Academic misconduct in higher education is on the rise. With an increasing number of exam programs relying on remote delivery, test-takers are becoming more sophisticated in their cheating methods. This makes cheating much harder to prevent. Live proctoring remains the best method to deter cheating, but it can be costly. Not every institution has the budget to accommodate such a solution.
In this article, we’ll look at 8 effective strategies to deter academic misconduct in higher education at no cost to your institution.
Ways to Mitigate the Risks of Cheating Without Spending More
In a recent article, we explored the financial and legal costs that higher-ed institutions can accrue if academic cheating instances are left unaddressed or mishandled. While those costs can be serious—including potential lawsuits and loss of funding and/or accreditation—rest assured there are multiple methods available to mitigate their risk. Many of these can be financially burdensome, negating anything the institution might save from the prevented misconduct. However, there are several ways to minimize cheating at your institution without spending more money. Here are 8 that we’ve identified as impactful.
#1: Provide Consistent Communication About Academic Misconduct
Communication around your academic honesty policies and expectations should start at the beginning of the semester and last. Recent studies show that 18% of students think using unauthorized materials on an exam does not count as cheating. This makes communicating to your students what does and does not constitute cheating vital. It can be incredibly effective as it ensures you and your students are on the same page about academic integrity.
Clear and precise communication about what constitutes academic cheating in higher education—and what the consequences of academic cheating are—can have an enormous impact on reducing cheating.
#2: Form an Academic Integrity Committee
An academic integrity committee—made up of representatives from your institution’s faculty, student body, and administrative staff—can act as ground zero for deterring academic dishonesty. They can do things like conducting surveys to determine the current culture and attitude toward academic integrity and cheating in your institution. You can also task them with investigating reported incidents of academic dishonesty or identifying and communicating about new methods of cheating as they arise (e.g., using ChatGPT or the threat of companies such as Chegg or Course Hero).
The committee can also act as a resource for faculty and staff. They can provide faculty with support in their fight against academic misconduct.
#3: Develop an Academic Integrity Checklist
Have your academic integrity committee put together a checklist for academic integrity. Include best practices for pre-exam communication, syllabus verbiage, vigilance during the exam, and post-exam follow-up. This checklist can act as a baseline for your faculty as they develop and administer their exams. Once you have a checklist developed, encourage—or require—faculty members to complete it for each course and exam they administer.
#4: Validate and Socialize Honor Codes
Many institutions require students to acknowledge academic integrity policies at the beginning of a course or when they begin their exam. This is a good tactic, but it’s more effective to do so after they’ve taken the exam.
Having a specific statement that asks the test-taker to confirm that the work they are submitting is entirely their own and that they’ve not used any unpermitted resources elevates the gravity of the honor code. It increases the awareness that someone is paying attention to their conduct. It can also make it more difficult to claim ignorance of the code later.
#5: Encourage Information-Sharing Among Faculty
It may be tempting for faculty to silo themselves in their own classes or disciplines when it comes to addressing academic misconduct. Whether they choose to make a formal report to the university or not, sharing the instances with fellow faculty members—without naming individuals to protect their privacy—can be an immense benefit.
When faculty members share this information, their department or the institution may be able to spot patterns of misconduct. With those patterns identified, they can then rally together to address them on a wider scale. When institutions encourage this as a policy—and assure faculty they will not be disciplined over academic cheating in their classes—professors feel more comfortable sharing with each other, their deans or department heads, and the administration.
#6: Publicize Academic Misconduct Enforcement Measures
One of the best things an institution can do to help prevent academic cheating in higher education is to be proactive about publicizing how the incidents were handled and what disciplinary measures were taken. They should offer this information before news outlets request or leak it. Do not share any identifying information on who was involved in the academic misconduct. But do disclose the consequences of the cheating. When test-takers see cheaters being reprimanded and possibly punished—by means such as failing a course or suspension from the program—they are less likely to engage in cheating behavior. In addition, publicizing enforcement measures helps assure honest test-takers that an institution is supporting them in their course to a valid, credible degree.
For more about how to respond to instances of cheating in higher education, watch this recent webinar.
#7: Disclose the Number of Academic Misconduct Incidents
It might seem counterintuitive, but a candid admission of instances of academic cheating can have an impact on mitigating them. Open acknowledgment of academic misconduct sends two messages: First, it lets your faculty know that you take these instances seriously and that they should too, which encourages them to be more vigilant. Second, it lets potential cheaters know that the institution is watching and unafraid to call out misconduct and respond with appropriate disciplinary action.
#8: Crack Down on Cheating Companies
There are too many websites selling academic dishonesty—under the guise of academic support and tutoring—to stop all of them. Many of them pop up one day only to disappear the next, making it seem impossible to prevent them. However, there are a few big providers who dominate the contract cheating industry. Blocking them can have an immense impact.
Make sure that your academic integrity policy names these specific companies as being banned from use. This will let students know that you are not only serious about preventing cheating but also aware of the methods they might use to cheat. You can even have your IT departments block the well-known providers on your campus servers.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the potential impact a culture of cheating might have on your institution. The above steps are a great start at deterring cheating in your institution. Given the financial and legal risks of not protecting exam integrity, you’ll want to take further steps to safeguard your exams and reputation as well. When you’re ready to do so, a professionally trained proctor, or—in an increasingly online world—the right remote proctoring solution, can be invaluable in both preventing and detecting cheating in your exams.
Learn more about how to evaluate remote proctoring solutions—and the hidden costs associated with some of them.