Become an Innovative Online Nurse Educator

Issues of Academic Integrity in Online Courses and Exams Part 1

Nov 12, 2019

Academic integrity is a big concern on all college campuses. It's much harder in this digital age to protect the integrity of exams and assignments. The free and wide scaled availability of textbook test banks on the internet prevents faculty from using these tested and validated items on course exams. This often leads instructors to develop their own test items that sometimes test poorly since most instructors may not have a background in test item writing.

There are several solutions that exist and can be purchased as an add-on to an existing learning management system (LMS). I for one have been advocating for getting one in my own institution. However, costs may be a barrier for many institutions such as mine. In lieu of these more costly solutions, I take advantage of the limited measures that can be taken using the resources already packaged with my LMS.

Tips for maintaining academic integrity on written assignments:

Plagiarism software such as SafeAssign and TurnItIn are standard tools used in most academic settings. Many of these plagiarism type softwares are considered standard with most LMS' and may already be a part of your academic center's package. If so, learn how to use this software and activate it when creating an assignment for your students.

I am a fan of SafeAssign and use it often. Some important things to know when using plagiarism software include knowing and understanding how the product works and having consistency of standards throughout your department.

  • Knowing and understanding how your product works: With SafeAssign, I know that the product provides a percentage that corresponds to a level of plagiarism, but I also understand that the product will often include in-text citations and the reference list in it's detection process, so while a document may come up as 60% plagiarized, when I actually review the document, it could be that all or most of that is coming from the references and citations.
    • Loopholes: Sometimes, students copy and paste their paper into the "notes" section of SafeAssign. This is simply a space for students to write a note to the instructor. SafeAssign will not scan this section. What I have done in the past is do a direct SafeAssign submission where I copy and paste the students work directly into SafeAssign and then often find out that the paper was completely plagiarized.
  • Having consistency of standards throughout your department: When using something like SafeAssign where a percentage is given as a sign of plagiarism, it is important to have department-wide standard as to what is considered plagiarism. Is it 20%? 30%? 50%? Whatever it is, be sure that everyone in your department, if not college, is using the same standard so that students all receive the same message.

Tune in next week to get some tips for maintaining academic integrity on online Tests/Exams.

What are some strategies you use to enhance academic integrity in your online courses? Share your thoughts in The Online Educator Facebook group HERE:


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