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With the recent transition to online course delivery at the College, instructors have adapted their usual face-to-face assignments and assessments in an online format. Along with the many technical and curriculum-related questions come concerns about maintaining academic integrity. What is academic integrity, how do we maintain it, and what do we do when we suspect it is not being maintained?

Academic integrity at Red River College refers to the requirement to be honest and truthful when engaged in academic work or any other academic activity. Policy S4 outlines the expectations of students when completing work to be assessed for grades.

Students do not all arrive at college with the knowledge they need to interpret policy, or show successful academic integrity. Students need guidance from their instructors to develop these skills as learners and professionals. Instructors need to teach and demonstrate the integrity they want to see in their students.

How can I maintain academic integrity?

Over 20 years of research shows us that students do not cheat more in online classes. Factors that lead to increased cheating include student stress and dissatisfaction with the learning environment.

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Start with the assumption that students are in your course to learn and that it is your job to teach them. Be honest about your own experience with this quick transition to the virtual classroom. Trust that your students are doing the best they can, and keep the lines of communication open.

Helpful tips note

You cannot stop students from cheating, but your compassion may make it harder for students to cheat in your course. Help students to feel supported, continue building rapport with them, and try to reduce their stress by increasing their comfort around connecting and learning in an online environment.

You can do this in some of the following ways:

  • Clearly communicate your academic integrity expectations to your students for every assignment (do not just direct them to policy).
  • Talk about when it is ok to collaborate and when it is not, explaining what you mean by “collaborate.”
  • Ask students to cite appropriate collaborations made with family and friends at home.
  • Teach the citation skills you want students to use.
  • Relate integrity to students’ lives, field of study and industry.
  • Talk about appropriate online resources (those that help learn, not just complete assessments).
  • Incorporate a discussion post in your LEARN course to talk about academic integrity.
  • Allow extensions, where possible, for students who are sick, caring for family members or working outside the home.
  • Create a culture of integrity in your online class:
    • Continue to create personal connections with your students and check in with them.
    • Cite sources on your own learning materials, modelling the behaviour you would like to see.
    • Prepare well-designed assessments.
    • Be on time and prepared for class.

What are some alternatives to traditional tests?

With the shift to learning in a virtual environment, it is important to remain flexible with program delivery expectations. While it may not be possible to deliver all of the content intended for the classroom in an online capacity, learning outcomes can still be met in creative and innovative ways. Reorganizing deadlines, scaling back on the number of learning objectives and delivering alternative assessments are all reasonable responses.

The CLPE has published quick guides to creating alternative assessments as well as creating secure assessments in LEARN.

Helpful tips note

A few alternative assessment methods that can be explored include:

  • Moving away from recall-based questions toward ones that require a unique response and challenge students to demonstrate how they apply information.
  • Adapting your closed-book test to an open-book and open-notes test.
  • Using authentic projects aligned to the learning outcomes that allow your students to create, evaluate and analyze course material.
  • Asking students to describe not just what they know, but how they know it. In other words, asking students to describe their learning.
  • Conducting oral assessments through web chat, or having students submit an audio or video recording.

What are best practices for assessment online?

If a traditional test is unavoidable, avoid multiple choice-tests and pre-published test banks. The answers for these assessments are easy to find.

Helpful tips note

Tips for preventing misconduct in online tests:

  • Write the first question as an integrity contract, such as “I hereby agree to provide information that was written only by me and not by another person, or copied from any other source…”, with “I agree/I disagree” as the choices.
  • Deliver the test to all students at the same time.
  • Add a time limit to allow students less time to look up answers (although time assessments can create anxiety and may require accommodations for some students).
  • Randomize questions and answer choices or set up LEARN to pull randomly from sets of questions so that no two students get the same questions in the same order.
  • Limit feedback availability to a specific time for all students.

Create an open book test, where students reference the source of their answers.

What about using proctoring?

At this time, Red River College does not have an institutional online proctoring service. Please consider exploring alternative forms of assessment.

Proctoring is generally viewed negatively by students. It has been known to cause anxiety in some students, brings with it a host of privacy concerns, and can be unreliable in actually accurately flagging cheating.

How do I respond to academic misconduct?

If you have reason to believe that academic misconduct has occurred in your course, conduct a review of the incident and contact your program coordinator. Complete the Academic Misconduct Form as you typically would do and follow the next steps outlined by your department.

Contact the Centre for Learning and Program Excellence (CLPE) for further support in maintaining academic integrity in your classes.