Ways to Prevent Academic Dishonesty in an Online Learning Environment

Academic dishonesty, which involves plagiarism and cheating on tests, jeopardizes the credibility of the academic credentials conferred upon students by an academic institution (Bedford, Gregg, & Clinton, 2009; McNabb & Olmstead, 2009). To help prevent academic dishonesty, and thus, maintain the integrity of the online learning environment, the following strategies could be employed:

1. The academic institution and its faculty should provide a clear definition of what constitutes academic dishonesty to its students, and the consequences of such behaviour.

2. An acceptable use policy (AUP) stipulating the proper use of the online learning system should be signed by all faculty, students, and staff participating in the learning process. Consequences for violating the AUP should be outlined as well.

3. Faculty should indicate the citation style (e.g., American Psychological Association (APA)) students should utilize in the course, and direct them to online or printed resources.

4. Tests and examinations could be replaced by writing assignments so that the instructor can get a feel for each student’s writing style (Olt, 2009).

5. Faculty, with the assistance of the Information Technology (IT) Department, should be cognizant of Web sites offering research papers and essays for sale.

6. If examinations are going to be offered online, then a remote monitoring tool such as Remote Proctor Pro could be used (Bedford, Gregg, & Clinton, 2009). Remote Proctor Pro is a hardware device that uses biometrics to validate the identity of the test-taker, and a 360-degree webcam with speakers to record video and sounds in the testing environment (Software Secure, 2012). Figure 1 shows a student using Remote Proctor Pro to take an exam at home.

Figure 1: Student Using Remote Proctor Pro at Home

(Software Secure, 2012, p. 1)

Remote Proctor Pro comes with a software package called Securexam which provides the test-taker with access to an examination while simultaneously locking down the student’s computer by preventing it from accessing other applications or online materials not required to complete the examination (Software Secure, 2012). The unit cost of Remote Proctor Pro is US$150.00 for the hardware and US$30.00 per year to use the Securexam software (Bedford, Gregg, & Clinton, 2009). Step-by-step hardware and software instructions and 24/7 technical support are provided to students by the vendor, Software Secure. A link to a Case Study describing how a professor at Michigan State University used Remote Proctor Pro to control cheating is provided below.

Case Study: Assistant Professor at Michigan State University Expands Course Enrollment and Protects Exam Integrity with Remote Proctoring Technology

7. If a remote monitoring solution such as Remote Proctor Pro cannot be used then tests and examinations should be weighted less and consist of open-ended instead of multiple choice questions to foster higher order critical thinking skills that cannot be readily accommodated through unauthorized online searches (Olt, 2009).

8. Instructors should elicit feedback from students to make sure the workload is manageable. If students feel stressed or overwhelmed by the requirements of the course, then they may be more likely to engage in plagiarism or cheating (Olt, 2009).

Hopefully, academic institutions and their faculty and students will be able to work together to maintain the integrity of the online learning environment through fairness, respect, and scholarship.


Bedford, W., Gregg, J., & Clinton, S. (2009). Implementing Technology to Prevent Online Cheating: A Case Study at a Small Southern Regional University (SSRU). Merlot Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5(2), 230-238. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol5no2/gregg_0609.pdf

McNabb, L.  & Olmstead, A. (2009). Communities of Integrity in Online Courses: Faculty Member Beliefs and Strategies. Merlot Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5(2), 208-221. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol5no2/mcnabb_0609.pdf

Olt, M. R. (2009). Seven Strategies for Plagiarism-proofing Discussion Threads in Online Courses. Merlot Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5(2), 222-229. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol5no2/olt_0609.pdf

Software Secure. (2012). Remote Proctor Pro Product Data Sheet. Retrieved from http://www.softwaresecure.com:8080/SSINewsite/Collateral%20PDFs/Remote%20Proctor%20Pro%20Data%20Sheet.pdf

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Columbia College. (2010). Academic Integrity Policy. Retrieved from http://www.gocolumbia.edu/students/Academic_Integrity.aspx


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