Campus News

Eight tips for faculty to ensure academic integrity for online courses


Published April 7, 2020

headshot of Kelly Ahuna.
“There’s a common expression that ‘having integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching.’ Well, now no one is watching. We need to expect and support our students in rising to the occasion. ”
Kelly Ahuna, director
Office of Academic Integrity

To keep the UB community as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, the university moved to an online learning environment last month.

The number of courses – more than 4,000, including labs, studios and other work that’s typically hands-on – that UB faculty members transitioned in such a short time is staggering.

With the university fully ensconced in distance learning, Kelly Ahuna, director of the Office of Academic Integrity, says now is the time for faculty members to consider measures to ensure the authenticity of student work.

“Now that you have worked so hard to build online materials and ensure good pedagogy, academic integrity must be the next consideration,” Ahuna says. “Luckily, good pedagogy and academic honesty go hand in hand.”

Ahuna recommends faculty members should:  

  • Be explicit about academic integrity. Do not take for granted that students know what it means in this online environment. What should students do and not do to comply with academic integrity principles in this course?
  • Directly communicate the purpose, relevance and value of course material so students consider it worth learning and don’t feel you’ve created just hoops to jump through. This makes them more likely to do the work on their own.
  • Use our resources. UBlearns includes SafeAssign, Respondus Lockdown Browser and Respondus Monitor, three excellent and easy-to-use tools designed just for this purpose. Find these in the Course Tools menu in UBlearns.
  • Include statements about academic integrity at the top of assignments and in exam instructions. Have the first question on exams be a verification that the student will complete the remainder of the test without unauthorized assistance. There are examples to use and adapt on the COVID-19 button on the Office of Academic Integrity website.
  • Design alternative assessments, either for everyone or for students who do not have access to the technology needed to protect integrity. Assessments designed for application make it more difficult and less tempting for students to cheat. Provide “hands-on” or “real-world” problems that students cannot look up answers to. The UB Center for Educational Innovation is offering workshops on this topic over the next few weeks.
  • For writing assignments, give non-generic prompts, require drafts to show progress and development, and let students know you will use the SafeAssign tool.
  • Include direct links to support services for students so they are driven to the right place for the help they need; for example, the Center for Excellence in Writing, Tutoring and Academic Support Services, etc.
  • Make sure students know that UB’s policies are still in place, and they are held accountable to them. Instructors must apply the policies in the same manner as in live classes. “If we don’t do this,” Ahuna says, “then the legitimate work of so many of our students is compromised.”

“There’s a common expression that ‘having integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching.’ Well, now no one is watching,” she says. “We need to expect and support our students in rising to the occasion.”