The risk of academic dishonesty in the classroom is not unique to online learning; however, online instructors have a different tools and tactics to promote academic integrity in a virtual learning environment. Below, we provide some general recommendations and strategies for mitigating academic dishonesty in the online classroom and an overview of different levels of test security, featuring popular proctoring services such as Examity, Respondus LockDown Browser, and ProctorU.
Level I: General Best Practices
Prior to investing in a proctoring service or application, there are several design strategies that provide a foundation for academic integrity in the online classroom. These best practices should be applied to courses and course content in addition to proctoring services or applications if they are used.
Clearly articulate university academic dishonesty policies and explicitly detail consequences of violations. Post standards at the beginning of the program, in the Student Orientation, and in each course.
- Attestation Statement: Include an Attestation Statement in the Student Orientation or at the beginning of each course. Have students agree that they understand and will uphold academic honesty policies.
- Quiz: Including a short quiz in the first course to reinforce academic dishonesty policies. This may be for a few grades or non-graded, but encouraged to ensure students understand the standards to which they will be held
- Mindfulness and Timing: In individual courses, reinforce mindfulness around academic honesty and encourage students to dedicate adequate time to each assignment. Often academic dishonesty occurs when people fail to adequately prepare.
- Types: Detail different types of academic dishonesty and how to avoid inadvertent violation of the standards. Not all students realize they are engaging in academic dishonesty. Types identified by Hendy, Montargot, and Papadimitriou (2021) include:
- Paraphrasing material without acknowledging the source
- Inventing data (e.g., entered non-existent results into a database)
- Allowing one’s own coursework to be copied by another student
- Fabricating references
- Altering data (e.g., adjusting data to obtain a significant result)
- Turning in someone else’s answers for an assignment or homework exercise
- Completing another student’s coursework for him or her
- Coping from a neighbor during an examination
- Lying about medical or other circumstances to get an extended deadline or exemption
- Taking unauthorized materials into an exam (e.g., a note sheet)
- Submitting a class project or term paper obtained from an outside source (e.g., friends, Internet)
- Includes materials purchased from such sources
- Taking an exam for someone else
- Having someone else take an exam for you
- Illegally gaining advance information about exam content
- Signing for someone on the attendance sheet or having someone sign for you
- Turning in the same paper for two classes without instructor approval
Construct and follow policies for online students that mirror your on-campus policies. When possible, link to these policies in all course materials and orientations.
Overall Assessment Strategy
Consider using open-ended authentic assessment strategies (such as project-based assignments). These tend to improve student learning, align better to course outcomes, and decrease cheating. Overall, such assignments make it easier to detect changes in voice or style of work that can suggest some level of cheating.
Create written assignments assuming students will open their books and the internet.
- Team-based Assignments: Can help mitigate academic dishonesty (depending on how they are developed), as students need to work together to produce one larger deliverable. Academic dishonesty can be further decreased by informing the group that if one part of the assignment is found to be plagiarized, they are all responsible. Peer influence can be very powerful. Encourage teams to submit all assignments through plagiarism checkers.
- Follow-Ups: If you have any doubts about a student’s academic honesty, check-in with the student. Faculty can always conduct one-on-one conversations with suspect students via virtual software.
- Avoid high stakes testing: Multiple assessments should determine the outcome of a course. At the same time, avoid too many evaluation methods.
Level II: Quiz and Exam Best Practices
Development of an ideal quiz and/or exam achieves two ends: student evaluation and maintenance of academic integrity. Before considering the question format, consider if quiz/exam is the ideal method of assessment for the aligned objectives. Typically, most quizzes/exams measure lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (knowledge and comprehension) while most course objectives require assessment at higher levels (analyzing, evaluating and synthesizing). Consider your course objectives as authentic assessment types may better align to those higher in the cognitive realm.
Quizzes and exams are evaluations completed in the Learning Management System (LMS). While question types vary by LMS, it is still recommended to use a variety of question types to increase cheating difficulty for students and increase Bloom’s difficulty level. Question types include:
- True/False: Easiest type of question. Use sparingly.
- Multiple Choice: Most common question type. Ensure all answers are the same length and one does not clearly stand out.
- Fill in the Blank: Avoid extremely complex or technical words and phrases. Spelling errors can count an answer as incorrect for students.
- Fill in Multiple Blanks: Avoid extremely complex or technical words and phrases. Spelling errors can count an answer as incorrect for students.
- Multiple Answer: A correct grade is only provided if all correct answers selected and no incorrect answers selected.
- Multiple Dropdowns: Can include more complex words as spelling is not an issue.
- Matching: A correct grade is only provided if all correct answers matched and no incorrect answers matched. May include detractors.
- Numerical: Recommended for formula questions and answers.
- Formula Question: Used when the formula itself is important.
