Principles for Approaching Academic Integrity in the Online Environment


Be honest with your learners if you find yourself in a position of having to teach online for the very first time with no preparation. Sometimes being vulnerable with your students can help them to understand that you are human, too.

Be honest with your students about your expectations.

Also, it is important to start with the assumption that most students are honest and they want to learn. They may also be scared and unsure as they engage in remote and online learning for the first time. Have conversations about what it means to adapt quickly during these times. Show kindness and compassion.


It is important to trust that your students are doing the best they can; and so are their families, friends and everyone else. Just because learning moves online, that does not mean that cheating automatically increases.

Now is a time to have conversations with your students about trust. One of the factors that can impact cheating rates is antagonistic relationships between students and faculty. Students do not suddenly engage in academic misconduct the moment they enter an online learning environment. It is important to start from the position that we trust our students until they give us a reason to believe otherwise.

Focus on learning

Trust that students are here to learn. Be clear on what students should know and be able to do by the end of the course. Intentionally align course activities and assessment strategies to these goals.   When possible, establish relevance by linking their learning to current events, or their future academic experiences. Communicate and have students consider questions such as, “Why is this worth learning?” and “How does what I am learning connect to what I already know?” Provide structure and opportunities for students to practice what they will be assessed on where ever possible, and clearly communicate your expectations for learning.  You may also integrate activities related to Academic Integrity in your assignments and assessments using reflective prompts such as:

  • How did you demonstrate academic integrity in this assignment?
  • When were you most challenged to demonstrate academic integrity? How did you overcome these challenges?
  • What have you learned about acting with integrity to this assignment, and how might this apply to your future academic or professional experiences?


Be patient with questions and remind students that you still expect them to conduct themselves respectfully, even if learning happens remotely.

Respect the university’s existing policy and procedures for academic misconduct.

Understand and respect that not all students have stable internet connectivity; or personal technology that is well-suited to online learning. Many may be dealing with the challenge associated with self-isolation, illness and/or caregiving for others. Some students for whom Calgary is not home are in the process of, or making plans to, return to their own families. They may be travelling or in different time zones. Please respect that it is very important to be flexible with deadlines.

There is lots of evidence to show that although young people today may be adept at using technology for entertainment and socializing, they do not have innate online learning skills. Understand that some students are experiencing extreme learning curves and stress associated with developing new strategies to support their learning.


As an educators, we have a responsibility to lead by example. Remind students of what their learning responsibilities are. Take the time to explain your expectations of them, even if classes are quickly moving to remote delivery in an online environment. Let them know you still expect them to be responsible for their learning, but also show compassion if they are experiencing trauma or anxiety.

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