupta, Curtis Northcutt, Edward Cutrell, William Thies. Deterring Cheating in Online Environments.
  • Bear F. Braumoeller and Brian J. Gaines. 2001. Actions do speak louder than words: Deterring plagiarism with the use of plagiarism-detection software. Political Sci. Politics 34, 04, 835–839.
  • Henry Corrigan-Gibbs, Nakull Gupta, Curtis Northcutt, Edward Cutrell, and William Thies. 2015. Measuring and maximizing the effectiveness of honor codes in online courses. In Learning @ Scale. ACM, 223–228.
  • Frank M. LoSchiavo and Mark A. Shatz. 2011. The impact of an honor code on cheating in online courses. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 7, 2, 179–184.
  • Lisa L. Shu, Nina Mazar, Francesca Gino, Dan Ariely, and Max H. Bazerman. 2011b. When to Sign on the Dotted Line?: Signing First Makes Ethics Salient and Decreases Dishonest Self-reports. Technical Report 11-117. Harvard Business School.
  • Chen-Bo Zhong, Vanessa K. Bohns, and Francesca Gino. 2010. Good lamps are the best police darkness increases dishonesty and self-interested behavior. Psychol. Sci. 21, 3, 311–314.

Remain involved in your online course

  • An instructor that is actively contributing to course communications, offering meaningful feedback on assignments, and is responsive to student inquiries will be perceived as invested in the course and paying attention to what students do.
  • Take advantage of your ability to offer speedy and frequent feedback via online learning platforms — this activity will build the confidence of your students.
  • Establish clear expectations related to academic integrity: if collaboration during assignments or testing is not permitted, state this in the course’s outline as well as within the description of the test.
  • Monitor student progress for sudden changes in behavior or writing style.
  • Ensure students know academic monitoring occurs within the course — this knowledge in itself is a proven deterrent.
  • Know that, in general, the likelihood of dishonesty is highest among students in first-year studies.

When assigning tests

  • Don’t rely too heavily on technology to police, as savvy students are often a step ahead.
  • Assume that students writing tests in unproctored environments will have all possible resources at their disposal.
  • Assess using several formats that test critical understanding and application of course material such as discussion, projects, papers, etc.
  • Assess frequently to offer regular opportunities for feedback and to make it difficult for students to arrange for another to complete tests on their behalf.
  • Randomize question assignment using large question banks, particularly in the case of multiple choice- or true/false-heavy tests.
  • Regularly revise assessment content.

When assigning projects:

  • Assume that collaboration will occur: find ways to integrate it effectively in course design, but be mindful that some students have enrolled in a distance courses specifically to avoid working in groups.
  • If appropriate, assign large projects in stages to provide an opportunity to determine the provenance of student work as it evolves and helps to avoid desperation caused by procrastination.

Further Resources

  • Respondus LockDown Browser and Respondus Monitor: The Respondus LockDown Browser prevents students from printing, going to another URL or accessing other applications while taking an exam. Respondus┬áMonitor records students via webcam while they take exams, for later review by the instructor.

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