Brief summaries along with citations on the topic of academic integrity in distance education are provided. Research findings are mixed concerning whether academic misconduct is found to be more prevalent online compared to a traditional classroom. Regardless, the literature emphasizes that institutions and instructors should find and utilize cost-effective ways to increase academic integrity in distance education.
Examining the effect of proctoring
on online test scores
Alessio, H. M., Malay, N., Maurer, K., Bailer, A. J., & Rubin, B. (2017). Examining the effect of proctoring on online test scores. Online Learning, 21(1).
Alessio et al. examined the effect of proctoring on online test scores for about 150 students enrolled in different sections of the same course to determine whether there was a difference in grades for proctored and non-proctored timed tests. Students scored significantly lower grades and spent less time on proctored exams compared to non-proctored exams. Based on the results, the authors suggested that academic dishonesty occurred during non-proctored exams. Of particular concern was the impact of exam scores on course grades since the average course grade difference was two letter grades higher for those taking non-proctored exams.
Cheating at online formative tests:
Does it pay off?
Arnold, I. J. (2016). Cheating at online formative tests: Does it pay off? The Internet and Higher Education29(1), 98-106.
The author explored whether students have a tendency to cheat on online unproctored formative assessments, whether the cheating pays off for the perpetrators, and whether cheating on online tests has a spillover effect to other courses. Arnold reviewed data for more than 400 first-year students. Results suggested that students have a greater likelihood of cheating on unproctored online tests than proctored tests; that cheating did not pay off as students who appeared to be cheating were more likely not to survive the first year academically due to poor grades; and that students believed to be cheating tended to do poorly in other classes, perhaps due to little motivation to study.
Testing a model to predict online cheating—
Much ado about nothing
Beck, V. (2014). Testing a model to predict online cheating—Much ado about nothing. Active Learning in Higher Education, 15(1), 65-75.
Beck tested a model used in earlier research studies that predicts academic dishonesty in online testing by comparing midterm and final exam scores from 100 students enrolled in online, hybrid, and traditional face-to-face classes of the same course with the same instructor and assessments, where the online exams were unmonitored and the exams in the hybrid and traditional classes were conducted in a face-to-face proctored setting. Contrary to other studies, her findings suggested that unmonitored students were not more likely to cheat on exams than proctored students; however, her unmonitored sample size was fairly small at 19 students. The author also cited strategies to prevent online cheating including identity verification.
Cheating on unproctored
internet intelligence tests
Bloemers, W., Oud, A., & Dam, K. V. (2016). Cheating on unproctored internet intelligence tests: Strategies and effects. Personnel Assessment and Decisions, 2(1), 3-29.
Bloemers et al. conducted a randomized two-group experiment using ultimately 500 students in which one group was asked to cheat on all the timed online tests, and a control group that was not given directions to cheat. Those who cheated received significantly higher test scores, with some in that group reporting cheating was not easy and receiving lower scores. Those who used multiple strategies to cheat received higher test scores than those who used fewer strategies or did not cheat. Cheating did not help with tests that required complex reasoning (e.g., analogies). Some students had very low total test times and used technology to cheat, copying or taking pictures of test questions, then disconnecting and logging back in after looking up the answers, although obtaining answers from others and using calculators may have helped cheaters the most. The authors recommended that instructors ask students to sign honesty statements, use timed adaptive tests with a large pool of test questions, and require students suspected of using technical manipulation or other dishonest techniques to take a proctored alternate test.
Evaluating technology to prevent
academic integrity violations
Brown, V. (2018). Evaluating technology to prevent academic integrity violations in online environments. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 21(1), n1.
Brown reviews the importance of academic integrity and identifies many current resources to combat cheating in distance courses while identifying the pros and cons of each method. The author believes that course instructors and technology teams are the most important stakeholders for identifying the correct resources for each institution, because together they can determine how the course material and learning management systems can best be leveraged.
Deterring cheating in
Corrigan-Gibbs, H., Gupta, N., Northcutt, C., Cutrell, E., & Thies, W. (2015). Deterring cheating in online environments. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 22(6), 28.
Researchers experimentally examined cheating behavior in samples of university students and Amazon Mechanical Turk workers and detected significant rates of cheating in both environments revealing that use of an honor code did little to prevent these behaviors. Participants presented with an intervention of a “stern warning” about the consequences of cheating were less likely to engage in cheating behavior.
Daffin Jr, L. W., & Jones, A. A. (2018). Comparing student performance on proctored and non-proctored exams in online psychology courses. Online Learning, 22(1).
The authors examined testing outcomes of students (N=1,694) taking proctored versus non-proctored exams in online psychology classes. After accounting for the type of proctor and the instructional style of the professors, they found that students performed 10%–20% better on non-proctored exams, raising concerns about widespread academic dishonesty in non-proctored settings.
Interview with a cyber-student
A look behind online cheating
Davis, J. (2016). Interview with a cyber-student: A look behind online cheating. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 19(3).
Davis presented a case study about a student involved in contract cheating, submitting work for others for payment.
Five ways to hack and cheat with
Dawson, P. (2015). Five ways to hack and cheat with bring‐your‐own‐device electronic examinations. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(4), 592-600.
Dawson presented Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) e-exams and how those are susceptible to dishonesty, such as using notes, permitting access to others with content knowledge (although it is possible for the proctor to lock down access to certain features), and taking an electronic version of the test to share with others. Possible ways to mitigate the possible cheating strategies are also presented, but the author suggests that BYOD e-exams are more suitable for low-stakes testing, if used.
