Building Academic Integrity into Your Course

In the Center for Teaching and Learning, we often get questions around how to prevent cheating or how to catch students suspected of cheating. The best way to encourage students to take your class with academic integrity is to design it into your course from the beginning.

Focus on Low-stakes Assessment Approach

One of the best ways to remove the urge to cheat is to remove the factors that cause students to feel that cheating is the best solution to pass. Often students decide to cheat when they are feeling underprepared, overwhelmed, or know that this is their one chance to improve their grade. For classes that focus exclusively on assessment using a midterm and a final, all of the pressure is on these two activities. Instead, provide frequent low-stakes assessments throughout the course. Students have a better confirmation of what they learned closer to when they should have learned it. You have a better understanding of what the students did learn and can adjust your teaching accordingly. There is also an opportunity for a student to not do well on one activity, learn from it, then do better next time, and not significantly impact their grade. Use a mix of low-stakes assessments, such as:

  • Simple “check-your-knowledge” quizzes using the myCourses Quiz tool. Questions can be set to provide question-level feedback and an immediate automatic grade.
  • Brief written assignments, blogs, projects, or study guide summaries where students synthesize material.
  • Activities that focus on the process and emphasize practice.
  • Discussion forums with “apply-level” prompts where students synthesize their “remember-level” learning into a response. Students engage with other students to display conceptual understanding.
  • Students build a study guide or a user's guide to a particular topic. They may do so in Google Drive or another collaboratively authored space.

Develop a grading scheme that corresponds to the amount of work required or expected for each activity; if online discussion takes up 20% of the students’ time, it should be worth 20% of the final grade.

Academic Integrity Culture Approach

A more holistic approach is to foster a culture of academic integrity in the course. At the beginning of the course, facilitate a dialogue on why academic integrity matters, what academic integrity looks in that discipline, and what is expected of the students. Then reinforce that message throughout the course. By doing this, you promote mutual trust and respect, and encourage students to be accountable for their own actions.

Some topics to focus on:

  • Be clear when students should collaborate or not collaborate. Also discuss why it is important for students to work on their own in certain situations.
  • Discuss the appropriate use of resources for different contexts (e.g. reference sheets, use of Gitlab in work versus school).
  • Discuss the value of intellectual property and authorship, especially as it exists in the current digital culture and sharing culture.
  • Explain the meaning behind assignments, for example, what skills or knowledge the students should gain by doing the assignment. If students feel like assignments are meaningful to them and are not busywork, they may feel less likely to cheat to just get an assignment over with.
  • Have students collaborate on a class honor code. The honor code will have more meaning to students if they are involved in creating it. You can include this class honor code in assignment or exam instructions as a reminder. Students can be asked to sign off that they followed the class honor code when submitting their assignment or starting their exam.
  • Review Turnitin's "Starting the Year: How to Establish a Culture of Academic Integrity" for additional ideas.

Approaches for Quiz/Exam Assessments in the myCourses Quiz Tool

If using short, low-stakes quizzes, these approaches may not be necessary. If the learning objectives support giving a larger exam or for disciplines that use exams for credentialing, you may use some of the following approaches in myCourses:

Use Question Pools

A question pool or a question bank allows you to easily give different versions of an exam to different students.

  • Build 1.5 times or double the amount of questions you intend to assign so that students receive different enough exams.
  • Have separate pools for multiple choice and short answer questions so you can give each student a consistent number of each question type. You can also pool by topic.
  • Update your pool after a few uses or rotate questions in and out of the pools. This helps defeat those who copy exams and share or sell them.
  • Avoid using exclusively question banks from publishers. There are websites that offer answers to publisher question banks.

Tutorials for building a question library and inserting random questions into a quiz from pools.

Use Randomization Features

  • You can randomize the order of the questions on a page and the order of the answers within a question.
  • Do not randomize the order of the answers for questions with “all of the above” or ”none of the above” choices.

Adjust Your Questions To Be Open Book

Revise the exam to be intentionally open book (i.e. any reference material allowed). Open book questions require students to synthesize ideas and demonstrate thought processes.

  • Use a case study or base the question on an example. The students can't simply look to course materials to find the answer.
  • Pair some multiple choice questions with an "explain your answer" open-ended question. This forces students to explain why they know what they know.
  • Use some open-ended questions where there is no one right answer. Students provide a written response. Note that these types of questions are more time-intensive for students to work on and take longer for you to grade.

Limit Time in the Exam

Add a time limit to the exam so students do not have time to look up every answer. The time allotment should be based on the number of questions and type of questions. If possible, use average completion times from past uses of the exam to guide the time allotment. You may need to err on the side of providing more time to help reduce test anxiety.

  • For students with extended test time accommodations, use the Accommodations feature in the myCourses Classlist to provide this extended time. Consult the students' Disability Services Agreements for their specific accommodated test parameters (e.g., 1.5x extended time or 2.0x extended time).
  • Never use the "Allow the student to continue working, but automatically score the attempt as zero after an extended deadline" setting. Pick one of the other options instead.
  • Explain to students that your expectation is that the exam will fairly demonstrate what they have learned and that the exam is time-limited. If the time is spent thinking about answers and answering questions, then there will be plenty of time to complete the exam. If the time is spent looking up answers, then you’ll likely run out of time.

Other Exam Design Strategies

  • Reveal only one question at a time to make it difficult for students to take screen captures of questions.
  • Split a long exam into a couple shorter exams so students can take a break in between. Exams that last multiple hours can exhaust students.
  • For higher-stakes exams, customize the page the students receive after submitting their exam to delay revealing correct answers until the exam-taking window is over.
    • For short, low-stakes quizzes, it is better for students to see the correct answers sooner with feedback for why the correct answer is correct. This helps students return to the learning materials to refresh their understanding and improve for next time.

Review the Quiz Event Logs

View the Quiz Event Log if you notice concerning things such as students with too similar written answers, or a student who writes or performs differently than they historically have throughout the course. The Quiz Event Log can provide context around when the student completed parts of the exam. Questions answered too quickly in succession may mean a student is copy/pasting from somewhere. Students with the same start and end times may be working together. After collecting information, have an open, private conversation with each student about what you noticed.