How can faculty cultivate and promote academic honesty and respond effectively to instances of dishonesty?
The resources below are presented to you by Faculty Development in partnership with Zeina Otaky-Ramirez who serves as the Assistant Dean of Students & Director of Student Conduct and Ethical Development in Student Affairs. This is intended to be an evolving resource and we welcome your input if you have material that would be useful to contribute.
Are there formal CSUN policies related to academic honesty?
Yes, this is the first policy listed in our Online Catalog. On this page you will find:
- the definition of Academic Dishonesty at CSUN
- the Faculty Policy on Academic Dishonesty
- Penalties for Academic Dishonesty
- the Student Conduct Code at CSUN (this is included in the Student Handbook distributed at New Student Orientation)
Maybe it's time for CSUN to adopt updated policies on promoting Academic Integrity?
In the Beginning
How do I cultivate academic honesty in my courses?
It is not too late to address this with students in the middle of the semester, especially if your assignments have changed. Integrating these practices before the course begins is most ideal.
Strategy 1: Discuss academic integrity in your syllabus
Academic integrity experts strongly advise this as the first and most important step for faculty.
- Amend your syllabus today and email your students a revised version. Share with them your renewed interest in fostering a culture of academic integrity thereby demonstrating an interest in their success! This small intervention could prevent cheating on your finals this semester.
- Include in your syllabus multiple student resources (e.g., campus offices, tutoring, resources for how to cite work properly) to combat temptations to cheat--students plagiarize because they feel academically insecure.
- Keep in mind that there isn’t always agreement among faculty or understanding among students about “gray areas.” Use these gray areas as opportunities to engage your students in a dialogue about YOUR expectations, and don’t assume they are obvious to students. For example, if the students in a group project don't all contribute equally to the work, is it cheating that they have put their name on the final project/presentation when they may have done very little? Or, if a group of students studies together for an essay final exam using a study sheet you've distributed, will you view it as cheating if they all write similar answers?
Want help constructing language about academic integrity in your syllabus?
- The International Center for Academic Integrity has a resources page with sample syllabus statements from at least 6 different universities.
- UC San Diego’s Academic Integrity Office offers sample syllabus language for syllabi.
- What's the line between collaboration and copying when students work together? UC San Diego’s Academic Integrity Office also provides guidance on how to communicate integrity for different kinds of assignments such as group projects.
Strategy 2: Embed student assignments on academic integrity in your course
Including a short low-stakes assignment that demonstrates WHY integrity is essential not only as a student, but after students graduate. Bring home the point why our society would be seriously disrupted and dysfunctional if everyone cheated in life. Can you give real-world examples of how this unfolds in the workplace? `
- Academic Integrity Seminar website offers a larger collection of resources.
- Want to send students a video about academic integrity? This Multimedia Resources page of the International Center for Academic Integrity page has award-winning videos depicting this topic creatively (and with humor); most are created by students themselves.
Strategy 3: Model academic integrity for students
How are you modeling the idea of integrity for your students in all interactions? Sometimes a powerful way to teach this practice is to allow them to see us in action and for us to reveal our meta-cognitive decision making process. For instance, if our powerpoint slides do not have citations do we say "whoops, my lecture slides are not following my standards of integrity because I forgot to include a citation on this slide." Or when we expect students to be responsive to us and turn things on-time, do we maintain our integrity by reciprocating our standards by responding to student emails and returning graded work on time?
How do I reduce the temptation to cheat?
The good news is that, when we use these strategies, we can also become more effective learning-centered instructors.
- Memorization-based assessments (e.g., multiple choice tests sometimes from publisher test banks) that you NEVER change and that test lower-level critical thinking provide fertile ground for cheating. Because higher-level critical thinking is a hallmark outcome that faculty want for students, a careful re-examination of course objectives often results in modifications to course assignments. In addition to encouraging higher-level critical thinking among students, assignments that are not based on memorization also discourage cheating by making it more difficult.
Create a Testing Environment that Minimizes Temptation (in face-to-face classes)
- Require that cell phones are put completely away during exams. Using cell phones to take pictures of exams and to answer questions can be very tempting and has been an issue here at CSUN. What does your syllabus say about having cell phones out during exams?
- Change your exam questions frequently. The World Wide Web has facilitated cheating by allowing students to investigate through past students (e.g., cohorts, student groups/clubs) what questions or even what topics will be on an exam. There is also a growing online cheating marketplace in which this information can be purchased by students.
- Check student IDs; it actually doesn't take that long
- Walk around the room, even in smaller classes (e.g., 20-30 students) and avoid using this as time for you to catch up on work/email (it’s tempting for us too); the research is clear that when people perceive they are being watched, their behavior changes
- If students talk with you during the exam, always position your body facing the class with eye contact at the class and NOT the student potentially distracting you
- On testing days, require surprise seating arrangements to re-arrange where students normally sit; spreading students out if possible
- If you use bluebooks (or are they green now), require everyone to turn in a blank one and redistribute; this prevents arriving at a test with notes in their bluebook
- Number your exams AND determine if you got them all back; if not, assume it is online for purchase now. Make a new exam!
