Academic Integrity

Posted on Tuesday, November 24, 2015

SF State is committed to student success and ensuring academic integrity in technology enhanced and online courses, which requires students exercise ethical judgment when faced with the demands of a challenging academic environment.

Student desk with an ethics book

With increased access to the Internet and other technologies, a common concern is that students are more tempted to cheat in online courses, compared to face to face courses. Contrary to public opinion, however, research in this area does not seem to support this assumption. What does the research tell us? 

  • In Watson and Sottiles’s (2005) article, “Cheating in the digital age: Do students cheat more in online courses?” the authors found no significant difference in students’ self-reported dishonest behaviors in online compared to face to face courses. In each of these environments, between 32.1 and 32.7%  of students admitted to having cheated at some point in their academic careers. 
  • In Beck’s (2014) article, “Testing a model to predict online cheating—much ado about nothing,” Beck investigated whether students in online courses are more likely to engage in academic dishonesty and whether academically dishonest students are more likely to enroll in online courses. Beck found, “based on the results in this study, students in online courses, with unmonitored testing, are no more likely to cheat on an examination than students in hybrid and F2F courses using monitored testing, nor are students with low GPAs more likely to enroll in online courses.” 
Given SF State’s commitment to promote academic integrity across all modes of course instruction, from face-to-face to online, here are a variety of options faculty can use: 
  • Instructional Design Approaches
  • In-person Proctoring
  • Virtual Proctoring

Instructional Design Approaches

Research has shown that faculty can mitigate cheating and foster positive behaviors by applying thoughtful course design techniques. WCET, UT TeleCampus, and Instructional Technology Council created a comprehensive overview of instructional design strategies for assessment and evaluation that promote academic integrity in online education. For example,

  • Use a variety of assessment strategies (quizzes, short and long papers, open book tests with questions that require the application of a theory or concept)
  • Emphasize assignments that require written work and problem solving (e.g., papers, online discussions)
  • Provide rubrics, or detailed grading criteria, for every assignment at the beginning of a course so students understand how they will be graded
  • Leverage the functionality in iLearn to restrict the parameters in a assessment:
    • Randomize the order of answers for multiple test questions
    • Set a short window for testing completion
    • Create a large question bank and have exams pull random questions
    • Show questions one at a time to deter copying and pasting
    • Require students to submit written work via the anti-plagiarism software Turnitin to check for originality
  • Include an academic integrity policy in your syllabus and educate students on the University Student Conduct standards.  For further policy examples, consult Waterhouse and Rogers (2004) article, “The importance of Policies in E-Learning Instruction.”

In-person Proctoring 

Some faculty ensure academic integrity by offering in person proctoring during exams and use some of these strategies:

  • Direct students to take in-person proctored exams at the campus Testing Center. There is a fee for students, for more information please visit their website:
  • Students can register their iClickers to their iLearn account and results are automatically entered into the iLearn gradebook for that class. These can be used during face-to-face classes for engagement, low stakes assessment, and to check for understanding.  
  • Campus computer labs may be reserved for testing periods, depending on departmental availability, so the faculty member or teaching assistants can provide in-person proctoring.
  • Paper-based Scantron forms are a common way to administer face-to-face multiple choice exams in large class settings, where in-person proctoring is desired. 

Virtual Proctoring 

With the increased popularity of online courses, in particular with the CSU CourseMatch initiative, more faculty are looking for virtual options to ensure academic integrity. The CSU Chancellor’s office has recently signed Master Enabling Agreements with three online proctoring systems: These include: 
  • ProctorU is an online proctoring service in which a live proctor verifies the student’s identity and provides real-time proctoring for the duration of the exam, for an hourly fee.
  • Proctorio is an automated non-proctored solution that locks down the student browser and records the student’s screen, video and audio, flagging suspicious behavior for future review.
  • Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor is an automated non-proctored solution that integrates into iLearn, locking down the student’s computer and records the student’s screen, video and audio. 
SF State is currently assessing these three options for our campus based on affordability and campus needs  and has not yet officially adopted any one solution. If you are interested in exploring these further, please contact Academic Technology. 



“Institutional Policies/Practices and Course Design Strategies to Promote Academic Integrity in Online Education,” by WCET Working Group on Academic Integrity and Student Verification. February 2009 and revised April 2009.

"The Importance of Policies in E-Learning Instruction" by Shirley Waterhouse and Rodney O. Rogers. Educause Quarterly (November, 2004).

"Testing a model to predict online cheating-Much ado about nothing" by Victoria Beck. Active Learning in Higher Education (2014).