A testing tool or a self-management tool
Delcoure, N., & George, B. (2012). Plagiarism detection service in the learning environment—A testing tool or a self-management tool? Journal of Academic and Business Ethics,6(1), 1-10.
Delcoure and George outlined views on plagiarism detection from the perspectives of both faculty and students and discussed how its use may be beneficial in higher education.
Reporting Plagiarism in the
Holbeck, R., Greenberger, S., Cooper, L., Steele, J., Palenque, S. M., & Koukoudeas, S. (2015). Reporting Plagiarism in the Online Classroom. Journal of Online Learning & Teaching, 11(2), 202-209.
Holbeck et al. surveyed over 100 faculty teaching online at a single institution about the code of conduct or plagiarism incident reports they were submitting. Although institutional guidelines explained how and what to report, survey responses indicated that faculty varied in following the protocol for reporting plagiarism. Faculty suggested they would be more likely to follow the protocol on reporting plagiarism if it were easier, took less time, and/or the submission was integrated into the learning management system.
Utilizing webcam-based proctoring
to deter misconduct in online exams
Hylton, K., Levy, Y., & Dringus, L. P. (2016). Utilizing webcam-based proctoring to deter misconduct in online exams. Computers & Education, 92(1), 53-63.
Hylton et al. explored how webcam-based monitoring on online exams may have a deterrent effect on online cheating with an experimental research study (e.g., monitored group vs. control group). Test scores for the unmonitored group were significantly higher than those in the monitored group; also, the length of time spent taking the test by the unmonitored group, who reported more opportunities to engage in misconduct, was significantly higher than testing times for the monitored group. Accordingly, the authors recommended that webcam-based monitoring be used to ensure academic integrity in online exams.
Does the online environment
Ison, D. C. (2014). Does the online environment promote plagiarism? A comparative study of dissertations from brick-and-mortar versus online institutions. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(2), 272-282.
Ison explored the level of plagiarism between 184 dissertations chosen randomly from institutions with a primary focus on traditional, face-to-face education compared to 184 dissertations chosen randomly from institutions with a primary focus on online programs, and reported no significant difference between the levels of plagiarism at those institutions. Of those studied, dissertations from students at traditional schools exhibited more extreme cases of plagiarism than dissertations from online schools. More than 50% of all sampled dissertations showed evidence of plagiarism, suggesting the importance of better instruction in proper citing, paraphrasing, and writing, and close monitoring from the dissertation supervisor.
Increasing academic integrity
in online classes
McAllister, C., & Watkins, P. (2012). Increasing academic integrity in online classes by fostering the development of self-regulated learning skills. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 85(3), 96-101.
McAllister and Watkins explored ways to promote academic integrity in an online setting, including having students develop self-regulated learning. Specific pedagogical ways include (a) providing consistent due dates (i.e., every Tuesday), (b) giving less weight to exams in the grading scale, (c) employing random selection of test questions from an item bank, (d) providing information about academic honesty and consequences of dishonesty at the beginning of the term, (e) using data analytics to identify outliers in student submissions and research those, and (f) returning assessments with grades and feedback within 2 business days to keep students aware of the instructor’s involvement and watchfulness.
Supporting academic honesty
in online courses
McGee, C. (2013). Supporting academic honesty in online courses. Journal of Educators Online 10(1).
McGee provided a summary of studies about why students engage in academic dishonesty and types of cheating, as well as several methods of supporting academic honesty and reducing violations in online courses.
Institutional Toolkit to
Combat Contract Cheating
Moriarty, C., Lang, C., Usdansky, M., Kanani, M., Jamieson, M., Bertram Gallant, T., & George, V. (2016). Institutional Toolkit to Combat Contract Cheating. International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI). With acknowledgment to Attendance Works! Count Us In! Toolkit.
Moriarty et al. discussed honesty and ethics in academic work, and the issue of contract cheating, when students have academic work done, often for pay, then submit it as if it were their own work. The authors provided advice to parents, students, instructors, institutional staff and leadership, stressing instilling a sense of ethics, providing fewer temptations, and other practices to counteract cheating, including conducting audits, prevention via time management and good exam proctoring, and other strategies.
Predictors of academic dishonesty
among undergraduate students
Peled, Y., Eshet, Y., Barczyk, C., & Grinautski, K. (2018, in press). Predictors of academic dishonesty among undergraduate students in online and face-to-face courses. Computers & Education.
Peled et al. researched academic dishonesty (AD) in distance learning, linking these predictors: motivation, attitudes, personality and cultural backgrounds. They surveyed 2,475 undergraduate students at six Northern Israeli and U.S. institutions via structural equation modeling; for this study, they found that students tended to engage in less academic dishonesty in online classes than in face-to-face classes. Course design emerged as the most significant predictor, implying necessity of careful practices among faculty.
Turnitin® use at
a Canadian university
Zaza, C., & McKenzie, A. (2018). Turnitin® use at a Canadian university. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 9(2).
The authors surveyed 940 instructors, teaching assistants, and students at a Canadian university about the use of Turnitin®. Results indicated greater usage for plagiarism than self-assessment with some student concerns regarding intellectual property, privacy and the potential for being falsely accused of plagiarism.
How can course design help
prevent online cheating
Tobin, T. (2016). How can course design help prevent online cheating? In Teaching Strategies for the Online Classroom. A Collection of Articles for Faculty (pp. 95-101).
Tobin provides suggestions for communicating clear expectations to students about ethics and conduct as well as best practices for online instructors in terms of verification and observation.