Promoting Academic Integrity in Online Testing during Remote Instruction

How can we encourage students to maintain academic integrity when taking an online test during remote instruction? Students may feel alienated and cheated themselves in the new remote learning environment and may easily rationalize cheating. After all, they didn’t actually choose to take the course online. And they may be experiencing stress and life conditions that make it hard for them to organize their time and concentrate on their studies–conditions that contribute to students cheating in general. The suggestions below, both practical and pedagogical, come both from research (though all pre-date this situation) and from faculty best practices on ways to discourage academic dishonesty and encourage a focus on learning.

Practical Suggestions when Administering Tests

  • Utilize academic integrity tools such as Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor if necessary. These tools require students to have certain hardware, such as a webcam, so you need to note this in your syllabus expectations for students (please note, this software does not work with Unix or on Chromebooks). The Monitor functionality also requires someone to review the video feed to analyze whether behaviors flagged as suspicious were indeed so (e.g., as opposed to a student’s pet walking into view).
  • Draw test items randomly from large banks of questions categorized according to the learning objectives they address. Blackboard can randomly choose questions for each learning objective from isomorphous items so that each student essentially receives a unique test. Use a time limit on the test, but recognize the constraints of home environments and accommodations.
  • Divide larger tests into smaller sections (a few questions each) that students access sequentially via adaptive release on Blackboard. This approach allows you to keep time limits short for each section and yet allow students to review prior questions in that section. Shorter time limits make it harder for students to utilize web tutoring sites like Chegg. (Although instructors are sometimes advised to release only one question at a time with no backtracking to prevent cheating, this practice can be stressful for students when trying to manage their test-taking time.)
  • Ask students to sign an honor pledge before they can access online tests and before turning in assignments and remind them of the consequences of academic dishonesty. Keep academic integrity at the forefront of their minds.
  • For smaller classes, consider planning short random video chats with a selection of students after each exam, spreading these instances out over the term so that by the last exam you have debriefed with each student about their learning at least once. Include this plan on your syllabus so students know from the beginning that they will need to be able to talk with you about their understanding as evidenced on an exam at some point in the term. This approach can help you check students’ understanding as well as their honesty.

Pedagogical Suggestions that Address Student Motivation Issues in Academic Integrity

  • Be clear about academic integrity–what it is and isn’t in your course. Put statements not only on your syllabus but also in a prominent place on your course website. Talk with students about it; cultivate buy-in.
  • Communicate and clarify learning objectives–develop clear criteria and rubrics showing what kind of learning you expect so that students know what they’re shooting for. Give students opportunities to practice on low stakes assignments and collaborative activities. Allow multiple attempts on low stakes assessments to cultivate mastery. Help students feel that they can do this work on their own, i.e., foster their feeling of self-efficacy.
  • Rethink assessments, especially high stakes exams. Give frequent low stakes tests or use challenging and authentic assessment activities–case studies, data interpretation, projects, presentations, creative work. Assessments requiring synthesis and higher order reasoning or that draw on current events or students’ own experience make it more difficult to find answers online. Allow them to use “open notes” when possible, clarifying that this does not mean that someone can answer for them.
  • If you do use exams, pose questions that ask students to explain their reasoning, logic, process, or analysis. Even multiple choice questions can be framed this way, or a multiple choice question can be paired with a short answer question that asks them to explain their thinking.
  • Communicate and connect with students–help them feel supported and valued in your course. Reduce the sense of anonymity that can foster cheating by making your presence and that of the other students obvious in the class.

UMBC Resources

Academic Integrity Resources for Faculty– If you have a specific question about how to handle an academic integrity violation, contact the ACC co-chairs.

Academic Success Center– Connect students to academic advocates for guidance in navigating university resources and refer students to the academic learning resources for assistance.


Christopher Heard’s annotated bibliography of published research on this subject.

Center for Teaching Innovation, Cornell University, Promoting Academic Integrity in Remote Teaching.

The International Center for Academic Integrity

University of Missouri System, Promoting Academic Integrity in your Online Class


This site is a work in progress and is not intended to be definitive or exhaustive. Please consult your discipline’s professional association for best practices designed specifically for your discipline.

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