Weekly Teaching Note
Nov 06 2013
Dealing with Academic Dishonesty in the 21st Century

While some research shows that students are not more likely to cheat in online courses (Watson & Sottile, 2010), the 21st century has seen a rise in student acceptability of “cut and paste” behavior that is considered academic dishonesty by most faculty (McCabe, Butterfield, and Trevino, 2012). According to Olt (2002), there are three approaches faculty can take toward cheating either in the face-to-face or online environment:

  • the “virtues” approach (honor codes, discussion, tutorials, etc.)
  • the “prevention” approach through creating assignments and assessments that make dishonesty less likely
  • the “policing” approach using software (Turnitin, Safe Assign, Google, etc.) to “catch” dishonest students.

No matter what approach you decide to use, the best way to promote academic integrity in your courses is to help students learn what behaviors are considered dishonest and how they can avoid such behaviors. Ways to do this include:

  • communicate to students why academic integrity is valuable (in the syllabus and in face-to-face or online communications)
  • assist students with proper citation rules
  • model academic integrity when designing your course (for example, make sure you get permission to use materials and acknowledge copyrighted materials)

Other best practice strategies include:

  • use three or more short assessments rather than only a midterm and final. This lowers the stakes for each assessment, which can in turn reduce the student’s motivation to cheat
  • require coordination and cooperation among students for assessments so that they are also accountable to peers
  • use some fast, informal [Classroom Check-in Techniques]() so you can learn what is “typical work” for your students, and are able to recognize extreme aberrations
  • be clear about if and how much students are allowed to collaborate on assignments
  • change assignments frequently from semester to semester and tailor them specifically to course materials
  • draw from a large bank of questions and randomize when the test is administered
  • design assignments to be completed in stages, so students document their work as they create it


  • McCabe, D.L., Butterfield, K.D., and Trevino, L.K. (2012) Cheating in College: Why Students Do It and What Educators Can do About It. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Olt, M.R. (2002) Ethics and Distance Education: Strategies for Minimizing Academic Dishonesty in Online Assessment. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume V, Number III available at: http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/fall53/olt53.html
  • Watson, G & Sottile, J. (2010) Cheating in the Digital Age: Do Students Cheat More in Online Courses? Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume XIII, Number I available at: http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring131/watson131.html

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at fglazer@nyit.edu. This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium hosted at Western Kentucky University and organized by Seneca College and New York Institute of Technology.


Christopher Price, Ph.D. 
Director, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT)
The College at Brockport, State University of New York

Contact Us

Center for Teaching and Learning

Old Westbury
Harry Schure Hall, Room 227A
Email Us | Map It

Edward Guiliano Global Center
Email Us | Map It

Weekly Teaching Notes
Feb 04 2016

How Accurate are Your Assumptions about the Students in Your Class?

Jan 27 2016

First Day of Class: Engage your Students with Poll Everywhere!

Nov 19 2015

Encouraging Students to Ask Questions

Nov 11 2015

Innovative Ways to Prevent Conflict in Student Groups

Nov 04 2015

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy as a Framework for Student-led Discussions