Preventing Academic Integrity Violations in a Remote Environment
– a Resource for Rutgers–New Brunswick Faculty
Resources for Faculty
While the incentive to cheat exists, establishing a culture and expectation in higher education around the purpose of testing and assessment that incorporates the impact of academic dishonesty is imperative. Acquisition of knowledge is the goal; college is not simply a transactional experience. Instructors must openly communicate to students about when and how learning happens, so they take ownership of their education.
- Online/Remote Course Design
While some resources are hosted by different schools, the information presented is relevant across schools. Rutgers has a number of resources available to help instructors with designing courses in the remote environment.
- Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT)
- Instructional Design: TLT can assist with designing courses to be online. Website includes video tutorials for assorted online teaching tools.
- Training Opportunities: Information about resources to support faculty teaching, including workshops, webinars, video tutorials, how-to and self-help webpages.
- School of Arts and Sciences Office of Undergraduate Education
- Teaching and Learning team offers a variety of workshops, trainings and other events related to remote teaching. They also provide useful online resources through the Keep Teaching: Continuity of Instruction webpage, including Strategies for Remote Instruction and Tools and Documentation.
- Teaching Checklist (PDF): Lots of tips to help faculty prepare to teach online including examples and lots of detailed information; how to use an LMS (Sakai, Canvas); how to use Gradebook; and pedagogical suggestions.
- Asynchronous Engagement: Tips for providing flexibility without losing student engagement, and advice on forging connections in an asynchronous course and for making your online class more accessible.
- Rutgers IT Remote Instruction Knowledge Base provides information on planning remote instruction and the importance of communication with your students.
- How to Use Zoom in an Online Class: Excellent video tutorial on using Zoom in your online class for giving exams online.
- Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT)
- Providing Accommodations Remotely
Preventing & Detecting Academic Dishonesty
- Assessment Design
An important strategic consideration in designing trustworthy assessments is to reduce the value of sharing answers and using unauthorized material.
- Remote Exams: Good advice on how to write an exam that will be given online, information about proctored exams, and alternatives to proctored exams
- How to write an exam that is resistant to online answer-sharing: watch a video or read a PDF
- Indiana University of Bloomington resources
- University of Maryland resources
- Consider making assessments frequent and low stakes, keeping in mind that students have other classes that will be doing the same thing. We don't want students to be overwhelmed by continuous assessments across their classes.
- Consider making exams open book and open notes.
- Questions should be designed to be difficult to look up on the internet.
- For STEM classes, this often means asking students to explain things rather than to calculate things (e.g., "explain what 2^5 means" instead of "calculate the value of 2^5").
- For liberal arts and humanities, it often means asking for analysis rather than basic facts (e.g., "Explain how performing on radio would prevent some of the staging difficulties in a production of Peer Gynt" instead of "Name three plays by Henrik Ibsen").
- Use many different versions of each question to complicate sharing of answers.
- Include an honor pledge question on online assessments, listed as True/False.
- Consider writing questions that are specific to the way you have taught the material, so that assistance from outside sources is unlikely to be helpful.
- If giving a long exam, consider breaking it into smaller timed chunks, with students not allowed to return to a section, once completed.
- Include deeply embedded notices stating that your material is copyrighted and is part of an exam; these notices make it more difficult for students to share the questions on public web sites.
- Include unusual terms in your questions. Such terms make it easier to find the material online in case deterrence efforts fail and you must resort to the discipline process.
- Giving more, lower value quizzes can address many of the concerns instructors have with cheating. Another exam strategy is to pull a random set of question from a large pool of questions. This "pool" strategy is available in Sakai and Canvas. Said differently, a different assessment strategy might be more effective than a technology solution.
- Syllabus Design
While we know that most students don't cheat or violate academic integrity knowingly, we recommend using the suggested language below, as appropriate for your course, to promote a culture of highest academic integrity. Making a video and posting it on your course LMS has also been shown to be a useful tool in promoting academic integrity. It's important that academic integrity is prominent on your LMS. It has also been proven effective to reemphasize your stance on academic integrity throughout the course in a positive discourse with the students.
Inform students that they will need to sign the Rutgers Honor Pledge on every major exam assignment as follows. For online assessments, you can pose the honor pledge as a true/false statement:
The Rutgers honor pledge will be included on all (major) assessments for you to sign (or as a True/False statement for certain online assessments):
On my honor, I have neither received nor given any unauthorized assistance on this examination (assignment).
