Academic Integrity Resources

If you are an instructor experiencing a student issue involving academic dishonesty, call the Student Affairs & Activities office at (650) 949-7241 to inform them of the issue immediately and verify the facts of the offense, and to clarify any question about administrative discipline and due process.

Strategies to Minimize Cheating Online

How can you be sure a student is actually doing his/her own work? What is the most secure way to handle online examinations? Many of the same problems regarding the authenticity of a student's work and plagiarism exist in the traditional classroom as well.

Test Design

Give many short exams embedded in many class exercises
  • Frequent, short tests help students keep up and stay on track.
  • Difficult and unlikely to have help ALL the time
  • Make exercises difficult enough to depend on having done the preceding course work.
  • Pose higher order, mastery questions requiring deeper knowledge and application of material (i.e., case studies vs. memorization questions).
  • Have students relate subject matter their personal/professional/life experiences, reducing the benefits of plagiarism or someone else’s answers.
  • Who would work so hard for someone else and not get credit?
  • Construct a pool of questions and have the testing program randomly select for each quiz. Each student will get a different set of questions, however many times you reset a quiz.
  • Pools guarantee a new version of the quiz should it have to be reset.
  • Writing multiple questions can be tedious but just think - once you have created the pool, you can draw from it repeatedly as you slowly add to it each semester.
  • When the subject matter allows, make assessments "open book".
  • Relieves everyone's stress around potential technical problems like dropped connections, server glitches, etc.
  • Renders most cheating pointless.
  • Allows questions that require critical thinking, analysis, evaluation, or synthesis.

Time Issues

  • Limit the times when the online test is available.
  • Set a duration of time to complete the test.
  • Estimate how long responses should take to answer if someone knows the material well.
  • Factor in how much time might allow students to cheat (look up answers).
  • Set the duration of the test to balance these two factors.
  • If questions require higher order thinking than fact recall, timing is not a serious concern.

Technical Problems

  • Be prepared to reset a test should students lose connectivity or be kicked off the server.
  • Make quizzes shorter.
  • Provide more of them.
  • Give midterms, finals or other longer tests in sections or parts.
  • Limit questions in a timed test, or section of a test, to 25 items or fewer.

Alternative Assessment Methods

  • Use Authentic Assessment (students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills).
  • Use online quizzes as self-assessment only.
  • Provide immediate answers and feedback to help with lower order learning tasks.
  • Use the baseline knowledge created this way to prepare students for more elaborate assessments.
  • Use online quizzes as pre-testing at the start of a course.
  • Evaluate performance in a variety of educationally sound ways.
    • Essays
    • Group or individual projects
    • Theses
    • Discussion
    • Original research
    • Portfolios
    • Debate
    • Simulations
    • Contribution to collective information pools like Wikis
    • Creation of products like learning materials, realia, manipulative, inventions, chronicles, books

Checking Up on Performance

  • Require outlines and drafts of all papers and essays to see the work in progress.
  • Do a quick check for plagiarism on the Internet.
    • Insert a unique phrase from a paper into a search engine (i.e.
    • If the paper exists on the Internet, the search engine will likely find it.
  • Suspect plagiarism, but can't find evidence on the net?
    • Use chat feature to debrief a paper you suspect with the student.
    • The true author of work will discuss it fluently.
    • A log-in/password system might help but a determined cheater can give the information to someone else to log on

Resources for preventing academic dishonesty

Plagiarism Tutorials

Plagiarism Detection Services and Software

More Services and Software
In online courses, teachers sometimes have difficulty determining if students have plagiarized or are submitting their own work. As a student, you can prevent any misunderstandings about the originality of your written work by following some of the following strategies.

Strategy 1

Take the Practice test to determine how much you already know about plagiarism. Too easy? Try the Plagiarism Quiz.

Strategy 2

Be sure you know the definition of plagiarism, what style guide is required by your instructor and how to follow it. Take a look at these Plagiarism Examples.

Strategy 3

One of the best ways to avoid plagiarism is to use a well organized process for researching and writing your assignment or essay. Sometimes students plagiarize accidentally simply by rushing the research process and/or keeping sloppy records of references.

First, set up a timeline for completion of your written assignment using the Assignment Calculator. That way you can stay on track and avoid writing your paper at the last minute and making careless mistakes.

Next, use a careful system for keeping track of your references as you go along your research process.

Strategy 4

Some instructors use an online service, such as Turnitin, to check student written work for plagiarism. You may want to learn more about Turnitin services for yourself BEFORE you submit your written work for an instructor.

Strategy 5

After writing and submitting any written assignment you ought to be able to answer the following questions from your instructor.
  • What did you learn from the assignment?
  • What problems did you face in gathering information you needed and how did you overcome them?
  • What research strategy did you follow?
  • Where did you locate most of your sources?
  • What is the most important thing you learned from investigating this subject?

Answering these questions will help you think about your own learning as well as provide evidence to your instructor that you did your own work. If your knowledge of written work you submit is sketchy then your instructor may be concerned.

Strategy 6

Imagine serving as a student representative on a Student Appeals Committee where you have to decide on a grade in a student plagiarism situation.
  • What evidence would you want from both the instructor and the student?
  • How would you decide if the student plagiarized or if it was an honest mistake?
  • What are some benefits of citing sources in written work?
  • What skill-building opportunities are lost by students who plagiarize?
Last Updated July 17, 2017
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