Academic honesty is an important and ongoing concern.

While it may not be possible to prevent cheating entirely, the good news is that there are best practices in teaching and instructional design that can help. Although this page contains a number of tips to try when teaching online, they can also be used to prevent cheating in a traditional classroom. Watson and Sottile (2010) have reported that cheating online can manifest in a number of ways including:

  • sharing exam answers via text, instant message or phone
  • submitting another student’s work
  • obtaining test answers from a former student who took the course
  • purchasing an essay from an ‘essay mill’
  • plagiarizing a book or article

The FCPE suggests that faculty consider implementing the tips below to help reduce or prevent cheating in their traditional, online and blended courses.

Tips for Creating Exams

Be Strategic About the Kinds of Assessments You Use

If you include multiple-choice and true or false questions for online testing, use them for lower stakes assessments of student learning, e.g., for self-study quizzes and for quizzes that are given less weight in the grading scheme. In addition, make use a range of different assessment types throughout the course and include formative as well as summative assessments. Refer to Bloom’s Taxonomy to create assessments that ask students to think critically, apply their knowledge or create something original (Krathwohl, 2001). Asking students to demonstrate their understanding in these deeper kinds of ways makes cheating more difficult.

Create Question Banks

Rather than having a fixed set of questions for each exam, consider creating a question bank from which multiple versions of an exam can be generated. To be most effective, the bank will need to be somewhat large and contain a mix of objective (multiple choice) and subjective (short-answer or essay) types of questions. Faculty can also periodically add new questions to the bank and remove older ones to help prevent cheating. The FCPE can show you how to create questions banks using a simple, user-friendly tool called Respondus that integrates well with Moodle.

Randomize Questions

When creating a quiz or exam in Moodle, faculty can randomize the selection of test questions as well as the order in which they appear. The result is that students are not likely to get the same questions in the same sequence when taking a test. This strategy can address the issue of students who take a test at the same time in order to share answers. This is also relevant if faculty allow students to repeat the test. Each time this occurs, a test will be made up of questions that are randomly selected and ordered.

Set Time Limits

Recognizing the fact that students taking an exam that is not proctored are free to use open book/notes, faculty may decide to use the set a time limit for the taking the exam. Students who adequately prepared for a test may be less likely to rely on open book/notes compared with students unprepared for testing. By setting a test with an expected completion time, unprepared students could have the most to lose as they spend time going over material, and risk not having sufficient time to respond to all the test questions.

Display Questions One At A Time

To prevent students from easily taking a screen capture of exam questions and then sharing them with other students, set Moodle to display only one question at a time on the screen. Students can still screen capture and share questions this way, but it will be harder to do so.

General Instructional Design Tips

Include an Academic Integrity Statement in the Syllabus

Faculty members are encouraged to include a formal statement on Academic Integrity in their syllabi. It is often helpful to provide a broad definition of plagiarism for students, many of whom believe that only direct quotation without attribution constitutes plagiarism. See, for your information, the Faculty Handbook Appendix on Adelphi University’s policy and procedures regarding Academic Honesty. In addition, faculty may want to reiterate academic policies to students taking an online course, clarifying guidelines for completing test and assignments so that students are not confused about what they can and cannot do. Faculty may also choose to mention this policy using the ‘Announcements’ feature in Moodle, or while conducting a live video-conference session.

Design for Active Learning

Create assignments that require students to apply essential course concepts to a relevant problem. This may prompt students to seek relevant information beyond the assigned readings and lectures, and conduct independent research by identifying credible sources to support the development of their assignments. Students can also be asked to reflect and report on their progress via a blog or reflective journal that they share via Moodle. This approach enables faculty to get to know their students better as they develop as learners. Being ‘known’ in this way makes it much more difficult for students to submit work that isn’t their own and still get away with it. This approach also promotes greater student-faculty interaction, which has been shown by researchers to increase student engagement and satisfaction with their learning.

Build In Collaboration and Group Projects

Create group assignments that require students to interact with group members regularly. Groups can be made responsible for determining the functional roles for each member, establishing a mechanism for accountability (i.e., submitting weekly progress reports), and sharing drafts of individual progress on a group project. For a project to be truly collaborative, each group member should be familiar with everyone else’s work, and be able to describe how every group members’ contribution supports the whole group assignment. Students who are using the work of others may not be able to adequately describe the significance of their ‘own’ work, or how it integrates with the group’s overall project. Collaboration has also been identified as a High Impact Educational Practice as it increases the rates of student retention and success.

Assign Presentations

Faculty with a Moodle course can use the video-conferencing tool, Google Hangouts, to conduct a synchronous online session for class presentations. Students may be asked to submit a progress report or use a journal to reflect on what they have learned in the past week that supports work toward the presentation. To further critique work on the presentation, students may be asked to include time for questions and answers. Students who have developed the presentation should be comfortable answering a range of topic-related questions. See the FCPE for assistance with using Google Hangouts for collaboration and online presentations.

Use Turnitin

Turnitin is a plagiarism detection tool that searches the Web for matches between students’ submitted assignments and existing works by others. These works are found on a number of databases including ProQuest ABI/Inform, Institutional document archives, the Global Reference Database, as well as a comprehensive index of documents available for public access on the internet. Turnitin can also be used to help students identify how to attribute sources properly rather than paraphrase without citing the original source. Thus, the Turnitin feature is effective as both a deterrent and an educational tool. You can learn more about Turnitin by contacting the FCPE.

Incorporate Discussion

Create a discussion forum assignment that requires students to demonstrate critical thinking skills by responding to a relevant forum topic. Faculty may also design a rubric that is specific to the discussion forum assignments, and develop questions that require students to respond to every rubric category. Having assignments that are very specific makes it more difficult for students to use portions of a previous term paper or other sources that may only indirectly touch on the discussion forum topic.

Suggested Readings and Resources

Grijalva, T., Nowell, C., & Kerkvliet, J. (2006). Academichonesty and online courses. College Student Journal, 40(1), 180-185.

Hi-Tech Cheating: Cell Phones and Cheating in Schools – A National Poll. Common Sense Media.

Krathwohl, D. R. (2001). A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy: An overview. In L.W. Anderson & D.R. Krathwohl (Eds.), A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman.

Lanier, M. (2006). Academic integrity and distance learning. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 17(2), 244-261.

Luce, A. (2012, Sept. 17). How do I know students aren’t cheating? Instructional Design & Development Blog.

McNett, M. (2002). Curbing academic dishonesty in online courses. Pointers and Clickers: ION’s Technology Tip of the Month.

Olt, M. R., (2002). Ethics and distance education: Strategies for minimizing academic dishonesty in online assessment. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 5(3), Fall 2002.

Redmann, E. (n.d.) How Technology Is Raising the Stakes In Classroom Cheating. Edudemic.

Stuber-McEwen, D., Wiseley, P., & Hoggatt, S. (2009). Point, click, and cheat: Frequency and type of academic dishonesty in the virtual classroom. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12(3), 1-10.

Trenholm, S. (2006-2007). A review of cheating in fully asynchronous online courses: A math or fact-based course perspective. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 35(3), 281-300.

Watson, G., & Sottile, J. (2010). Cheating in the digital age: Do students cheat more in online courses? Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration.

Portions of this resource have been adapted with permission from materials created by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at Northern Illinois University. They may be found at

For more information:

To learn more about these tips or the features in Moodle that were mentioned in this page, visit the FCPE’s Moodle Tutorials or make an appointment at the FCPE with one of our Instructional Designers

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In addition, the Faculty Center for Professional Excellence offers a variety of workshops, including those that touch on assessment.

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