Protecting Intellectual Property of Students and Instructors
Many students do not realize that they infringe on the intellectual property rights of instructors or fellow students. Below is suggested language to include to deter such practices.
Almost all original work is the intellectual property of its authors. These works may include syllabi, lecture slides, recorded lectures, homework problems, exams, and other materials, in either printed or electronic form. The authors may hold copyrights in these works, which are protected by U.S. statutes. Copying this work or posting it online without the permission of the author may violate the author's rights. More importantly, these works are the product of the author's efforts; respect for these efforts and for the author's intellectual property rights is an important value that members of the university community take seriously.
For more instructions on copyright protections at Rutgers University, please refer to the Rutgers University Libraries.
Netiquette (Network Etiquette)TLT has an excellent module on netiquette or network etiquette, the do's and don'ts of online communication. Below is suggested language on netiquette to include on a syllabus shared by the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology:
Be Respectful – Be very mindful that all your communications with the course lecturer, recitation instructor, peer instructors (learning assistants or teaching interns) and fellow classmates is respectful and does not border on being disrespectful, discourteous, inappropriate or abusive. If you encounter any disrespectful behavior from your fellow course participants, please let your instructor know. We all understand that remote learning is unusual and can cause undue stress, but please understand that all of us are dealing this situation.
Allow Time for Responses to Queries – Please understand that the course instructors have many other responsibilities and the standard time to wait for a response is a full business day. While you may receive a response sooner, please allow a full day before contacting the instructor again with the same query. If similar queries are received from multiple students, an announcement will be posted on Canvas.
Be Professional – Coursework is more than learning facts; is a professional activity. Your conduct in this course should reflect this. Your communication should follow standard rules for grammar and spelling (unless in an online chat) and be clear, concise, courteous, and to the point.
- Promoting a Culture of Academic Integrity
Below are suggested paragraphs to include to promote a culture of academic integrity. The recommended options that follow help ensure that students are aware of the academic integrity policy and that those who violate it will be held accountable.
Option from the Office of Student Conduct
Rutgers University takes academic dishonesty very seriously. By enrolling in this course, you assume responsibility for familiarizing yourself with the Academic Integrity Policy and the possible penalties (including suspension and expulsion) for violating the policy. As per the policy, all suspected violations will be reported to the Office of Student Conduct. Academic dishonesty includes (but is not limited to):
- Aiding others in committing a violation or allowing others to use your work
- Failure to cite sources correctly
- Using another person's ideas or words without attribution–reusing a previous assignment
- Unauthorized collaboration
- Sabotaging another student's work in doubt, please consult the instructor
Please review the Academic Integrity Policy.
Students are expected to maintain the highest level of academic integrity. You should be familiar with the university policy on academic integrity. Violations will be reported and enforced according to this policy.
Use of external website resources such as Chegg.com or others to obtain solutions to homework assignments, quizzes, or exams is cheating and a violation of the University Academic Integrity Policy. Cheating in the course may result in grade penalties, disciplinary sanctions or educational sanctions. Posting homework assignments, or exams, to external sites without the instructor's permission may be a violation of copyright and may constitute the facilitation of dishonesty, which may result in the same penalties as plain cheating.
Using an Honor Code as a Moral Reminder
Rutgers Associate Dean Marc D. Weiner created a white paper on December 13, 2020, entitled Using an Honor Code as a Moral Reminder (PDF). Selections of this paper are included below:
This white paper is mainly an annotated reprint from two recent New York Times articles, both of which—from different angles—address this issue: Just How Dishonest are Most Students: Many are tempted to cheat, but honors codes are surprisingly effective in curbing the problem, Op-Ed, New York Times, Christian B. Miller, Nov. 13, 2020; The Ethicist, Column, New York Times, Magazine Section, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Nov. 17, 2020)
Part One: Addressing Cheating in the Online Context
To dissuade cheating, Wake Forest University Professor of Philosophy Christian Miller suggests...
...that a practice that has been used widely in other educational contexts be extended to the world of online testing: pledging one’s honor. Honor pledges not only are surprisingly effective in curbing cheating; they also promote honesty. Students who abide by them refrain from cheating not because they can’t, but because they choose not to.
Of course, for the Honor Code to be effective, it must be more than, as Dr. Miller describes, a
P.R. stunt for schools looking to burnish their image. Or administrative mandates that do not have buy-in from the faculty. Or just a formality, where students check a box on a form during first-year orientation and then never give it any thought for the rest of the year. [Indeed,] [e]mpirical research has repeatedly found that schools that are committed to honor codes have significantly reduced cheating rates compared with schools that are not.
