Encouraging Academic Integrity in Online Assessments
With many courses moving to an online format during the COVID-19 pandemic, instructors are faced with the task of adapting their coursework and assessments to an online format as well. This can be an overwhelming task as instructors try to balance assessment design with academic integrity. As Flowers Darby notes that many instructors must face the assumption that “every online quiz or test you give is open-book and open-note (or, for the tech-savvy, open-Chegg and open-Discord)”.
Many of these academic integrity concerns can be best managed through course design, however, some instructors may find that online assessments are still required to demonstrate student knowledge. Below we have provided some tips for encouraging academic integrity in online assessments, most often set up through Brightspace.
There are resources available on campus for instructors looking to establish these settings in their Brightspace exams. TCDC (firstname.lastname@example.org) can assist with assessment design or wording, while EdTech (email@example.com) can assist instructors in setting up tools and settings in their Brightspace courses.
Rather than creating questions that can be answered by copying directly from a textbook or a quick search on the internet, create questions that require the analyzing, synthesis, and evaluation of the course content.
By requiring students to explain, analyze, infer, create, compose, evaluate, and demonstrate their understanding of the course content, it will be more challenging for students to ask for help online or from friends.
Taxonomy of Learning Outcomes: Encouraging Academic Integrity through a Preventative Framework Toolkit
Higher Order Thinking Question Stems
Maintaining Academic Integrity: Assessment Design
Finding Alternatives to Planned Assessments: Online Exams
Different Types of Questions based on Bloom’s Taxonomy
Exam Questions: Types, Characteristics, and Suggestions
Refrain from creating an assessment with entirely true/false or all multiple-choice. Open-ended questions are more difficult for students to discuss their answers without notable plagiarism or collaboration.
Open-ended questions will require students to explain their understanding of the coursework through examples, details, or narratives discussed in the course or through an example provided in the exam itself.
Asking students to explain their problem-solving process (in bullet-form or in writing) are also harder for students to copy-paste answers from online. These can also be short questions that can be graded quickly.
We recommend instructors create an academic integrity contract for students to complete before they are able to access their assessments.
First instructors can create a video of themselves discussing the importance of academic integrity on exams, or provide a written statement discussing both academic integrity and the consequences of academic misconduct. Then students can be directed to complete a checklist re-affirming the academic integrity requirements of the assessment itself. Instructors can require that all students complete this contract before accessing their assessment itself.
There is a checklist template available in the Brightspace Instructor Template course. Instructors can go into the Instructor Template Course, navigate to the “Week 1 Course Orientation” module in the course content, where the following material can be found:
- Commitment to Act with Integrity
TCDC and EdTech can assist instructors in setting up such a contract in their assessment.
Sample Academic Integrity Statement for Open Book Exams
Just How Dishonest Are Most Students? (New York Times)
Much like how on-campus exams require students to write their exam in the same timeframe, instructors can try to develop a similar online strategy to protect the integrity of their exam. Some tips include:
- Have every student start the exam around the same time
- Limit how long students have access to the exam
- Try to provide just enough time for a student who knows the material to complete the exam – too much time may encourage students to search for answers or collaborate with other students
- Create individual extended time settings for students who are approved for accommodations through Accessibility Services
- Review Respondus LockDown Browser in Brightspace to see if this is a good option for your assessment
Choose a test setting that ensures students can only view one question at a time – this can help avoid students assisting each other in their assessment or looking over the test questions and then opening multiple tabs to research possible answers.
Require students to complete their exam one question at a time, without the option to return to re-attempt questions. Prohibiting backtracking will make it more difficult for students with randomized test questions to assist one another and will reduce students using their extra time at the end of the test to try to locate the correct answer through prohibited means.
Randomized test questions are one of the most helpful tools for both preventing and detecting cheating on online exams. By randomizing assessment questions, instructors ensure that students cannot share screens or contact fellow students to work together on answers.
Additionally, Brightspace can track the randomized order of questions for each student in Brightspace. Instructors can compare question order and the completed time for questions to confirm whether student collaboration may have taken place.
If instructors choose to randomize their test questions, a larger amount of questions in the question pool in Brightspace will further minimize the chances of students effectively collaborating on exams.
Much like randomized questions, multiple versions of the exam will deter chances for students to collaborate on their exams. It is generally recommended that instructors provide different versions of the same test for both in-person and online exams.
Difference exam versions will also affect students who may try to complete the assessment in the same physical space, as they are less likely to be able to assist one another.
Lastly, it is recommended to use different exam versions for students in different time zones, if multiple testing times are offered.
For those instructors teaching in courses with assessment questions with variables (Math, Physics, Statistics, Economics, etc.), Brightspace allows for each individual student to be given a random set of values in their assessments. While this may necessitate more time and effort when marking, this would allow instructors to immediately identify students who work together or post to file sharing sites (such as Chegg).
In order to set up this system, instructors can review how to create arithmetric questions in Brightspace.
When grading, the instructor would then see the values of the variables that each individual student was given. Instructors can request students to submit work in a PDF if they would like them to show their work, or alternatively, students can enter their answers directly into Brightspace where they will be graded automatically (instructors will not see student work unless they ask for it separately or in tandem).
Instructors with questions about how to set this up in their Brightspace assessment can reach out to EdTech (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance.
Technical issues may be a common occurrence as students, instructors, and support services adapt to new technologies and assessment design. Here are some tips to prevent and manage students concerns of technical issues with their assessments:
- Offer a practice exam to allow students to familiarize themselves with online testing features
- Set up your test to automatically end the assessment when a student exits the assessment or if time runs out
- If a student then claims their system crashed, review their assessment setting to review questions answered and time remaining to decide if they will be allowed to continue the exam
Do not make a student’s score immediately available for them to review upon completion of their assessment. This will avoid students providing their answers to students still completing the assessment.
While it is very convenient to utilize test banks in student assessments, it should be noted that these test banks are frequently shared online. Students may be able to access the entire test bank of a course.
We recommend using the test bank questions as inspiration or altering how the questions are worded to avoid direct use of test banks among students.
If a student requests to review their assessment, we recommend either meeting with them through zoom to discuss their results and to only discuss questions answered incorrectly.
This will limit students from sharing their questions and answers with possible future students.