As UVM has shifted to remote instruction, you may be concerned about an increase in academic dishonesty. The good news is, while misconceptions exist that claim students are more likely to cheat on online assignments and exams, recent research by Harris, et al. (2019) indicates that cheating is not more prevalent in online courses.

However, given the additional stress created by moving to remote instruction, it will be helpful to acknowledge students’ possible anxiety and also remind students of your expectations for academic integrity. Focus your attention on discussing academic integrity, communicating your expectations, and designing engaging assignments, rather than spending time on ways to catch students cheating. RIT has a number of ideas for incorporating academic integrity topics into your classes.

Tips for Online Assessments

  • Consider having students “sign” an honor statement indicating they will not violate the Code of Academic Integrity. Dan Ariely, in his book The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty (2012), notes that moral reminders right before an assessment can help deter cheating. You could make the first question on your quiz or exam be the honor pledge phrase as a yes/no question. For example, you could ask, “Do you pledge that you will abide by the UVM Code of Academic Integrity and will not give or receive any help on this assignment?”
  • Make your assignment guidelines and expectations clear. Explicitly state what resources students can and cannot use to complete an assignment. For instance, state whether students can use their book for a quiz or whether they can ask questions of other people.
  • Consider making quizzes and tests open book, or create a more complex question or assignment and encourage collaboration among students.
  • If you allow assignments to be “open book, open notes,” be sure to explicitly state your expectations including whether internet sources, work with other students, or information from other people is allowed. If you do allow information from outside resources or people, have students cite their sources and note with whom they worked on the assignment.
  • If you use UVM’s tools Respondus Lockdown Browser or Respondus Monitor to proctor online assessments, be sure to have students practice and experience the tools first in a low-stakes assignment before implementing the tools in a graded quiz or exam.
  • When administering quizzes through Blackboard, enable the settings to randomize questions, provide only one question at a time, and limit the amount of time allowed for each question (particularly for multiple choice questions). Also, be sure to not enable answers to questions until all students have completed the assessment.
  • If you use stock questions from a publisher, consider changing minor details such as numbers, factors, names of people, and the order of words to help reduce the ability to quickly google an answer.

Check out these great resources for faculty from the UVM Center for Teaching and Learning:

5 Tips on Revamping Tests and Assignments for Remote Instruction
Teaching Tips: Ideas for Remote Assignments
Communication during Remote Instruction
Assignments and Tests during Remote Instruction


Decrease Academic Dishonesty, Increase Deep Learning

In his book Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty (2013), James Lang outlines four conditions that deter cheating, while also increasing deep learning:

  1. An intrinsic motivation for success
    Foster a sense of intrinsic motivation by creating assignments that help students invest in the material by connecting the assignment to current events, the local community, students’ personal experiences, or previous courses taken by students. This makes it less likely that students can find answers from other sources. Lang notes that research shows students are less likely to cheat when they are able to make personal connections to the material.
  2. Learning for mastery rather than performance
    Create multiple ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge, provide choice and control in assignments, and consider allowing multiple attempts on assessments such as quizzes. This lessens anxiety and reduces motivation for academic dishonesty.
  3. Lowered stakes on assessments
    Have multiple smaller assessments, rather than one large assessment that is worth a significant percentage of the grade. Including several assignments that each are worth smaller percentages of the overall course grade allows students multiple opportunities do demonstrate knowledge and increase their grades, and also reduces students’ anxiety about their grade.
  4. Students’ self-efficacy (high expectation of success)
    Allow students to “practice” with low-stakes, formative assessments before a higher-stakes, summative assessment. Also, be sure to use the same format (e.g., multiple choice questions or short answer) on the practice assessment as you will use for the summative assessment.


Academic Integrity Violations

If you suspect an academic integrity violation, follow-up with the student (over the phone, via email, or in Microsoft Teams) to let them know your concerns. Be transparent when talking with the student.

To gather more information about what happened and whether a violation may have occurred, ask about the student’s process for answering the question or completing the assignment, then follow-up with more specific questions related to your concerns.

Here are some possible prompts to invite an open dialogue:

  • Tell me about your process for completing the assignment/exam.
  • How was the assignment/exam for you? Did you feel prepared or was it difficult for you?
  • What resources did you use for the assignment/exam?
  • What areas of the assignment/exam were difficult for you? How can I help clarify for you?

Finally, if you anticipate filing a report, let the student know you will be submitting a referral form to the Center for Student Conduct and they can anticipate someone contacting them soon.

If you suspect a possible violation, submit an online academic integrity referral.

Additional information about the Academic Integrity process is available through the Center for Student Conduct.