At this moment, however—going into finals of Fall Semester 2020—providing immediate prescriptions is more useful than opening a conversation on broader institutional dynamics. To be sure, I intend to raise,in the appropriate venue, the broader question of institutional commitment. For now, however, I turn to Kwame Anthony Appiah’s New York Times column, The Ethicist, to provide a rough-and-ready on-the-ground intellectual foundation for the use of an Honor Code or Pledge.
Part Two: In the Short Term: Invoking a Higher Moral Sensibility
After calling for the obvious—"to design a test that makes cheating harder”—Dr. Appiah picksup on Dr. Miller’s thread and writes, simply, that “sometimes reminding people of moral ideas can get them to live up to them.” He further provides three basic philosophical perspectives for the simple notion. For future semesters, you may wish to consider embedding this part of the discussion directly in a course syllabus section on Academic Integrity to inculcate your students with the honesty imperative from the outset of the course. For now, however, they are offered as substantive justifications for taking the time to implement an Honor Code or Pledge. In plain terms, we’re talking about “character, trust, and consequences.” In more philosophical terms, the approaches are(1) considerations of character, or “virtue ethics”; (2) trust writ large, or deontologism, i.e., the obligation or duty of position without regard to consequences; and (3) consequentialism, in the form of outcome analysis, simply put, the cost of getting caught. Prof. Appiah deconstructs each of the three:
First, there are considerations of character: Dishonesty is a vice. So is intellectual laziness, which can make cheating appealing as a substitute for effort, and so is the vanity that may make you seek a better grade than you deserve. You don’t want to be the kind of person who cheats.
Second, you have duties arising from your relationship with your teachers and your fellow students. It is a betrayal of the teacher’s trust if you try to pass off the work of others as your own or misrepresent your own level of comprehension. It’s disrespectful to your teachers, and of course, it’s unfair to fellow students who have kept to the rules, given that your work may be ranked higher than it ought to be.
Third, it is reckless, posing harm to you and your classmates. The penalties for plagiarism are severe and can include being expelled from the university. If your exam performance seems far better than your class contributions, your teachers will often recognize that. Lying when asked about it compounds the problem and can also lead to serious consequences. Your cheating can also disadvantage your honest classmates by distorting the curve. Besides, a key purpose of the exam is to tell you how you’re doing, which won’t happen if you cheat. And if you don’t care about how you’re doing, why take the course?
People who have studied ethics, or just watched “The Good Place,” will recognize these three sets of considerations as drawing from three major currents of moral reflection: virtue ethics, which is centered on character; deontology (from “deon,” a Greek word for that which is binding or required), which is centered on obligation or duty; and consequentialism, which is centered on the harms and benefits that result from our actions. Ordinary moral thought draws freely from all of these traditions.
To students who cheat routinely, all this will seem naïve or sentimental or irrelevant. They want the best grades they can secure because good grades will help them get ahead and land the kind of job they [believe] they want [, and often, to which they believe they are entitled]. In the workplace, though, you can’t call your fraternity brothers every time you face a problem you can’t handle, and I don’t know of online services that will write office memos for you. Ethics is about living well. Preparing for exams can help you develop skills that are useful in later life. All of which is to say that one person you’re letting down when you don’t do the work is you.
Dr. Miller highlights two key approaches to demonstrating institutional commitment to an honor code: setting the tone of the institution, by way of a commitment ceremony, held as part of orientation, at which students publicly pledge to uphold the school’s code, and affixing a requirement, to each graded assignment, to affirm the honor code by signature.To the immediate point of what it means for a student to affix their signature to an Honor Code or Pledge, Dr. Miller echoes Dr. Appiah’s simple notion of a “reminder.”
Signing an honor code can, among other things, serve as a moral reminder. As we know from both ordinary life and recent experimental findings, most of us are willing to cheat to some extent if we think it would be rewarding and we can get away with it. At the same time, we also want to think of ourselves as honest people and genuinely believe that cheating is wrong. But our more honorable intentions can be pushed to one side in our minds when tempting opportunities arise to come out ahead, even if by cheating. What a moral reminder does, then, is help to place our values front and center in our minds.
Dr. Miller concludes by impliedly invoking one of my favorite adages, i.e., we do the best we can with what we have:
...as we settle into the routine of online instruction, we should consider trying to extend the impact of an honor code virtually as well. Honor codes won’t eliminate cheating. Deeply dishonest students will not be deterred. But fortunately, the research confirms what experience suggests: Most students are not deeply dishonest.
