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Assignments & Tests

Best practices and links to resources related to a variety of assignment types and tests

Suggestions to Promote Academic Integrity

In what ways will your assessment design curb attempts at cheating or plagiarism? The unfortunate truth is that academic integrity is an issue in any mode of learning, whether online or face-to-face. Technology makes cheating easier, but you can set up assessments in such a way as to reduce the chances of students being successful. Consider the following:

  • Use a variety of assessment types - Strategies that students might use to cheat or plagiarize on one type of assessment may not work on other types. 
  • Use low-stakes assessments to track progress over time - Students are more likely to cheat when the stakes are high, such as assessment that consists of just a midterm and a final. You may find that students are less likely to take the trouble to cheat on multiple low-stakes quizzes that precede a midterm. Likewise, asking for several drafts of a big paper reduces the chances of students buying a finished paper from the Internet.
  • Use randomly drawn test questions and rotate assignment topics - Canvas allows you to set up a bank of test questions from which to draw randomly. Even if students sit next to each other while taking such an exam, they are not likely to receive the same questions. Similarly, assigning different topics for papers each semester can thwart attempts at sharing papers written previously by roommates, friends, or family members.
  • Give timed, open-book tests - We usually recommend allowing no more than 1 minute per question on a selected-response test; short-answer and essay questions deserve a bit more time. Consider making the test open-book. Students will still need to be familiar with the text to do well, and if they do use the book during the exam, they are doing what we hope to see: engaging with the content.
  • Require a secure browser - NNU has implemented Respondus LockDown Browser in Canvas. When students take an assessment that you have set up to use LockDown Browser, they must first download it to their computer. The browser restricts students from opening other websites, applications, or resources on the computer when taking an exam.
  • Require proctoring or a webcam recording - For high-stakes exams, set up a Canvas test to use Respondus Monitor as well as LockDown Browser. Monitor requires students to use a webcam while taking the exam and provides some analytics to help you determine if something was amiss.
  • Encourage students to use study helps - Sometimes, students may violate guidelines for academic integrity out of ignorance rather than a true desire to cheat. NNU makes a variety of free resources and services available to online students. These include the following:
    • NNU Writing Center - A part of the university's Center for Academic Success and Advising (CASA), the writing center provides free assistance with grammar, citations, and avoiding plagiarism. In addition, students can take advantage of the Online Writing Lab to get human assistance with their papers. (You can also use the Writing Center to check your written assignment instructions for clarity!)
    • CASA Tutoring Services - NNU students who work for CASA, with expertise in a variety of subjects, are available by appointment through the Tutor Matching Service. Several of the CASA tutors are specifically available for virtual consultations with online students.
  • Use available technologies to detect plagiarism - Sometimes, you just have a gut feeling that the writing submitted by a student is not his or her own. A quick way to check for plagiarism is to copy and paste a sentence or two into an Internet search (be sure to use quote marks). Another method is to use TurnItIn, a plagiarism-detection program integrated into Canvas. You can set up Canvas assignments to check uploaded papers through TurnItIn, or you can upload suspicious papers yourself, via the TurnItIn website. Either way, the program will check the Internet and several databases for matches between the student's text and text that it finds online. If any duplications show up, TurnItIn will note a possible instance of plagiarism.