The Best Cheating Prevention: Open Discussion about Academic Integrity

The use of test banks, essay exams, and problem solving questions all help in guiding those students who might be tempted to cheat to make the right choices.
by LSA Learning & Teaching Technology Consultants

How to ensure academic integrity among remote students is a topic of regular discussion in the past few decades. While it may be tempting to reach for a technological solution, given the way learning technology itself can appear to be the cause of the problem, research has demonstrated that other approaches work better. In particular, discussing the issue directly with your students and working to improve student equity in the class both have deeper and more lasting impact.

Teaching students the standards of academic integrity is an important step in upholding that integrity. Michael and Williams note that a significant number of apparent cheating incidents can rise from a simple lack of information. (1) Students who have not been taught standards of academic quotes and citation can easily appear to be rampant plagiarists without ever intending to be.

There’s also evidence that honor codes do, in fact, deter cheating. Behavioral research by Shu, Gino, and Bazerman shows that people who were reminded of moral expectations by writing out or signing an honor code before they took a test behaved with greater integrity. (2) McCabe’s surveys have found that schools with an established honor code have about 25% lower rates of cheating than other institutions, provided that honor code was made a central part of campus culture. (3)

The critical element, in all these cases, is direct communication and conversation with students. LSA’s standards of academic integrity, and description of academic misconduct may be helpful places to start this conversation with your students. Other prompts that may help get the discussion rolling include:

  • What is academic integrity?

  • What are some of the results, when people cheat on tests?

  • What are tests and assessments for? What are their results supposed to show?

  • What do you think would be most effective to prevent cheating?

Students who understand the broader purpose of an assessment, who have a clear sense of what cheating is and how it can impact their own credibility as UofM graduates, will be far more invested in maintaining academic integrity than students who are merely under scrutiny by facial recognition software.

That said, some technologies do help to guide students to make the right choice, during testing, without unduly impeding access to the assessment itself. The use of test banks, essay exams, and problem-solving questions all help in guiding those students who might be tempted to cheat to make the right academic choices. Using the open book exam method, in particular, requires students to apply the information they have learned to a scenario or data set. This kind of exam actually benefits from allowing students to look up basic facts. Even more creative approaches to assessment might invite students to make something based on information they’ve learned. Such assignments have led to students performing chemical reactions set to music, or even making claymation demonstrations of molecular interactions. Those students will unquestionably remember the information far better than a multiple-choice exam would have led them to!

If you’d like to plan a regular discussion activity around academic integrity, for your classes, or discuss how to re-work existing assessments, feel free to reach out to the LSA Our consultants will be happy to help! The Remote Assessment and Exams page on our website also includes a range of suggestions for the current remote learning conditions.



1. Michael, Timothy B. & Williams, Melissa A”. Student Equity: Discouraging Cheating in Online Courses.” Administrative Issues Journal: Education, Practice, and Research. 2013; vol 3.2.

2. Shu LL, Gino F, Bazerman MH. Dishonest Deed, “Clear Conscience: When Cheating Leads to Moral Disengagement and Motivated Forgetting.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2011;37(3):330-349. doi:10.1177/0146167211398138

3. Barthel, Margaret. “How to Stop Cheating in College.” The Atlantic. April 20, 2016.

Release Date: 10/08/2020
Category: Learning & Teaching Consulting; Teaching Tips
Tags: Technology Services