- On testing day pass out tests one-by-one or watch each person in a row take one test; it doesn’t take that much time -- even in a 200 plus class size.
How do I promote academic honesty in an online environment?
Turnitin is a plagiarism detection software that is automatically embedded as a Canvas activity option for submitting course papers. However, when you give students quizzes online on Canvas, there is no way to ensure that they will not copy, print or take photos of the exam. However, there are some strategies you can take to minimize the risk of academic dishonesty. Below are some strategies to promote academic honesty in an online environment.
Use an honor statement. Use text similar to the below in the directions for your online quiz or test:
You may use your books and notes while taking the test but you must work on your own. Do not share your answers or discuss with anyone, even after completing the test. You will have 60 minutes to complete the test up until the deadline of Tuesday at 11:55 PM. All tests will be automatically submitted at 11:55 PM regardless of how much time the timer says because that is the final deadline. Please read the statement below carefully before beginning the test: By selecting Attempt quiz now, I acknowledge that I am the assigned student taking the quiz and the work is entirely my own.
Create Higher-Order Questions
Create quizzes that encourage knowledge transfer vs. recall, and consider using higher order questions. Open-ended, analytical, or problem-solving questions are harder to copy than mechanical and discrete questions.
Modify Question Settings
Shuffling the options within questions (e.g., multiple-choice options). However, for shuffling within questions, if you have any “all of the above,” “none of the above,” or “A and C are correct” kind of options and enable this setting, it is recommended that those questions be rewritten to say “all of these options,” “none of these options,” or something along these lines.
Include a time limit for completing the quiz, as this reduces the amount of time that students have to be fact-checking or looking for the answers (suggest T/F 30-45 sec, ABCD 60-90 sec).
Consider not selecting the option to release scores or answers until after the quiz closes. This way someone who finished the quiz first cannot pass the answers along to classmates who have yet to take the quiz.
- Build a large pool of questions and randomizing the questions pulled from your question bank. The larger the question bank, the more chances that students will get entirely different sets of questions.
How do I build online exams in Canvas?
For a quick tour of the Canvas Quiz tool, watch this video for an overview of the tool. Below is a curated list Canvas Guides to help you get started with creating an online exam in Canvas.
- To build your quiz from the beginning, visit the Canvas Guide on How do I create a quiz with individual questions.
- To create question banks in Canvas, visit the Canvas Guide on How do I create a question bank in a course?
- To randomize your quiz questions, visit the Canvas Guide on How to create a quiz using a question group to randomize questions?
- To learn about Quiz settings, visit the Canvas Guide on What options can I set in a quiz?
- To learn how to use common Canvas Quiz question types, visit the Canvas Guides on Multiple Choice, True/False, Fill-in-the-Blank, and Essay quiz questions.
- To learn how to set a Canvas Quiz to show one question at a time, visit the Canvas guide on How can I create a quiz where students only see one question at a time?
- To learn how to provide accommodations on a Canvas Quiz for students, visit the Canvas Guides on Extra Attempts on a Published Quiz and Providing Extra Time.
For more Canvas guides about quizzing, visit the Canvas Instructor Guide on Quizzes.
If you discover that students are struggling with wifi access, you may need to reconsider your approach.
Recommendations for Students Taking Online Exams
What advice can we give our students for taking exams in Canvas?
Here are some recommendations to provide to your students for taking an online exam in Canvas.
- Find a quiet area to take the Canvas Quiz with minimal distractions.
- Make sure electronic devices (laptop recommended) are charged or you are seated near a wall outlet.
- Take the Canvas Quiz in a place with a strong Wi-Fi connection.
- Do NOT use the Canvas Student App for online exams. Instead, use an Internet browser (Google Chrome is recommended).
Visit the Student Canvas Guide on How to take a quiz in Canvas for instructions on how to take online quizzes in Canvas.
Responding to Cheating
What should I do if I discover a student cheated?
Many faculty aren’t prepared for this moment, but the fact that you are reading this means you will be!
Don't be a bystander. Did you know even if you don’t impose a grade penalty for a student who has been academically dishonest, as defined by the CSUN Student Conduct Code, you STILL must report the student to the Office of Vice President of Student Affairs using this form because the behavior is likely to be repeated. Read the full CSUN Policy on Academic Dishonesty including the formal Faculty Policy. The Director of Student Conduct & Ethical Development is an excellent resource to help faculty navigate the process (818.677.2391).
