Promoting academic integrity in online courses

Five strategies to support academic integrity in online assessments

One of the biggest concerns when planning online assessments is protecting academic integrity (Mellar et al., 2018, Okada et al., 2019). When instructors and students are not together in the classroom, it is not always obvious how to ensure that students are not cheating or plagiarizing (Tsai, 2016). Several strategies to promote academic integrity can be put in place. Each has a different amount of time and effort required. While no measure prevents all academic misconduct they are good steps to take to promote honesty and integrity in students (Tsai, 2016).

Random numbers

What Is It: Use randomized numbers for numeric response or multiple-choice questions, so that students each get a slightly different question to solve.

Why Use It: Different numbers reduce students’ ability to copy the answer from another person and requires each student to go through the problem-solving steps.

Limitations: It is impossible to determine whether it is actually the reported student doing the work.

Source: (Boitshwarelo, Reedy, & Billany, 2017)

Try it in D2L: Create a Quiz with a Randomized Set of Questions

Tight timing

What Is It: Limit how much time students have for online quizzes. You can limit the time for each individual question, but it is recommended to limit the time for the overall quiz, so that students can spend more or less time on questions as needed. 

Why Use It: When students have a limited time to complete quizzes, it becomes much more difficult for them to search through notes or seek out help during that time.

Limitations: Finding the right timing for quizzes or questions can be tricky. As well, limiting the time can cause anxiety to some learners, so some accommodations may be necessary.  

Source: (Boitshwarelo, Reedy, & Billany, 2017)

Try it in D2L:  Grant Special Access to Users for a Quiz

Hidden notes

What Is It: Block students from accessing online course materials such as notes, practice exams, videos, etc. while online quizzes or assignments are open. Once the assessment is completed, re-open all the materials again.

Why Use It: This reduces students’ ability to consult course materials during quizzes. Hiding content folders in D2L is simple and can be done/undone in a single click.

Limitations: Students will still have access to any physical notes they may have printed or wrote. It is also important to inform students that they will not be able to access course materials during the assessment period, so they can plan their preparation accordingly.

Source: (Tsai, 2016).

Try it in D2L: Set content to draft or published and  Attach a Release Condition

Question banks

What Is It: For multiple-choice quizzes, create a wide variety of questions or vary the order of questions. Questions can be organized by their level of difficulty and topics, so students all get equivalent quizzes, despite having different questions.

Why Use It: This measure makes copying or getting answers from another student much more difficult, since each student has a different question set.

Limitations: It can be time consuming to write and organize a large variety of questions. The effectiveness of this measure relies on having many questions on each topic.

Source: (Michael & Williams, 2013)

Try it in D2L: Create a New Question in a Question Library

Academic integrity education

What Is It: Spend time explaining the importance of academic integrity, the measures in place to detect misconduct, and the consequences of being caught.

Why Use It: Students are less likely to cheat when they know the kinds of measures and policy in place to prevent it.  They also see the instructors’ commitment and focus on preventing academic dishonesty.

Limitations: It can be unclear what type of education will resonate with each group of students. It can be time consuming to develop resources and spend class time or assessments on it.

Sources: (Kaya & Ozel, 2014, Michael & Williams, 2014).  

UCalgary Student Success Centre: Writing Support

UToday: Quotation marks, crib notes, and contract cheating: How a new online tutorial is building awareness among online students at the Werklund School

Academic integrity is one of many factors that needs to be considered in the design of online assessments. For more strategies and ideas for best practices in online assessment, please see the TI guide, Online Assessment in Higher Education.

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Combat Virtual Cheating and Explore Academic Integrity in Online Courses 



Boitshwarelo, B., Reedy, A.K., & Billany, T. (2017). Envisioning the use of online tests in assessing twenty-first century learning: A literature review.  Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning, 12(16).

Kaya, M., & Ozel, S.A. (2014). Integrating and online compiler and a plagiarism detection tool into the Moodle distance education system for easy assessment of programming assignments. Computer Applications in Engineering Education, 23(3), 363-373.

Mellar, H., Peytcheva-Forsyth, R., Kocdar, S., Karadeniz, A., & Blagovesna, Y.  (2018). Addressing cheating in e-assessment using student authentication and authorship checking systems: teachers’ perspectives. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 14(2).

Michael, T. & Williams, M. (2013). Student Equity: Discouraging Cheating in Online Courses. Administrative Issues Journal: Education, Practice, and Research, 3(2).

Okada, A., Noguera, I., Alexieva, L., Rozeva, A., Kocdar, S., Brouns, F., Ladonlahti, T. Whitelock, D.,& Guerrerp-Roldan, A. (2019). Pedagogical approaches for e-assessment with authentication and authorship verification in Higher Education. British Journal of Educational Technology, Advance online publication.

Tsai, N. (2016). Assessment of students’ learning behavior and academic misconduct in a student-pulled online learning and student-governed testing environment: A case study. Journal of Education for Business, 91(7), 387-392.