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Academic integrity is a challenging issue regardless of course delivery method.  Violations of integrity are not new to academia nor is it endemic to distance education.   

Below are several means by which students violate academic integrity in distance education courses:

  • Using a copy of a test from a previous semester
  • Obtaining test questions and answers from fellow students who have already completed the assessment (online assessments are left open for extended periods of time permitting students to complete them at different times)
  • Using Internet browsers and other information sources to look up answers (smart phones, textbooks, notes) when not permitted
  • Collaboratively completing work with another student or person’s assistance (e.g. someone sitting with the student, or communicating via phone, text, or email while completing the assessment)
  • Someone other than the student completing the assessment
  • Plagiarism
  • Accessing instructors’ resources online (e.g. impersonating an instructor to gain access to test questions from the textbook’s publisher)
  • Cut/Paste (this can be common in distance education due to  assessments being provided via electronic document instead of handwritten paper in a classroom) 

Below are ways to assist in detouring academic integrity in distance education courses:

  • Inform students of The Code of Academic Integrity located in the student handbook.
  • Provide resources for students on correct citing procedures.
  • Educate students of what constitutes an integrity violation.
  • Requiring face to face and/or proctored examinations either through required campus attendance or using the Testing Center on campus located in Media 218 (caution:  this can also deter students from selecting a particular course or program by requiring on-campus attendance) 
  • Utilizing the built-in integrity features in Blackboard such as:   
    • Safe Assign - a plagiarism detection feature in Bb and also serves to deter students from plagiarizing material 
    • passwords - assign a unique password for each assessment that you email from Bb to course enrollees prior to the implementation of a particular assessment; this assists with test security as well as student identity since email access requires a separate login 
    • random presentation of assessment questions - set each assessment to provide the assessment questions in random order so students cannot copy responses when taking the assessment simultaneously 
    • setting a time duration - set each assessment to start and stop in a realistic amount of time (no more than a few hours) determined by the quantity of questions and type of responses required 
    • use a question pool - Blackboard supports the use of a question pool so that each assessment produces a unique assessment per student 
  • Consider using authentic assessments such as: 
    • Projects 
    • Research  
    • Performance-based assessment 
    • Discussion board participation 
    • Writing assignments
  • Use this resource as a guide: WCET, UT TeleCampus, and Instructional Technology Council. Best Practice Strategies to Promote Academic Integrity in Online Education. (CC Licensed-BY-NC-SA).

The Office of Distance Education regularly explores technologies designed to address academic integrity and will make this information and/or medium available as obtained. 


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Dr. David S. McCurry


USC Upstate

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800 University Way
Spartanburg, SC 29303

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Greenville, SC 29607

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