In 2003, the University Community and Student Government adopted the Academic Honor Pledge. In the pursuit of maintaining online academic integrity at St. John’s, the Office of Online Learning and Services offers faculty some important teaching strategies and online tools.
Use Publisher Content for Teaching, not Assessment - If a textbook or simulation has been in use for more than a few months, the answers to test bank questions, instructor guides, and solutions to simulations are almost certainly available online. Most can be found for free; nearly all can be acquired for a price. Most publisher material is well-designed and is of good quality, so it makes sense to use it. However, using widely available publisher content for assessment materials is a potential academic integrity minefield, as many students do not consider access the publish test banks and answer keys cheating.
Take advantage of tools in our learning management system, Blackboard, to help curb cheating and plagiarism. These tools include question pools, randomized questions, randomized question order, display options, time limits, forced completion, and password protected access. Contact our office for assistance in building these assessment integrity strategies into your course.
A question pool is a collection of questions grouped by criteria such as topic, subject matter, question type, or question difficulty. Blackboard will randomly place questions from each pool in the exam as directed by faculty. The more questions in each pool, the more effective the strategy is. For example, if a question about the water cycle is given; you could create three or four possible variations on the question so each student would get a one-in-twelve chance of having to answer any specific question.
Randomized Blocks and Questions
Blackboard allows faculty to randomize the selection of blocks of test questions that appear in their exams, tests, or quizzes. This feature is best used in conjunction with question pools. This approach makes it more difficult and time consuming for students who may attempt to collaborate via telephone, text message, or instant messaging, This also allows faculty to give make-up tests without creating a whole new exam for one or two students.
Randomized Question Order
By having exam questions display in a different order, you can make it more difficult for students attempting to collaborate on their online assessments. Used in concert with other techniques, like randomized questions and question pools, randomizing the order of questions raises the bar and increases the effort it takes to succeed by cheating.
Display questions one at a time and do not choose “All at Once” from the options in Blackboard when setting up your test. If all the questions are on the screen at once, students can take a screen capture of the displayed questions and share them with other students. While students can still screen capture pages with single questions, it is more time-consuming. If you use one-at-a-time display with our next tip, cheating becomes even more difficult.
Give students a time limit for completing your test or quiz. If this approach is used in conjunction with question pools, randomized questions, and one-at-a-time display, the benefit of group cheating is reduced because of the time required to look up the answers.
Using this feature, quizzes and tests are submitted automatically by the system when the allotted time expires. For faculty who implement a “no late work” policy, this feature eliminates much of the conversation over whether a test or quiz was late.
Overall, use objective quizzes and exams sparingly. Multiple choice, true/false, multiple answer, and similar question types are most appropriate for low stakes quizzes and knowledge checks. For exams, use these types of questions if necessary, but add in essays, analyses, and other complex questions that demand individualized answers.
Recently, the Office of Online Learning and Services adopted two important tools: Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor.
What is Respondus LockDown Browser?
Respondus LockDown Browser is a custom web browser that students install on their computers and use for taking selected Blackboard exams. When taking a Blackboard test via Respondus LockDown Browser, students cannot access any other application on their computers until after they submit the test. Respondus LockDown Browser essentially "locks down" a student's computer for the duration of the online test. It is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems. Windows: XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8; MAC: OS X 10.3.9 or higher.
What is Respondus Monitor?
Respondus Monitor is an application that is designed to protect the integrity of online exams by integrating webcam technology with LockDown Browser. This adds a valuable layer of security for online assessments.
Several key points to understand when working with Respondus Monitor:
Instructor Resources for Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor
Check out the Introduction to Lockdown Browser and Monitor in Blackboard: Quick Start Guide and faculty live webinars schedule. For additional instructor resources, visit the Instructor Resources page on the Respondus website.
Quality Matters (QM) is a nationally recognized, faculty-centered, peer review process designed to answer the question, “What does a quality online course look like?” At St. John’s University, the instructional design team uses QM’s tools to assist faculty in designing and developing online courses. Online teaching mentors use materials based on the QM rubric to guide faculty new to online teaching through the design and delivery of their first online course. The focus of quality assurance at St. John’s is continuous improvement.
Instructional design staff can help St. John’s faculty design courses that reduce incentives for academic dishonesty (cheating and plagiarism) in their courses. By implementing research-based pedagogies and using tools available in the learning management system, faculty can reduce motivation for cheating behaviors, improve the security of their testing process, and provide a better learning experience for their students.
Faculty members currently teaching online or hybrid who are trying to improve outcomes, are looking for a new approach, or just want to try some fresh ideas in their courses, can schedule a course review with one of the instructional designers from Online Learning and Services (OLS). Contact the OLS instructional design team.