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Office of the Provost

Academic Integrity

Evidence suggest students cheat in an environment where there are unclear definitions of academic dishonesty, high stakes assessments make up much of their grade and they believe that cheating is easy and getting caught is unlikely (Pavela and McCabe, 2005 and Lang, 2013). Making small changes to your teaching strategies and use of proactive strategies to encourage integrity will help mitigate academic dishonesty within your course. Additional information can be found on the Instructor’s page of the Office of Academic Integrity’s website.

From the Research

  • Research shows the following students are more likely to engage in cheating behavior (Pavela & McCabe, 2005 and Lang, 2013):
    • Students with lower self-efficacy
    • Students who have higher workloads
    • Students who are high achieving 
    • Students who are in their first year of college
  • External factors that promote cheating are:
    • Unclear definitions of classroom expectations for course assignments and examinations
    • High stakes assessments
    • Belief that cheating is easy and getting caught is unlikely

Proactively Addressing Online Cheating

Since there isn’t the ability to engage in face-to-face communications it is even more imperative that expectations around academic integrity are communicated in multiple forms.

  • Dan Ariely, Duke University, James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics, shares the following regarding expectations around integrity. “When we [get] people to contemplate on their morality, they reduced their cheating. So, the issue is, how in society we can get people to contemplate morality more when it matters” (2009).

Designing Online instruction with Integrity in mind

  • Include an Academic Integrity statement in your course syllabi and on each assignment and exam. Sample statements are available on the Office of Academic Integrity’s website.
  • Be sure your statement clearly spells out what behaviors and materials are unauthorized. The Office of Academic Integrity provides useful resources and definitions.
  • Flower Darby, co-author of Small Teaching Online, suggests taking the syllabus quiz to a new level for the online environment and asking students to complete a Goals Contract. Traditional aged students lack higher executive functioning skills necessary to know how and when to ask for help. The Goals contract challenges your students to review your course, examine what they may struggle with and requires them to plan out what resources they will use when they face a problem within the course. Having your student’s create a goals contract (through a blog/journal or discussion board post) allows them to practice problem solving on their own and creates agency and internal responsibility.
  • Make the assignment meaningful
    • Assign a variety of types of assessments during your course. Don’t assign just tests and quizzes. Consider essays, papers, projects, discussions, blogs, wikis, e-portfolios, etc.
    • Consider building short homework quizzes to test your student’s understanding, and allow for quizzes to be taken more than one time to increase their self-confidence with the material.
  • Be clear about what resources students can utilize for the assignment
    • Can they utilize outside resources?
      • If this is allowed, consider asking students to share/cite what sources they utilize or create a list of preferred online sources, this list will guide students in a direction of utilizing preferred resources
    • Can they work together? If so, what does effective collaboration look like?
    • Tweak assignments from term to term so that students will need to create original work.
  • Be aware of what resources are on the web that students may utilize from social study sites like Chegg, CourseHero etc.
  • Avoid assigning a single term paper or exam that counts for a large percentage of the grade of students. 
  • Require students to submit parts of a big assignment over a period of time, i.e proposal, introduction, outline, draft. 
  • Talk openly about what plagiarism is and how you will check for it.
    • Utilize SafeAssign and allow students to submit their essay as a draft so they can check for plagiarism prior to the final submission. For more information and a tutorial on SafeAssign, visit the SafeAssign web page on the Office of Academic Integrity’s website.
  • Help students understand and guard against plagiarism with online tutorials or helpful websites.
  • Assign topics that can’t be plagiarized by tying in current events, specific class topics or unique perspectives
  • When developing exams, design questions that require students to use higher order thinking skills.
    • Avoid questions that allow students to “hunt” for answers.
    • Consider using a mix of objective questions (multiple choice/true-false) and subjective questions (short answer/essay).
    • Use open-book, open note exams. This format promotes student learning and can help make sure students don’t rely on inappropriate resources.
    • Also consider open internet exams and make it clear that exams are to be completed without the help of other individuals.
    • Require students to submit any notes or “cheat sheets” that they are allowed to utilize for the examination.
  • Do not use practice problems, these are likely to be found online on websites like Chegg or CourseHero.
    • See if previous exams are available on CourseHero, Chegg, or other social study sites, and make changes to exam content if necessary.
  • Since high stakes assessments can increase a student’s anxiety and likelihood of cheating, offering following can help lower the stakes:
    • Provide students with the exam format, exam length and time limitations before the exam.
    • Provide an opportunity for the student to practice taking the exam as a part of their study preparations.
    • Assign several short quizzes rather one or two lengthy exams.
  • Use the built-in Blackboard exam tools:
    • Require exams to utilize Respondus Lock Down Browser and Respondus Monitor.
    • Use test pools so that students will not receive the same exam questions.
    • Include a timer on exams and select “ON” for “Auto-Submit”. When “Auto-Submit” is “ON”, the exam will save and submit automatically when the time expires. This option is a better option than “Force Completion”. If “Force Completion” is enabled and a student gets kicked out of an exam for technical reasons, the instructor will need to clear the attempt which removes all answers from the test. This will allow the student to take the exam again from the beginning.
    • Set “Display After” and “Display Until” dates to control how long the exam is available.
      • As an alternative to Display Until, use a Due Date.
      • If you have an image in the test, not use Display Until. Use a Due Date.
    • Randomize questions and randomize answers.
    • Present one question at a time.
    • Display correct, submitted and answers only after the due date.
    • Schedule the online test to launch in Blackboard during the same time as it would have been taken during the on-campus class meeting.
    • Use a question pools to create multiple versions and reorder questions
    • Randomize the response order for multiple choice questions so all students do not see the same answers in the same order.
    • Set a time limit (similar to in-person instruction) for completing the examinations.
      • This is important as students who may try to use inappropriate resources like Chegg “tutors” can post questions and receive a response within 30 minutes
    • Do not allow students to review their feedback or score until all students have finished the examination.

