Addressing academic integrity

We are often told that cheating and plagiarism are rampant in online learning. Whilst the research evidence is currently mixed, it does encourage us to consider why online learners are deemed more susceptible to academic misconduct. Academic misconduct might include plagiarism (using others' words or ideas as your own, without citing their source) and fabricating or manipulating data or results.

Let's consider academic integrity in the context of online learning in a little more detail, before moving on to consider the issue of plagiarism in particular.

In the following activity, click on each question to learn more about academic integrity in online courses.
Consider the following questions. In each case, pause to consider your own response before continuing on to reflect on our thoughts.

Your context

It is important to understand policies and regulations on academic...

Useful links

Avoiding plagiarism podcast and video as part of the Open University's...

Are online learners more likely to cheat?

Answer: There is no proof or rationale for this, although online students may feel less connected to the institution, its expectations and its practices. Discuss academic integrity and support materials with online students.

Are online learners less likely to understand plagiarism?

Answer: Institutions and teachers should provide support on academic integrity for all students, whether they are learning face to face or online. International students may need particular support.

Does your online course design make it easier for students to cheat in online courses?


Student behaviour is best understood in context. Do you change assessment tasks regularly? Are assessment tasks asking only for knowledge reproduction or also for the application of knowledge?

How do you know the students are doing the assignments themselves?


Ask students to sign in to an online course, like presenting ID in a lecture. Similarly, as per face-to-face learning, get a feel for each student's writing, helping to quickly identify any possible plagiarism.

Deterring plagiarism

Even though the reports of plagiarism in online learning may be seriously exaggerated, you need to be alert to the possibility that some students may pass others' work off as their own. Consider how this possibility will influence the way you design and develop your online course.

In the following activity, click on the tabs on the left-hand side to read tips on how designers and teachers can plan for preventing plagiarism.

You will be presented with tips on how designers and teachers can plan for preventing plagiarism.

Portfolio activity

After locating the relevant policies related to academic integrity...

Useful links

Respondus browser-lockdown tool:

Include policy in the course materials

As with all the other policy issues, be sure that academic integrity is covered in the syllabus and that the policy on it is clear.

Ensure student understanding

Provide resources for students so they understand what academic integrity is and how to prevent it.

Communicate with academic staff

Encourage academic staff to report suspected violations in the event that a pattern of plagiarism or other issues of academic integrity emerge.

Make it hard to plagiarise

Plan for a variety of assessment strategies and utilise those that require work based upon information that is dependent on the learner's personal knowledge or context.

Use plagiarism detection software

Implement the use of detection software such as Turnitin, SafeAssign, or iThenticate for papers or narratives. These are not only useful policing tools, but can also be used to support learning: students can be given access to the reports on their work, and can use these to correct potential citation issues themselves.

Use web proctoring and browser lockdown tools

If your online course platform or software allows, consider options such as remote live or remote web proctoring, and browser lockdown software (Respondus Lockdown and KioWare for exams).

Make assessments secure

If you feel it is necessary (or your programme promotes/allows for these options), you can institute a browser lockdown while tests are being completed, or have major assessments conducted at a satellite location with a proctor.

Whilst your institution may have other policies of which you need to be aware, we have covered some of the major and common examples here. As always, check with your institution to see exactly what policies they have in place to handle plagiarism and academic integrity more generally. Become familiar with them and, as appropriate, make sure your learners are also aware of their responsibilities.

Your context

It is important to understand policies and regulations on academic integrity and plagiarism from your programme, university, or institution. Bookmark them and keep a record. You should also make a note of the office that oversees incidents of plagiarism and find the right person to contact should issues arise.

Useful links


Duration: 30 minutes

After locating the relevant policies related to academic integrity in your institution, script a statement that talks about acceptable actions specific to your courses to be included in course resources and/or syllabi.

Use the attached document to record your policy, or complete the relevant page of your Teaching Online portfolio.

Useful links