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Academic Integrity in an Online Teaching Environment:  Creating a Syllabus Addendum and Other Practical Tips for Instructors

  • Transitioning a face-to-face course to an online environment is challenging, especially when exams and quizzes are involved. Tests designed for traditional classrooms may not work equally well online, particularly when it comes to academic integrity. For example, learners can text screen shots of exam questions to others, or take an exam on a laptop while using a cell phone to browse for answers. Clearly communicating course-specific academic integrity expectations – especially those related to collaboration with other learners – is especially important.

  • Given these differences between online and face-to-face learning, instructors may wish to consider making changes in their course assessment instruments for the remainder of the spring semester. Effective assessment changes are linked to course learning objectives and account for instructor needs and limited resources. Practical tips for making changes are described below. Substantial changes, including changes in the dates when assessment will occur or changes in the nature and format of assessment, are understandable in the current, unprecedented environment. Such changes are best communicated to students through a dated Syllabus Addendum posted alongside the original course syllabus on the course Blackboard site.
  • Instructors concerned about plagiarism should consider having students submit papers and other written assignments directly to Turnitin via Blackboard, and choosing the setting option that allows students to see the Turnitin Report. Using Turnitin in this manner assures compliance with University policies and federal and state law, including privacy and intellectual property law. The only other approved method for using Turnitin is to have students sign a consent form granting permission for the instructor to use Turnitin. Instructors who wish to use Turnitin but do not have a Turnitin Syllabus Statement in their current course syllabus are strongly encouraged to include one in a new Syllabus Addendum.

  • Remember that no student may be penalized for a suspected academic integrity violation until the suspected violation is reported, reviewed and upheld. Information about the University’s academic integrity case reporting and review are available through the Center for Learning and Student Success (CLASS).

Ideas and Tips for Changes to Spring 2020 Course Assessment Tools and Plans

Instructors may choose to use one or a combination of options below. For example, instructors of large classes can reduce the risk of cheating by substituting a small number of short-answer questions for a larger block of multiple-choice questions AND keep the grading load manageable by having students complete the exam in pre-assigned groups.

  • Closely connect written assessments to specific course readings, key concepts, and material discussed in prior in-person class meetings. Articulate the connection for learners.
  • Change the exam format. For example, substitute a small number of short-answer questions or tasks for a larger set of multiple-choice questions.
  • Assign small groups of students to complete an assessment task together following best practices for effective group work. Best practices for structuring online group work will be posted within the Rapid Online Course Development Guide shortly.
  • Create video assignments in which individual students feature themselves going about an assessment task and narrating how they do so, e.g. making a clay model or solving a word problem. Assign students to small groups. Have the students in each group share and assess each member’s video using a specific rubric. Best practices for rubric design are available from the University’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment.

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