Encouraging Academic Integrity Through Course Design
Course Design has recently shown signs as one of the most effective methods encouraging academic integrity in coursework. Instructors may be able to design their course in order to minimize common causes of cheating, in addition to developing a structure that makes cheating or plagiarism harder to carry out and easier to detect. 

Below are some general examples of how instructors may apply some simple course design changes to foster academic integrity in their courses.  

Pressure to do well on high-stakes assignments and exams is cited as on of the largest contributing factors to students participating in academic misconduct practices. Instructors can lessen this pressure by giving a series of smaller assessments (such as quizzes or reflective assignments) throughout the course that equal the same weight as a larger exam or term paper 

This allows students to recover from possible low scores, and can be paired with a system whereby the instructor reaches out to students who performed poorly in order to direct them to resources on campus (such as tutoring through the library). 

Additionally, this course design also minimizes the likelihood of students participating in contract cheating or having other students complete their assessments  arranging this for weekly assessments would be both timely and costly.

NOTE: It’s important to note that too many small-stakes assignments, across courses, may overwhelm students. Therefore consideration should be taken to ensure that this measure is not over-burdensome on students (some recommendations include: limit the amount of assignments, grade them pass/fail, grade them on completion, etc.)  

Further Reading:
Scaffolded Assessments: Encouraging Academic Integrity through a Preventative Framework Toolkit 
Maintaining Academic Integrity: Assessment Design 

Very similar to the previous example, low-stakes assignments and quizzes will also assist instructors in getting to know their student’s writing styles. Low-stakes assignments will help to build an understanding of a student’s writing style, voice, and personal use of the English language.   

Once an instructor has an understanding of a student’s style and ability, it may be easier to detect plagiarized text when their writing style suddenly changes or shifts. The assignments will also help students gain valuable writing practice.  

This option works best in courses with limited enrollment, however, instructors may also choose to grade these assignments on a complete/incomplete basis if the instructor’s time is a concern. 

Further Reading:
Reflection, Self-Assessment and Peer-Assessment: Encouraging Academic Integrity through a Preventative Framework  
Authentic Assessments: Encouraging Academic Integrity through a Preventative Framework 

Purdue OWL: Teaching Resources 
Maintaining Academic Integrity: Assessment Design 

Students are much less likely to pay or have another individual complete their assignment when multiple drafts are required (both due to the time commitment required, and the money required to continue to pay for a contract cheating service).  

Additionally, having students write and submit drafts of their work allows for the instructor to both associate the student with their writing style, and to provide any needed feedback for higher-graded assessments.  

Research has shown that cheating and plagiarism are often borne out of desperation and the pressure to do well in their academic work. Students will turn to acts of academic misconduct when overwhelmed both due to their required schoolwork or due to events outside of their academic work. These stressors are only further exacerbated through the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Allowing for late submissions gives students the breathing room to approach their schoolwork away from a frenzied or desperate mindset that may lead to cheating or plagiarism.  

As noted in the Institutional Toolkit to Combat Contract Cheating 

The argument against [allowing late submissions] is often that the “real world” doesn’t allow late submissions, but save a few professions, this isn’t entirely the case. Late penalties can indeed be assessed, but a C is always better than an F and being accused of cheating. Allowing room to fail and learn from mistakes of procrastination and time management is a much better lesson to learn than being a good cheater.

If instructors choose to establish an extension policy in their class, they should be sure to clearly outline these policies for their students

Collaboration among students on assessments and assignments has generally been a difficult concept for students new to the Canadian post-secondary environment. And while there are some generally understood guidelines when collaboration is both allowed and prohibited, these may also vary from instructor to instructor.  

We recommend that instructors explicitly state the allowed level of collaboration for students for each individual assignment or assessment – either writing on the assignment instructions, in person during the class when discussing the assignment, or (preferably) both.  

If collaboration is not permitted, then it is recommended that instructors state this to students rather than assuming students will understand. Alternatively, if some level of collaboration is permitted, it may be helpful to explain the boundaries of this collaboration including:  

    • Can students discuss the questions with other students? 
    • Can students discuss their answers with other students? 
    • Can students share their work with other students? 
    • Can students discuss their work with those not registered in the class? 
    • Can students utilize online forums to collaborate? 
    • Can student groups share their group work with other student groups in their class? 

Examinations may be a challenge to students due to factors that have always existed, in addition to factors now presented in the online environment brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. These may include: 

    • Test anxiety  
    • Cultural background 
    • Home environments 
    • Access to technology and the internet 

By offering students a variety of ways of showing their learning, instructors will encourage their students to demonstrate their knowledge in a way that may best suit their talents and abilities. Some possible options include: 

    • Weekly reflections on readings 
    • Creating video or audio files to discuss course content/current events 
    • Interview a professional  

Further Reading:
Finding Alternatives to Planned Assessments: Online Exams 

Expanding a little on the previous point, this article on University Design for Learning and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, touches on how we may best allow students to show their learning. From the article:  

Universal Design for Learning [UDL]…takes research on how people learn and applies it to course design and teaching. A good way to think about this is to consider the concept of “universal design” in architecture. Picture a ramp alongside a set of stairs; both lead up to a building entrance. The ramp was constructed to help wheelchair users get where they want to go — that is, into the building. But the ramp benefits others, too: people using walkers, strollers, luggage on wheels, or cargo dollies. The ramp wasn’t originally conceived for them but once it’s in place, they benefit from it, too. 

UDL applies that idea to the classroom. It’s about offering choices — akin to the stairs or the ramp — to support learning and get students where they want to go. 

This  article provides some examples on how to promote UDL in your classroom, including:  

    • Provide the same course content in multiple formats 
    • Allow options for how students can complete an assignment 
    • Offer students a choice in their final assignments  

More information on Universal Design for Learning is available below: