Now that we’re settling into our online classroom routines, we should turn to one of our biggest challenges of online teaching and learning – assessing student learning. Every faculty member faces the daunting task of upholding academic integrity in a world that provides more and more opportunities for cheating. Thanks to modern technology and the internet, cheating has gotten both more sophisticated and easier to accomplish. But before we can solve the problem of students cheating, we must understand what compels our students to cheat.
Today’s college students are under tremendous pressure to get good grades so that they can compete for scholarships, graduate school admissions, and other recognition. Some come to college unprepared for the rigors of college work or may just not understand the rules. To help:
- Communicate information about academic integrity in your syllabus.
- Discuss the consequences of academic dishonesty.
- Provide clear instructions and direction for completing assignments and exams.
- Talk about plagiarism and cheating. Research shows that students don’t always understand what behaviors constitute academic dishonesty.
Rethink Your Assessments
Rather than assuming students want to cheat, let’s try to make them not want to cheat. Let’s rethink our assessments to make them more engaging and meaningful to students.
Is an exam really the only way to assess your student’s knowledge?
- Consider giving students choices in how they prove their learning. Maybe use a real-world scenario and have students create a product (i.e. a web page, infographic or social media post).
- Give students a complicated problem to solve that may or may not have one right answer.
- Consider probing, reflective questions that can’t be answered without personal reflection.
- Encourage application of a concept to something in the student’s life or to the students chosen career.
- Consider scaffolding low stake assignments/assessments to help break down large concepts/projects into smaller steps that build on each other.
- Review more ways to assess learning here.
If Your Assessment Must Be An Exam
- Asynchronous is best. If synchronous, be aware of time of day. Students may not be able to be online at certain times of day. Always allow an asynchronous option.
- Be aware of barriers. Not allowing backtracking or forcing completion may put some students at a disadvantage.
- Move from fewer high-point value exams and papers to more low-point value quizzes and assignments.
- Avoid using the exact same assignments and exams each semester.
- Create multiple versions of your exams using a large pool of questions.
- Encourage more opinions and/or interpretations.
- Include more short answer questions, essay questions, discipline-specific questions.
- Use deeper questions. Ask how and why.
- Ask students to write their exam questions.
- Consider using open book/open notes tests to reduce testing panic and temptation.
- Consider allowing exam and assignment redos for growth mindset.
- Review more exam best practices here.
This year, academic integrity also means everyone in the Roadrunner Nation should do your part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 across the UTSA and home communities. As members of UTSA, we all took the training, which offered these very important steps: “Ask, Offer, Leave and Report.” We all have the duty to ask individuals on UTSA campuses and properties to put on their face coverings, offer them an opportunity to retrieve their mask, or Leave and Report should a member of the UTSA community not follow these sensible directions. It may be a bit uncomfortable to do so, but approaching individuals you notice are not following these guidelines and providing the opportunity to promote safety and wellness on our campuses is a pivotal part of making the University a safer experience for all.
Don’t Go It Alone.
Let’s work together to help students understand the consequences of the decisions they make, provide opportunities that engage students in learning, and show them why cheating is not the best option.
Review the resources listed below and get to know UTSA’s Scholastic Dishonesty Policy. Many faculty tackle academic integrity issues without reviewing the official HOP policy. While the name (and paperwork) of Student Conduct and Community Standards may sound scary, the SCCS team works closely with faculty and staff to ensure that students receive administrative due process and provide the opportunity to learn and grow from the process.
Remember, integrity is a Core Value of UTSA. Providing our community an opportunity to demonstrate academic integrity in other ways, that provide less pressure for themselves and ourselves, will go a long way in making this Fall a transformative experience for everyone.