Academic Integrity in Online Learning

Thu, 6 Feb, 2014    academic integritybest practicesdecideonline educationrubrictesting

One of the biggest challenges and concerns for online instructors, including those at Campbell University, is ensuring academic integrity, especially when it comes to giving test, quizzes, and exams.  Considering academic integrity is an essential part of the online education process because it can threaten accreditation status as well as increase the difficulties of moving an online program forward.  So how do we offer security, authentication, and integrity in the online learning environment? 

First we have to understand what assessments should look like in this environment.  First and foremost, your assessments should align with the course learning objectives in order to document that you are teaching exactly what you say you are teaching.  Next, you should use multiple ways to measure student learning.  According to the Campbell University Online DECIDE rubric, a course should also include at least two self-assessments throughout the course in order for students to gage their level of learning at that point in the course.  We always recommend more than two, but two is the minimum.  Other key principles of assessment in the online environment include: providing feedback for assignments using grading rubrics, allowing students to give one another feedback, and making assessments learner-centered. 

One of the most effective ways to assess in any learning environment is to require students to answer application questions.  In other words, instead of asking students to regurgitate facts about what they've studied, ask them to apply principles to a given situation.  This will promote higher order thinking (Bloom's Taxonomy) and require them to demonstrate a high level of problem-solving or skill acquisition skills.  Furthermore, it is important to provide students feedback on a regular basis in order to engage them about their learning. 

Always consider online tests, quizzes, and exams as open-book.  Why?  Because students will have access to their notes and textbook while taking these examinations and they will use them from time to time.  However, this is more like the real-world anyway because most professions will do research and/or seek guidance before solving a problem and coming to a conclusion.  Why should we not promote these practices? 

Finally, there are several ways to make testing in the online environment as fool-proof as possible.  The first suggestion is to make several versions of the test.  This will decrease the chances of partners sharing the questions and answers with one another.  Second, randomize the questions so that students do not have exam questions in the same order.  Next, create test pools.  This allows the instructor to pull the questions they want from a previous test pool bank from previous courses.  Finally, you can proctor exams through different creative ways including having students record themselves taking the exam and sending it to you, the instructor.  This suggestion does require some forethought, but it is doable if you want to proctor exams without paying for a proctoring service.  It is important to the integrity of your course and the university to follow these guidelines, but remember, there is NO fool-proof way, just like there is no fool-proof way to abolish cheating in the regular classroom/lecture hall.