Promoting Academic Integrity in Online Courses

Concurrent Session 5
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Brief Abstract

Academic integrity in online education is critically important. This session involves a discussion of the approaches used at the presenter’s institution to educate faculty and students about academic integrity as well as the tools and processes that can be used to prevent and detect acts of dishonesty. 


Tom Mays is an Associate Professor of Commerce at Miami University where he teaches courses in business software and small business innovation. He also serves as the Miami University Regional E-Campus Research Fellows Coordinator. Professionally, Tom started T.A.M. Communications in 1997, less than two years after receiving his undergraduate degree in communication from Ohio University. His business initially focused on media production but quickly grew to include technical support services for corporate events, interactive media and web development, and online data collection and analytics. Tom has traveled the country as technical director and a lead computer and video engineer for several major corporations. Tom completed graduate degrees at Wright State University including an MBA and a Master of Science in Social and Applied Economics, and he earned a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Dayton where he studied social capital development in post-secondary education.

Extended Abstract

Academic integrity in online education is critically important. This session involves a discussion of the approaches used at the presenter’s institution to educate faculty and students about academic integrity as well as the tools and processes that can be used to prevent and detect acts of dishonesty. Much of the content for this presentation was collated and developed during the Academic Integrity in Online Learning Environments Faculty Learning Community (FLC) at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The presenter, a faculty member, served as a co-facilitator of the FLC along with the institution’s Coordinator for Academic Integrity. The FLC focused on three ways to examine the topic of academic integrity: education, prevention, and detection.

While the institution uses Canvas as its LMS, the content presented is not LMS dependent and represents what the FLC found to be best practices for academic integrity in online learning environments.


A critical first step with academic integrity is to educate students on the meanings of academic integrity and academic dishonesty as well as the various forms of dishonest behavior. Some research has found that the brain adapts to dishonesty, and additional acts of dishonesty can occur more easily (Garrett, Lazzaro, Ariely, & Sharot, 2016). This may negatively influence a graduate’s professional integrity after leaving school. In many disciplines, this can lead to serious consequences.

Education includes not only discussing what is considered cheating, but also student practices that may prevent cheating from occurring. These education pieces can include information on writing and note taking as well as time and stress management practices.

One of the primary resources developed for the university was a Module 0 on academic integrity that includes information about academic integrity, a multimedia presentation, quizzes, and an academic integrity pledge. Instructors are encouraged to customize the module to address specific issues including citation style, expectations of group vs. individual work, why integrity is essential in a particular discipline, and department level policies and expectations.


While education on academic integrity can serve as a preventative technique, there are other steps instructors can adopt. Using rubrics and authentic assessment can help prevent academic dishonesty. Additionally, instructors administering multiple choice exams should use a question bank and scramble both questions and responses as well as set a time limit and use a proctoring tool. If the exam involves short answer or essay questions, instructors should create application-based items. Furthermore, following solid pedagogical practices including scaffolding can be preventative.


Proctoring tools and plagiarism detectors can help in detection. The institution has also adopted a proctoring tool that is available for all online courses. Interestingly, the use of proctoring tools at the institution has been found to effect online test scores and time to complete tests (Alessio, Malay, Maurer, Bailer, & Rubin, 2017). The presentation will include a brief discussion of this research as well as how the proctoring tool has been used thus far at the institution. Additionally, instructors can also detect dishonesty through monitoring LMS analytics as well as through assessment design.

Other Considerations

One of the more immediate threats to academic integrity in online education is what has been called contract cheating, or student use of external services to complete coursework. The services can range from single essays to completing full courses. These are discussed in depth by Lancaster and Clarke (2016) and will be presented for general discussion on ways to address this form of dishonesty. It is important that instructors keep abreast of these online cheating resources, specifically those sites that provide a forum for students to share assessments and learning resources that instructors may not want to be made public.

Participant Interaction

The session will include the presentation of information as well as a demonstration of the Module 0 content. Since many of the attendees will probably have had experience with academic integrity or dishonesty at their own institutions, small group discussions will be held after each of the presentations sections of education, detection, and prevention. Previously undiscussed tools, approaches, policies, etc. that were generated by the small groups will be reported to the larger group.


Alessio, H. M., Malay, N., Maurer, K., Bailer, A. J., & Rubin, B. (2017). Examining the effect of proctoring on online test scores, Online Learning 21 (1).

Garrett, N., Lazzaro, S. C., Ariely, D., & Sharot, T. (2016). The brain adapts to dishonesty. Nature Neuroscience, 19(12), 1727-1732.

Lancaster, T. & Clark, R. (2015). Contract cheating: The outsourcing of assessed student work. In T. Bertag (Ed.), Handbook of Academic Integrity (1-14). Singapore: Springer.