Promoting Academic Integrity in the Digital Age

How can instructors promote originality and academic integrity in 21st century teaching contexts that rely heavily on digital and online tools and collaborative learning environments? Here are a few strategies that can make assignments and assessments less vulnerable to cheating, help our students identify the boundaries between collaboration and misappropriation, and foster originality in their work. This handout provides more information on why students cheat, and how to prevent it.. 

Checking and Policing-Directly identify and deter academic misconduct

  • Multiple versions of homework and exams, with questions ordered differently, different numbers, or different questions
  • Cardboard cubicles on students’ desks make it difficult for students to appropriate others’ work (not relevant in online)
  • Tools such as Safe Assign and GradeScope allow instructors to identify similarities between student assignments or with publicly available documents.

Educating Students-Explicitly address academic integrity in the classroom.

  • Classroom discussions of academic integrity and professional behavior
  • Student-generated ground rules
  • Tutorials on academic integrity, such as this one: (see Avoiding Plagiarism)
  • Turn policing tools into learning tools by asking students to use SafeAssign to self-evaluate the originality of their own work before turning in a final version

Designing Less Vulnerable Assignments

  • Structured homework problems: Make it about more than getting the right answer, not obvious where the problem came from
  • Annotated assignment: Students have to explain why their response to an assignment (e.g., a programming assignment) works or makes sense
  • Authentic, individualized assignments

Turning tools for bad (cheating) into tools for good (learning)

  • Organize assignments around tools commonly used for “cheating” (e.g., students evaluate the quality and accuracy of google translate output in a foreign language class)