- Short Answer or Essay: Not auto-graded and must be graded by the faculty member. We recommend providing a rubric to students when offering short answer or essay questions.
Use these best practices for assessments to make it more difficult for students to share item and answer data.
- Assessment Detail: Provide students with a clear detail regarding all the rules of the tests at the beginning of the course.
- Question Banks: Develop more questions than is needed for each quiz/exam and gather questions into large banks. This allows for question randomization across LMSs.
- Use different assessment banks each time the course runs and/or add more questions each time, so you develop an extremely large bank of questions.
- Select a random number of questions from the bank for each student. The more questions in the bank, the lower the likelihood that two students will see the same questions.
- Randomize: Randomize question and answer choices for each question so that questions and answers appear in different orders for different students.
- Time Limits: Give students a time limit for assessments. Allow only “enough” time for students to complete all questions without looking up answers or conferring with others.
- Recommended to give no more than 1 minute per question for basic question types.
- Set the assessment to automatically save and submit answers at the end of the time limit.
- Have the assessment accessible only for a specific amount of time (for example, opens on a Thursday, closes on a Sunday).
- One Question: Show only 1 question at a time and lock questions after answering.
- Most certification exams do this, so it is a good choice for exams that prepare students for certification.
- This prevents students from skipping over the hard questions, completing the easier ones, then looking up the hard ones with the time they have left.
- Attempts: Allow only 1 attempt for high-stakes assessments. Lower-stakes quizzes and exams may have more attempts if they are available for practice.
- Scores and Correct Answers: Do not release student scores until every student within the course has completed the assessment.
- Do not release correct answers to the questions. In order to provide some measure of personalized feedback to students on their performance consider providing students their final score and then provide feedback to the entire class regarding most frequent errors.
Respondus Lockdown Browser
Respondus Lockdown Browser is used by many AP partner universities to increase exam security. Respondus Lockdown Browser prevents students from exiting their browser window during their exam. Students are not able to use other computer applications, use the copy and paste function on their computers, or open additional screens.
Leverage LMS Data
You can use LMS data to evaluate student time-on-task in exams. Routinely review your students’ start and end times for exams to identify anyone who takes an unusually short time to complete an exam.
Level III: Authentication and Proctoring Services
In addition to utilizing strategies to promote academic honesty throughout course and quiz design, additional cloud-based applications are available to provide either (1) Identity Authentication to confirm the identity of the student completing the assessment or (2) Live Proctoring which provides “eyes-on” proctoring to ensure that the student completing the assessment is not seeking or receiving additional assistance.
Identify Verification (Examity, Proctorio, ProctorU)
Identity authentication and verification services help a university ensure the student completing an assessment is the same individual accepted into the program and receiving credit in the form of a credential. Typically, in an identity verification session, the student, via webcam, will show an official ID to demonstrate the match between the official ID and the student. Depending on the platform, students may also be asked to provide additional unique identifiers that can be used to later verify identity.
- Students may be asked for answers to several personal questions. These questions are then delivered back to students randomly during an exam to ensure the original, authenticated student was still taking the exam.
- The platform may record a sample of the student’s typing, as keystroke biometrics provide a pattern as distinctive as a fingerprint.
- The platform may detect and record key facial characteristics, in order to check against these characteristics in a later exam session.
- Identity authentication and verification can be done by a live person or done in a self-service approach, where the information is recorded in order to be available if a case merits investigation.
Some universities may choose to deploy identify authentication on its own or in conjunction with another monitoring technique, such as browser lockdown or invigilation (proctoring).
Live Proctoring (Examity, ProctorU, HonorLock, Proctorio)
Proctored assessments are the most advanced way to secure academic honesty in an online course. Quite simply, proctoring means that a student is observed or recorded (typically via webcam and microphone) during an assessment. This proctoring can reduce the risk that student is receiving outside or unauthorized assistance. Proctoring is often used in conjunction with identify authentication, a service that checks the identity of the student taking the assessment.
Proctoring can be a costly solution; however, proctoring companies typically provide tiers of proctoring services that may include the following:
- Sessions are recorded to be viewed later by a proctor or spot-checked for instances of academic dishonesty. Some platforms are able to automatically unusual or suspicious activity or movements that is associated with cheating.
- Spot-checking within a proctored session, rather than continuous invigilation.
- Live proctors may continuously monitor students while they are participating in the assessment. This invigilation is typically the most expensive option.
As a best practice, universities should seek to adopt a solution that is easy for faculty and students to use and does not go against any departmental or university policies place regarding student or course fees. Programs may also want to work together as a department or institution to create a set of rules and expectations for students using proctoring services.
Hendy, N. T., Montargot, N., & Papadimitriou, A. (2021). Cultural differences in academic dishonesty: A social learning perspective. Journal of Academic Ethics, 19, 49–70. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-021-09391-8
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