Calmness is Strength
Depending on when and where you discover the dishonest act, it is important to balance and maintain the perspectives of (a) your emotional reaction (e.g., it’s normal to feel shock, anger, or disappointment--but temper that in the moment), (b) the dignity of the cheating student (e.g., humiliation doesn’t result in deeper learning) and (c) the overall experience of witnesses. You should avoid negative over-reactions and public responses that humiliate and distract others. Making a spectacle or “an example” out of a cheating student in front of the entire class isn’t likely to result in effective learning. Handle the event privately and calmly.
- UC San Diego's Academic Integrity Office offers the 3 C's for actually speaking with students about dishonesty (i.e., clear, compassionate, & candid) and even provides sample scripted questions you can ask the student in the moment.
Take the necessary steps to investigate if dishonesty has actually happened and gather proof/evidence; lacking evidence can present more complexities and challenges. This may or may not involve asking that student questions. Be mindful of your unconscious biases about that particular student.
Consult with your Department Chair to seek guidance on how to effectively talk with the student about their dishonesty. But this is not a requirement. UC San Diego’s Academic Integrity Office has a great page with advice on how to respond in the moment.
Facilitate Student Learning & Consequences
- What is the appropriate way for this student to truly learn about academic integrity and what consequence is appropriate? As outlined by the Faculty Policy, there are two kinds of consequences: course-level penalties (e.g., lower grade on assignment or overall course) and institutional-level "disciplinarian actions" (e.g., expulsion from CSUN). Faculty have full autonomy on their course-level penalties (and still must report those penalties) and can request that harsher disciplinary actions also be imposed by the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs. This office decides on disciplinary actions.
- UC San Diego has a developmental chart of consequences that you may find helpful when making these decisions. For instance, to facilitate student learning about integrity they require students complete academic integrity reflection papers and/or complete an academic integrity seminar at their own cost.
Online Sources of Cheating
Where online do students obtain our papers & exams?
Unfortunately many of us have discovered our materials (e.g., our test questions, papers) on a variety of websites claiming to offer study aids. Many of these websites are being used by students in a dishonest way. Reduce student temptation by investigating if these sites are harboring your course materials. This is NOT a comprehensive list obviously; if you find others you think we should add to this list, email us at (last updated March 13, 2020):
What should I do if I find my materials?
If you discover your materials are on one of these sites, contact them and demand that they remove them since they are your intellectual property. Assuming they want to avoid legal problems, they should comply with your orders. Consider sharing this with your department chair so local discussions can emerge on how to make positive changes.
Support & Consultation
Who at CSUN can provide further assistance?
Fortunately, CSUN is highly motivated to support faculty in becoming better equipped to promote academic honesty. Consider the various supports:
- Contact Zeina Otaky-Ramirez, Assistant Dean of Students & Director of Student Conduct and Ethical Development (Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs)
- A department chair who has recently experienced navigating this process effectively
- Your college Associate Dean
- Elizabeth Adams, Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Studies
CSUN Previous Efforts
What efforts has CSUN been taking to address academic honesty?
- In Spring of 2015 the Office of Faculty Development, under the guidance of Undergraduate Studies, hosted a one-day campus-wide Academic Integrity retreat featuring well-known academic integrity expert Tricia Bertram Gallant. This event was well-attended event by both part-time and full-time faculty and resulted in discussions among faculty on best practices to promote integrity.
- In Fall 2016, a follow-up workshop was held. The Office of Faculty Development and Academic First Year Experiences co-hosted a workshop to again discuss best practices to promote academic honesty. Check out the resources here presented by Kim Henige, Stefanie Drew, Hillary Kaplowitz, & Sam Lingrosso.
- In Spring 2016, this Faculty Development toolkit of resources was created.
- In Fall 2016, Faculty Development, under the guidance of Undergraduate Studies invited Tricia Bertram Gallant to serve as a consultant to help a group of faculty and staff, led by Sheena Malhotra, Faculty Development's Director of Special Projects, to make a recommendation to the campus on this issue.
- At this point, in order for a comprehensive cultural change to take place at CSUN, we need Faculty Senate, Student Affairs and Undergraduate Studies to partner together to review the extensive recommendations to update our current academic dishonesty policies.
What additional resources do you suggest?
Here are a few resources for deeper discussion:
- Tips for Testing & Homework, Northern Illinois University's Faculty Development & Instructional Design Center
- UC San Diego's Academic Integrity Office is a comprehensive user-friendly resource-rich website with ideas such as:
- The International Center for Academic Integrity's Resource page has award-winning videos depicting this topic creatively. These could be utilized in your courses as a tool for discussion.
- The Academic Integrity Seminar is a website dedicated to teaching students about integrity with resources for faculty and administrators.
- Our CSU neighbor, Dominguez Hills provides a helpful list of dos & don’ts for faculty to promote honesty.
- The Office of Academic First Year Experiences hosts the resources collected as a result of our co-sponsored Academic Honesty workshop.