- Detecting Academic Dishonesty
TurnItIn is a tool that detects plagiarism in papers and lab reports.
Rutgers' Recommendations for the Use of Online Proctoring Services
Faculty are encouraged to consider assessment methods that do not require online proctoring. The use of online proctoring methods raises privacy as well as equity concerns. Many students do not have reliable access to the technology or the private space required to employ these methods. Students with disabilities face particular challenges as online proctoring solutions can serve to exacerbate their conditions or highlight their disabilities. Online proctoring also increases the stress involved in test-taking and may negatively impact student performance.
The Office of Information Technology provides suggestions for alternative assessment strategies
For some courses, however, the subject matter or accreditation requirements will necessitate administering proctored examinations. For such courses, OIT provides online proctoring solutions.
Instructors needing to use online proctoring services are strongly encouraged to utilize the following practices:
- Online proctoring should only be performed using a university-approved proctoring solution. The use of alternative solutions may not be supported.
- Courses that will use online proctoring services must be designated as such in the Schedule of Classes. The section notes must clearly state the technology requirements for the course. The instructor should also include a statement on the course syllabus and LMS specifying that the course will involve online proctoring.
- Online proctoring works best when instructors prepare themselves and their students to use the online proctoring tool. This requires faculty to do the following:
- Explain to students why the software is being used and reassuring them that all flags will be reviewed before submitting an Academic Integrity violation report.
- Take an exam themselves using the software so they are familiar with the process that will be expected of students.
- Conduct a test exam in the course in advance of the real exam with enough time in between for students to resolve any technical issues that might be identified.
- Provide alternative arrangements for students who have accessibility issues or are unable to take the test using the proctoring software. This is no different than having a makeup exam available for students who are unable to attend in-person.
- Provide extra time during the exam window to allow for the resolution of technical issues.
- Develop a back-up plan in case the technology fails or service is interrupted, and clearly articulate the plan to students.
- Create a communication plan for the exam period so that students can contact the instructor if they encounter technical difficulties and the instructor can contact students if there is a systemic problem.
- Instructors must review all flags before submitting an Academic Integrity violation report. Online proctoring services produce many “false positives;” any sound or movement in the room in which the student is taking the exam can generate a flag. Instructors must review the flagged incidents thoroughly to reduce anxiety for students and not unduly strain the Academic Integrity process.
- Videoconferencing software (e.g., Zoom, Webex, Big Blue Button) should only be used to proctor exams involving one student (e.g., makeup exams). There are several reasons these platforms are not appropriate for proctoring multiple students at the same time.
- The nature of these tools allows everyone in a session to see into the homes of every other participant, drastically increasing exposure of students’ home environments to others. This can be mitigated somewhat by using a virtual background, but this requires additional processing time on the student’s computer and, on older machines, will impact performance.
- When microphones are enabled, disruptions in one student’s home will expand to impact all students and further impact privacy.
- For larger exams, multiple screens must be used to view all the participants, requiring the proctor to repeatedly switch between screens to view everyone.
- Recordings will only show the participants who were active on the screen of the host at a given moment in time.
- Recordings of sessions should be confidential. However, there are no controls in these platforms that can ensure that data is stored properly, retained, and removed after appropriate intervals have elapsed.
Designing Trustworthy Assessments without Proctoring (PDF) This article from Georgia Tech provides a clear discussion of how to design trustworthy assessments.
A discussion about using online proctoring from Inside Higher Ed.
An easy method to see if your exam questions have been posted to an answer-sharing site is to type one of your exam questions into Google.
Reporting & Adjudicating Academic Integrity Violations
- Honor Pledge
In order to create a strong culture that promotes academic integrity, Rutgers has adopted an honor pledge to be written and signed on examinations and major course assignments submitted for grading. The university now asks that faculty include the following statement for students to sign on all exams and major assignments:
On my honor, I have neither received nor given any unauthorized assistance on this examination (assignment)
There is additional benefit to having the student's write it out themselves and sign it. For a discussion of the value and history of honor pledges as they have been used at other universities, visit the University of Maryland and Princeton University websites.
- How to Report an Academic Integrity Violation
Resources for Students
Sharing this academic integrity resource page with your students will give them access to many valuable resources.
If you have any questions about the Academic Integrity process, please contact the Office of Student Conduct via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 848-932-9414 to leave a voicemail and someone will return your call.