Academic Integrity in Online Learning

There are many reasons why academic cheating occurs. Cheating in a course typically occurs in contexts where the rewards are extrinsic. For example, a student needs a good grade to stay on their soccer team. Other common reasons include desire for a better grade, pressure from family, and fear of failure, to name a few (Chiesel, 2009)

One of the first concerns that I hear from online faculty is the idea that cheating is more prevalent in the online class.  McGee (2013) claims that there is little evidence to support this, and in fact reports that there is evidence that less cheating occurs.

My response to online faculty is typically the same; it’s all in the design. You want academic integrity, you must create it! Easier said than done, so let’s look at some specific strategies that can encourage academic integrity in the online environment (as well as in the face-to-face, because if you think your students don’t cheat in the face-to-face classroom, you might want to pinch yourself).

  1. Set clear expectations at the beginning. Include a policy in the syllabus, a statement in the course ground rules, and point to them in your course introduction/overview all with reference to solid reasons why it is important to be honest.
  2. Quiz students on course expectations. Add a first-week quiz that includes questions about academic integrity and/or an academic integrity pledge that they must read and submit.
  3. Define “cheating” with examples.  Students today use the internet for everything. Provide them with specific examples of what is considered ‘cheating’/academic dishonesty.
  4. Build community. Community is another critical component of any classroom.  Use the concept of academic integrity to build community by asking students to discuss it in a forum, journal their thoughts/experiences, respond to each other’s ideas, and always provide instructor presence to guide the conversation and dispel any misconceptions.
  5. Provide rubrics for all assignments.  This is not only good in support of academic integrity, but also good practice in general.  This sets clear expectations of what the student is required to do and any associated points.  They are also invaluable when grading!
  6. Provide opportunities for authentic assessment.  This is key. Rather than heavy use of traditional assessment (i.e.: multiple choice/true-false exams), provide learning opportunities that not require students to think critically, but also to offer personal perspective and experience that supports or ties into concepts.  For example, instead of a mid-term exam, why not a student-generated presentation that requires a student to pull in various course concepts into a concise virtual presentation on a topic of their choice (that relates to the course).
  7. Put guidelines on traditional assessments. When using multiple choice/true-false/short answer type assessments, utilize:
  • time limits – i.e.: 5 minutes for 10 question quiz.
  • random and shuffled questions from a question bank*
  • shuffled answers
  • open and close time of exam

* Be wary of question banks. The size of the question bank must be fairly large in order to make less of an overlap of questions among students. For example. If a 10-question quiz pulls from a question bank of 20 questions, two students will have 5 (half) of the questions in common (Rowe 2004).

cheating by Sean MacEntee, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licenseimage  by  Sean MacEntee 




Addressing Academic Dishonesty in the Age of Ubiquitous Technology

Best Practice Strategies To Promote Academic Integrity in Online Education

Designing Online Courses to Discourage Dishonesty

Creating a Climate of Academic Integrity on Campus

Cheating in Online Student Assessment: Beyond Plagiarism



Chiesel, N. (2009). Pragmatic methods to reduce dishonesty in web-based courses. In A. Orellana, T.L. Anderson, & M. r. Simonson (Eds.).The perfect online course: Best practices for designing and teaching (pp. 327-399). Information Age Publishing.

McGhee, P, (2013) Supporting Academic Honesty in Online Courses. The University of Texas at San Antonio.



Facilitating Your First Online Course

Whew, the development is complete and now the online course begins…

Where do you start?

One of the first places I begin is with the Facilitation Record. This is a handy record of things that you need to do and when to do them, as well as notes about what you may want to change for the next time you offer this course.

Some key things to remember during the first week:

  • The Welcome Email.  Send out a Welcome email about 7-10 days before the course begins. This is a great way to introduce yourself to your students and give them important information to get started in the course, including technical requirements, access, and any required materials.
  • Create/Select Teams. The very first week is a key time to create (or have your students select) their semester teams.  Students will need a lot of encouragement and structure in building successful teams. Take a look at Tips for Successful Groups for more detail.
  • Introduction/Icebreaker Activity.  Be sure to include some type of icebreaker the first week so that students begin to build community.  This can be a simple discussion forum or even a short intro video shared with class in a web-based tool like Animoto or YouTube. It is important to introduce yourself to your students in this activity also. Respond to each student’s introduction, even if brief. Building community is key at the beginning and this sets the tone for the rest of the class. You likely won’t be as ‘active’ in further discussion forums, but the intro forum is critical.
  • Check Student Log-ins.  In an 8-week online course, it is important to stay connected to students to be sure they are staying on task.  The first week is critical. After day three, I typically check the log-ins to see who has not logged in yet. I send a personal email (can be a template you send to each) to each individual student letting them know that I have noticed that they have not logged in and should get started ASAP. By the end of week 1, I notify any students who have not logged in that they will be manually dropped from the course if they don’t log in by specified date. I also check the student log-ins periodically throughout the term to ensure that no more than 48 hours has gone by since their last log-in.
  • Introduce the First Topic. The first week is often filled with learning how to navigate the course and what is expected. Introducing the overall course focus and how/where it can connect to students individually can really shape the rest of the course for students.  It may be helpful to have a short video (3-5 minutes) where student hear your voice and even see you to make connections.  This is also a great space to talk about the expectations of the course

sample of facilitation record

The following would further support the above Best Practices:


