Academic Integrity in Online Learning Environments

As GW moves to online learning environments during this instructional continuity period, we offer the following guidance about academic integrity in online learning environments. We know many of our students, instructors, and faculty have navigated this before, so we also invite you to email [email protected] with any suggestions or resources, and we can continue to share those here. Those teaching may also find it helpful to review the Faculty Guide to Academic Integrity, which includes sample syllabus language and information on how to report potential violations.

  1. Remind students that the Code of Academic Integrity still applies, as it always has.  As is best practice in any learning environment, be specific about what this means in your learning environment and subject area.  Remember that our students come from diverse learning and professional backgrounds, and your leadership is integral to being sure your learning community has a shared understanding.  You can use the Student Guide to Academic Integrity as a resource for students.
  2. One suggestions is to add an Academic Integrity tab to the top of your Blackboard page. This will keep academic integrity on the forefront of student's minds. The tab can include the Code of Academic Integrity, or any salient points that you would like your students to remember during this time.
  3. As you begin any new teaching format, openly invite clarifying questions about how and if collaboration and resource-sharing expectations might change given these changes in the learning environment. If you are able, meeting with students individually via video chat for a quick check in allows them to connect with you and feel supported in asking questions during this time. If you and your students are changing to an online format, this will be a developing process for everyone, so continue to invite questions as you and students adapt. As you do this, be mindful and inclusive of Disability Support Services (DSS) accommodations and varied internet accessibility.  You could say, for example, “The project that I had previously envisioned being a group project can now be done individually, and I will outline the requirements. If you need further modifications for DSS accommodations or limited internet access, please let me know that.”
  4. Students should continue to use the Writing Center’s online resources, which provide excellent information about plagiarism, writing processes, and other essential steps in maintaining academic integrity. Be clear about citation expectations: “For this assignment, you need to attribute any quotations that you use within the paper. Please see [insert example that you select].”
  5. Design assignments that require students to do the work independently of their peers, as this will also support varied internet access. Make the first question a validation of the student's understanding on the Academic Integrity Code, and have them indicate that they will uphold the Code during their assignment. When assigning an online quiz or test, you can often randomize the order of questions or multiple choice options, making it harder to cheat. Likewise, assignments or assessments designed with more than one correct answer and where students must demonstrate reasoning also promote academic integrity, as well as more real-world thinking. Consider open note/book exams with a large question bank (say a 5 question test with 30 questions). That way everyone can easily receive a different test. This article provides more detail on how to accomplish this.
  6. Consider how much time you allot for assignments. Be sure students have enough time to meaningfully do the work, without time to compare answers. As noted before, be inclusive of students with varied internet access and students with DSS accommodations.
  7. Consider varied to ways for students to participate, including inviting students to disclose what technology and time are available to them. Internet access may be varied among your students and they may be sharing home space with a variety of family members, so polling software or vocal participation may create challenges. Find creative and multiple platforms for them to engage, including email, surveys, and formative assessments as the course progresses. This promotes integrity as well as better knowledge acquisition and your ongoing assessment of their learning.
  8. Consider designing a Code of Ethics together as a class. Allowing students to help determine what they think is fair for their learning will increase their investment in the process. Students will also feel empowered during this process to ask questions about expectations that you have of them.

If you’re not familiar with technology that increases assurances for online integrity, this website from The Ohio State University provides a useful overview.

If you have questions or concerns about a student’s academic integrity, review our faculty guide for Academic Integrity.

We appreciatively acknowledge International Center for Academic IntegrityOhio State UniversityUC San Diego, and West Virginia University, as their resources contributed to this work.