Implementing New Approaches to Academic Honesty

Concurrent Session 2

Brief Abstract

Despite academia’s fear of dishonesty in the online environment, learn how the University of Tennessee, Knoxville is supporting cost effective, secure online testing without a proctored testing center or a third party vendor.


Dr. Jean Derco has over thirty years experience in designing course materials and curricula. The past twenty years have focused on the design and development of multimedia and online learning environments. In addition, she has extensive experience working with faculty toward the adoption of instructional technologies in higher education. At the University of Tennessee, Dr. Derco is the Executive Director of the Office of Information Technology's Support Organization.
Dr. Jennifer Gramling is Director of Online Programs in Teaching and Learning Innovation. Prior to returning to her Alma mater in May 2013, she held a Project Manager position in the Office of Distance Learning at FSU and served as the Associate Director of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning at South College. Jennifer has been working in faculty development and online learning administration for over fifteen years. She holds Bachelor's degrees in English and History from the University of North Florida, and a Master's in Secondary Education and a Ph. D. in Education from the University of Tennessee. In her role as Director of Online Programs, Jennifer oversees the development of policies and procedures related to online and hybrid teaching and learning; and collaborates with faculty and academic administrators to identify and facilitate opportunities for online and hybrid educational and faculty support initiatives.

Extended Abstract

As opportunities for online undergraduate education continue to grow, the topic of academic honesty remains a critical, and often challenging, issue. An institution’s ability to promote and maintain academic honesty in online education is tied directly to the quality of its online learning initiatives; the quality of the students’ and the instructors’ experiences; and the credibility of associated programs and departments. An institution’s interest in assuring academic honesty is also tied to compliance and accreditation, including federal, state, and regional directives pertaining to online learning and student authentication. Schools without centralized testing facilities, and those that do not wish to outsource proctoring and other assessment services to third-party vendors, must re-examine strategies and identify tools that are both effective in maintaining online exam security, and cost efficient to the institution.

This proposal examines how the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) addressed growth in the number of asynchronous online undergraduate courses available to its students, and the accompanying need for new practices and tools related to maintaining academic honesty. Two of the school’s online learning administrators will discuss how the university leveraged existing campus initiatives related to academic integrity to expand secure testing options for faculty and students.


UTK complies with federal, state and regional requirements concerning online student verification primarily through the use of secure passwords and login procedures, as well as campus-wide policies such as the academic honor code and the computing code of conduct. Historically, online programming has been focused at the graduate and professional levels, and geared to meet the needs of off-campus students. Online classes often have weekly synchronous meeting times, and require students to complete project-based assignments and multiple forms of assessment throughout the term.

Over the last three years, the focus shifted slightly and the university has increased the number of online classes available to its on-campus, undergraduate students. Funding for course development centered on redesigning bottleneck courses, and creating more flexible learning environments for students who travel home in the summer.  In order to meet the scheduling needs of students enrolled during the summer, the courses are designed primarily for asynchronous delivery and participation. As the number of student credit hours delivered through online asynchronous courses began to rise, campus administrators recognized the need to identify and implement "new technologies and practices,” as referenced in the SACS requirements for distance education (

Understanding that technology is both part of the problem and part of the solution, the Office of the Provost and the Office of Information Technology started to engage faculty and staff in frank discussions about student cheating, current institutional practices, and the difference between legitimate threats to academic honesty and unrealistic dangers wrought by the Internet. Several new approaches to online proctoring and exam security were piloted during 2014 – 2016. First, an upper division undergraduate math class utilized an online proctoring company to monitor students taking exams. While the third-party vendor services were adequate, and students’ experiences generally positive, the pilot was funding by non-recurring money. Given the expense of outsourcing online proctoring services, and administrative concerns about student privacy, additional approaches were sought that would include the integration of university supported real-time conferencing tools and UTK personnel.

Subsequently, an upper division science class used Zoom as a way for GAs in the department to proctor online testing, and those proctors were compensated for their additional work during the semester. While this model was more cost-sustainable than the previous pilot, it presented challenges with regards to scalability and logistics, given this method requires a human to actively watch another person complete an exam. A third pilot involved a large, online Management course that required students to use both Respondus LockDown Browser (LDB) and Monitor when taking exams.

With regards to costs, ease of use, and the university’s ability to support a campus-wide solution, Respondus LDB and Monitor proved to be the best solution. These exam security tools provide the additional benefit of empowering students and faculty to take ownership of issues related to academic honesty in online courses.

This presentation will focus on how Respondus LDB and Monitor are being used at UTK to administer online tests in online and face-to-face courses. Faculty are rapidly abandoning paper and pencil tests for this online testing methodology, which allows faculty to take advantage of secure online testing options, and in the process, free up valuable classroom space. During the session, attendees will learn more about the process for using  LDB and Monitor, see how the tools work, and hear feedback from faculty and students.