Academic Integrity at UWindsor

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Exams, Alternate Assessments, and Academic Integrity

A number of options are available to shift from in-person exams and assignments to online formats. Traditionally proctored exams can be offered in online or take-home formats. Alternate types of assignments that address the same learning outcomes can also be created. Key is to ensure that the new assignment is equivalent in terms of the expectations and criteria for grading.

Ensuring Academic Integrity

A common concern for online assignments that don’t occur in a proctored setting is the possibility that students will cheat. Some general strategies to mitigate this problem:

  • Design assignments that make cheating difficult: Assessments that require originality, synthesis of specific materials, or substantial analysis are much more difficult to plagiarize than those that ask only for memorization or definitions. See the table below for a number of ideas of alternate assessment formats that can take the place of regular exams.
  • Design assignments with collaboration and open books in mind: Another option is to embrace the possibility that students may want to discuss the assignment or conduct some research. Key is to choose high-level problems that have many different solutions, and let students know that while they must submit individual responses, they are welcome to consult each other and the wider literature. You can even provide a forum for these discussions (eg discussion boards or blogs) where you can monitor and provide support.
  • Ensure assignments are relevant and expectations clear: Research indicates that students are most likely to resort to plagiarism when they do not see the value of the assignment or understand what it is they are supposed to do. When they can see the value of the exercise to their future courses or careers and thoroughly understand the tasks they are expected to complete, they are much more likely to do the work themselves.
  • Be candid about the value of academic integrity: Explain to students why academic integrity is important and provide resources to help ensure students know how to cite properly. You might also consider academic integrity contracts, where you ask each student to provide an affirmation that their work is their own.
  • Use plagiarism detection software: Blackboard provides SafeAssign, and if enabled when setting up your assignment, will compare student work against a database that includes their peers’ assignments, as well as webpages and journals. This will give you insight into the degree to which an assignment may have been copied. Note that the results may take time, given the increased load on the systems – and results do need to be interpreted with caution. For more information:
  • View metadata on submitted documents. If you suspect that a student has cheated, you can look at the document properties to get a better sense of the origins of that document, the authors and date that it was created and modified.