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Assessments, Exams and Academic Integrity

This guide will cover considerations, techniques and resources for addressing assessing students and maintaining academic integrity in an online environment. It will cover both the broader pedagogical conversations, course design, along with specific tools. 

It is likely that some people accessing this guide are looking for specific tools in order to replicate the type of tests, quizzes, and assessments they implemented in face-to-face classes (Don’t worry resources are below). It may be helpful to first take a second to consider some of the broader issues before getting to those tools.The majority of literature to emerge from the mass shift to online teaching agrees that most academic integrity issues can be addressed better through the design of the course and rethinking approaches to assessment, than any technological tool. That is not to say that you should not be concerned about cheating or implement reasonable safeguards, but if you are relying solely on technological tools to prevent cheating it is a sisyphean task.

Some things consider yourself before you begin.

  • By changing the stakes of the exam, could you reduce the temptations for students to cheat? If some students are tempted to cheat due to feelings of desperation, would they be less likely to cheat if the stakes of the exam were lower? This could mean weighing these types of assessments down in their overall grade or it could be giving students an opportunity to revisit their exam and to do extra work to reexamine knowledge they missed. If the ultimate goal of the class is to achieve your learning outcomes, could that be accomplished better by giving them dynamic opportunities to learn the concepts?
  • You need to treat every test as if it were an “open book” test. If that is true, assessments that are aimed at the recall of knowledge (versus the application) are going to be less effective.
  • If you are relying on textbook resources such as premade test banks and publisher websites those resources are likely readily available to students online. While the pre-constructed nature of these tools save the instructor time when it comes to assessing students, they also make them easily duplicated and shared across the internet. 
  • As we prepare students for a career beyond college, we should ask ourselves if accessing knowledge without the access to resources mirrors what they will be doing in their career? With the availability of information of knowledge via the internet, apps etc, is it more useful to give them assessments that make them apply knowledge to a unique problem. 
  • Do you really want to get into an academic integrity arms race with students, where it becomes a chess match of measures and countermeasures? First, it is an arms race you will likely lose. Unless you are willing to match students in technical knowledge regarding ways to cheat and are willing to spend as much mental energy as they are, this is likely a fruitless endeavor. Videos like this exist that show students how to beat online proctoring.

General Tips for Test Security

Source Schreyer Institute
  • Require students to have a password to access the test
  • Make the test only available for designated/limited time. 1 minute per multiple choice item is sufficient for students who are prepared. If discussion questions are used, instructors can provide 15-30 minutes per item.
  • Develop parallel forms of tests with randomization of items
  • Create open book/notes tests and use items that require higher-order thinking so that answers cannot be easily copied and pasted from external sources.
  • Assign low percentages of course grade to non-proctored quizzes/tests
  • Allow quiz/test retake attempts until students are satisfied with their final grade
  • Give timed tests using course management system features
  • Give points solely for completion
  • Use features in course management system/testing software to facilitate this process (i.e. timers, the choice to allow one try or multiple tries at the test, and password protection)

Don’t just rely on online testing for assessing individual students. Make sure you have at least 2 other methods of evaluation (i.e. essay, discussion participation, real time online chat session). Becoming familiar with the security measures available through Cougar Courses  or specialized software (password for access, automatic randomization of questions, time limits for tests) will be helpful in promoting academic honesty.


Strategies For Testing

Tools From CSUSM

Thinking About Alternative Assessments