For all assignments and examinations consider the use of an honor pledge. Require that students write at the topic of their homework, essay or in the first question on an exam that they will “practice personal and academic integrity.” Having the student actively write this information out rather than just checking a box reminds them of their morality and obligation as a student.

USC has secured the use of the following products and services to assist faculty ensure academic integrity during exams.  Please note that these products are readily available for use.

  • LockDown Browser by Respondus. Discourage and prevent digital cheating on computers. LockDown Browser ensures assessments are displayed full-screen and cannot be minimized, removes browser menu and toolbars, and prevents access to other applications during assessment. This product is already integrated in Blackboard, and available for use at no cost to students, instructors, or academic departments.  For a full list of features see LockDown Browser. For technical assistance, go the the Respondus Technical Support page at to Open a Support Ticket.
  • Exam Proctoring - Monitor, by Respondus. Monitor provided automated exam proctoring and  enables students to take assessments within Blackboard. After a one-time installation of a plugin, each student follows a startup sequence that guides them through completion of requirements set by the instructor (these requirements are entered when you set up your assessment in Blackboard). Monitor records each student’s session for later review and applies monitoring algorithms to notify instructors of the timestamp of any suspicious activity for their review. This product is already integrated in Blackboard, and available for use at no cost to students, instructors, or academic departments. For a full list of features see Monitor. Respondus offers training webinars for instructors on how to use their products and other resources for both instructors and students including quick start guides. For technical assistance, go the the Respondus Technical Support page at to Open a Support Ticket. 
    • System Requirements:  Windows: 10 (but not 10S), 8, 7; Mac: OS X 10.12 or higher; or iOS: 10.0+ (iPad only). Students must also have a web camera (internal or external) & microphone and a broadband internet connection.
  • ProctorU is a virtual test proctoring service that allows students to take exams at times and locations that are convenient to them. ProctorU's services are accessed using a computer equipped with a webcam and internet connection, ProctorU verifies the student's identity, records the testing session, and has every testing session reviewed by a certified proctor to ensure integrity. An $8-14 fee for online proctoring, depending on the length of the exam, is paid by students directly to ProctorU during their exam. Instructors wishing to register an exam in ProctorU should contact Shannon Carson in the Office of Distributed Learning at ProctorU resources including guides for faculty and students as well as recommended language to include in the syllabus to inform students of the test proctoring fee as required by our accrediting body can be found on the Office of Distributed Learning Test Proctoring page.
    • System Requirements:  Windows: 10 (but not 10S), 8, 7 or Mac: OS X 10.5 or higher. Students must also have a web camera (internal or external) & microphone and a broadband internet connection.

Be aware that not all students have access to a webcam. 

If you are not able to proctor exams consider utilizing some of the following strategies:

  • For open note, open book exams:
    • Require students to cite where they obtained answers from when responding to questions. This can help ensure they are utilizing approved resources.
    • Require students to choose one question they found challenging and articulate the process they used to solve the problem.
  • For closed book exams:
    • Utilize short answer questions rather than questions that are easy to google.
    • Assign an application task by giving students a real-world problem and require them to apply one or more concept from the course to solve the problem.
    • Ask students to review a problem that is incorrect and explain the what is incorrect and how to solve the answer correctly. This helps student’s develop metacognition and further improves their learning by helping them make connections. 
  • As a faculty member you have an obligation to report potential violations to the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity (OSCAI).
  • Reporting potential violations encourages an environment of academic integrity to flourish at the university, while ensuring that the university provides due process to our students.
  • For more reporting resources and to report a potential violation go to the instructor’s page at: Conduct and Academic Integrity
  • Unsure if you should report? Contact us at 803-777-4333

The Chronicle newsletter on teaching written by Beth McMurtrie, Senior Writer at the Chronicle of Higher Education, is continually updated with online teaching resources. Subscribe to the free newsletter.

Beth shares that many colleges have produced, or are updating, emergency guidelines for teaching online. Beth shares a few that are particularly thorough:

  • Kansas State University Global Campus has created an interactive online community to share resources and advice for planning academic continuity.
  • The University of California at Santa Cruz has put together this guide on teaching during unplanned events. It offers both technical and pedagogical advice.
  • Indiana University has developed a “Keep Teaching” guide that walks instructors through different scenarios, including complex ones, such as how to replicate lab activities online. Daniel Stanford, director of faculty development and technology innovation at the DePaul University Center for Teaching and Learning, created a handy Google document with links to remote-teaching resources at various colleges. Readers can add their own college’s resources to the list. (McMurtrie, 2020)

The International Center for Academic Integrity also regularly posts blogs from various experts.

  • The International Center for Academic Integrity also regularly posts blogs from various experts.



Ariely, Dan. Interview by Kim Zetter. Wired, 06 Feb. 2009, 02/ted- 1/. Accessed 12 March 2020.
Flower, Darby, Lang, James (2019) Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science to Online Classes. Jossey Bass 2019. Print.Lang, James M. (2013) Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty. N.p.: n.p., 2013. Print.
McMurtrie, Beth. (2020, March) The Chronicle of Higher Education: Teaching Newsletter.
Pavela, Gary, McCabe, Donald (2004, May/June). Ten Updated Principles of Academic Integrity. Change, 36, No. 3, p. 10- 15. 
University of California, Davis (2020, May). Keep Teaching. Retrieved from testing-alternatives.

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