October 31, 2018

Academic Integrity Online

Academic Integrity Online

As online instructors, we promote academic integrity online through our pedagogical practices, technical tools and through our institutional policies (e.g. honor code).

Tips for Promoting Academic Integrity in Online Courses

Tip 1 State the academic integrity policy in your syllabus and provide the link to The Mason Honor Code. Include course orientation activities to engage students with academic integrity policy and Honor Code.
Tip 2 Design your online course to reduce pressure to cheat; include self-assessments or low-stakes activities to test student understanding; pace the deadlines to keep student workload manageable; model academic integrity through your own postings and behavior.
Tip 3 Consider using a series of scaffolded assignments that build toward a final paper or project, as an alternative to midterm and final exams (i.e. objective tests) in your online course [Kelly, 2014].
Tip 4 Use plagiarism detection tools (such as Blackboard SafeAssign) to check originality reports on student submissions. For more information, contact ITS Learning Support Services by phone at 703-993-8870, email to courses@gmu.edu or by walking-in at Johnson Center 311 CLUB.


Use a Multi-Layered Approach for Academic Integrity

  • Design syllabus, course content, and assessments to stress the importance of academic honesty.
  • Communicate clearly and often with students during the course.
  • Monitor and track student work carefully.
  • Rework and revise your online course, including assignments, each semester.
  • Encourage students to take the Honor Code pledge.

Tools to Support Academic Integrity in Online Quizzes and Exams
At Mason, we have the following online proctoring tools available to all faculty:

Respondus Monitor: Records webcam audio and video of the student taking the test.

Respondus LockDown Browser: A custom web browser application that does not allow a student visit another website, access other applications on their computer, copy, or print while taking a test in Blackboard. For information about these tools, please contact Mason Blackboard Courses Support.


Technical Tips for Online Quizzes and Tests

Mason Courses Support recommends the following Test Options settings for Blackboard online quizzes and tests (“edit test options”).

  • Making the Test Available: If you set a day and time for the test to become available, you also must choose “Yes” for the “Make the Link Available” option.
  • Force Completion & Timer: It is recommended to set the Set Timer option without using Force Completion for Blackboard exams. With Timer, if the exam connection is broken, the student will be able to re-enter and continue taking the exam (all work will be saved). The timer will continue to countdown the time from the initial exam entry time.
  • Advice for Longer Tests (More than 60 Minutes): For security reasons, there is a 90-minute session “time out” for Blackboard exams. To make sure that student work on an exam is not lost due to a “time out”, please set Test Presentation Mode option to “One at a Time”.
  • Preview the Quiz or Test before Making Available to Students: Make sure to check the quiz or test using Preview or Student View.
  • Practice Test: Have your students complete a low-stakes/no-stakes practice test that uses Respondus Monitor and LockDown Browser to make sure they have the browser and webcam installed correctly.
  • Have a Plan for Students to Follow for Technical Issues During the Test: Make sure that your students know what to do if something goes wrong during the test. They should email you immediately to inform you about the problem, particularly if the exam needs to be reset.

Please Click Here to download a PDF containing Technical Tips for Students taking Online Exams.


Best Practices from Mason’s Online Faculty

What strategies do you use to promote academic integrity in your online course?

Contact Office of Academic Integrity
It is important to include a statement about Academic Integrity and the Mason Honor Code on your syllabus. Sample language can be found at our website (oai.gmu.edu).
Remember that all suspected incidents must be forwarded to the Office of Academic Integrity for review. However, it is up to the professor to determine if the issue is truly academic dishonesty or a “teachable moment”.
If an incident is reported during a time when grades are due, report a grade of “HC” in Patriot Web. If you have questions, feel free to consult with our office.

– Lashonda Anthony, Ph. D., Director, Academic Integrity

Talk about Source Integration

When instructors talk about academic integrity, it is helpful if they also talk about source integration.
Here are some questions for instructors to themselves and then discuss with students:

  • How did you learn to integrate sourced material in your writing?
  • What caused you to learn strategies for source integration?
  • What have been some of the effects of having learned to integrate sources?”

– Karyn Kessler, Ph. D., Associate Director, Curriculum and Instruction, Term Assistant Professor, ESL/Applied Linguistics, INTO Mason Global Center

Promote Academic Integrity through Course Design

In addition to the usual “policing” strategies, instructors can promote academic integrity through their course design. The goal is to reduce the incentive to cheat by promoting student motivation and engagement. Frequent low-stakes assessments ensure that students are making steady progress through the course and help students build confidence in their learning. Dropping the lowest exam grade and/or allowing them to make corrections for half-credit back reduces the pressure on students. Finally, small group or class discussions of “real world” issues build a sense of community that may further de-incentivize academic dishonesty.

– Jennifer Brielmaier, Ph. D., Assistant Professor, Psychology/Neuroscience (CHSS)


Additional Resources