Co-Teaching Opportunities

Co-teaching is all about building relationships and sharing practices and knowledge.

A few years ago, when I was taking my final course in the Certificate for Faculty Preparation Program, I had the unique opportunity to work with my mentor professor in not only a mentor/mentee capacity but also a co-teaching arrangement due to some unforeseen circumstances.  Although I had been teaching for sometime, and co-facilitating workshops/training for years, this was the first opportunity I had to co-teach in a semester-long class. It was invaluable!  I learned more from working with my mentor in the actual classroom than I did in any research and/or trainings I had experienced before.

When the opportunity arose for another co-teaching experience, I jumped on it! Co-teaching with Jill in Education 580 has offered me so many valuable “tools’ to add to my teaching toolkit.  We began by working on course development and sharing our various perspectives in the set up of the fully online course. We shared strategies in building community and maintaining presence in the course, while allowing students to connect with one another.  Our work together also offered many “bonuses”. We both teach in Communication so shared everything from lesson plans to ‘lessons/experiences gone bad’. I feel like I was rejuvenated with new ideas to add to my own classroom/teaching. We also both lean toward the hybrid classroom model and were able to project this in this course. We continued to build our relationship and trust in each other, rather than the competitiveness and ownership that tends to exist in teaching.  We went through the process of constructing new knowledge together in this learning journey, which in essence, was what we were asking our students to do. This was magical.

If I ever have the opportunity to co-teach again, I will jump at it!  Thank you Jill, for all the experience and insight you brought to our experience.

Welcome to EDUC 580 from Kim and Jill


Six Steps to Successful Co-Teaching

The Last Day

The last day of class always brings this sense of letting go of a big breath of air that has been held in, and yet it is ever bittersweet at the same time.

So many emotions and thoughts about where we’ve been and where we are headed next.  I put a lot of emphasis into the last day of class simply because I hope to provide a reflective experience for my students as they move on from this class.  How can that be done most effectively?

last days of summer 090 by khumana, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  image by  khumana 

A few strategies I use are:

  • Final “exit” survey – this is a two-sided sheet with about 10-12 questions that ask students questions such as:
  • what were the three most important ideas/concepts/skills that you learned?
  • what helped you learn?
  • would you recommend this class to a close friend? why?
  • please write some words for a future student in this class
  • Class awards – students really enjoy these!  Awards can include anything from ‘most improved’ to ‘best listener’.
  • Concept map brainstorm – I bring a list of all the topics we learned throughout the course and students discuss how they are all connected. What did students learn? What was challenging? How will they use it in the future?
  • Group topics – similar to the concept map brainstorm, I will put students in their teams (these are the same teams they have had all semester) and give each team a course topic. They will take their assigned topic and describe what they learned and how they can apply it in the future.
  • Potluck celebration – I always ask the class if they want to include a party on the last day. Not once have students declined!  This semester they want to have a potluck dance party; let’s see how the classes down the hall take this 😉
  • Speech 1 through Speech 4 – in my public speaking class, I ask student teams to discuss the major assignments in the class in relation to what they’ve learned. Specifically, they look at what they did well with each, and what was most challenging.

No matter what strategy you use, this is an opportunity to not only reflect and wrap-up the class as it comes to a close, but also send the message to your students that the journey is not over. And really, it is never over because learning is continuous.


The Last Class: A Critical Course Component

Cool PowerPoint Tricks: Write on Your Slides During your Presentation

write on PPT slides!

Train Like A Champion

Sometimes you want to capture the audience’s responses in writing for all to see, but using flipchart just isn’t practical. Like in a room of 200 people. Or on a webinar. Or when you’re presenting in a place where it’s considered uncouth to come out from behind the podium.

Here is one simple way to turn a projector screen and an LCD projector into a giant piece of flipchart paper:

1. Open PowerPoint and start a new file (or go to the slide on which you’d like to capture responses in writing).

2. Click on the Developer tab


3. Select the Text Box (from the Controls menu)


4. Insert a Text Box where you’d like to record comments and/or write on your slide


That’s it. When you go to Presentation mode and come to this slide, you can ask your audience for their thoughts and type everything they say in this box, on the…

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