April 17, 2020

Explore academic integrity and combat virtual cheating in online courses

Join Integrity Hour — a safe, informal, weekly, virtual space hosted once a week by Sarah Elaine Eaton
Student studies at desk while her cat gazes out the window
Student studying

There is a natural assumption that once we move classes online, there will be an increase in cheating. Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, busts that myth in her webinar, Academic Integrity in Online Courses: Adapting during COVID-19.

She notes that “cheating may happen differently in online courses, but that does not mean that it increases.” Instead of copying from a neighbouring classmate, there might be opportunity to search for answers online, for example. However, as with combating cheating in the classroom there are strategies and tools to combat cheating in online classrooms.

Eaton is an educational leader in residence (academic integrity) for the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning and an assistant professor in the Werklund School of Education. Her teaching background focuses on adult and post-secondary learners and she has taught more than 100 online classes. In her webinar, she sheds light on how academic integrity works in online learning environments and emerging predatory contract cheating, offers practical ideas to uphold academic integrity in online classes, and shares some great personal experiences from her own online teaching career.

Teaching online may be new to instructors and it might be new to your students as well. “Do not assume your students are natural online learners,” says Eaton. She also notes that when teachers care about students, students do not necessarily care about the teacher more. It is not a reciprocal relationship. However, “when [we] care about [our] students, they care about learning.”

Strategies for academic integrity in online learning

  • Set clear expectations at the beginning of the lecture.
  • Provide a virtual housekeeping slide that explains to students that the session will be recorded and posted online afterwards, that microphones should be muted during the session to minimize feedback, and to raise a virtual hand if there are questions.
  • Make sure to talk to your students about academic integrity and to start from a place of trust.
  • Create a safe virtual space for students to ask questions and to connect.

View webinar Academic Integrity in Online Courses: Adapting during COVID-19 

Further offering to support the community, Eaton is hosting weekly, virtual, informal drop-in Integrity Hour sessions, where educators are able to come together in a safe environment to ask questions, work through concepts and get ideas from each other. If you are an educator in higher education and/or K-12 interested in the topic of academic integrity and want to participate, email seaton@ucalgary.ca with your institutional email for more information. This will be a chance to share and connect.

With more than 20 years of experience teaching online, Eaton continues to grow and adapt to the constantly evolving online platforms. She is passionate about academic integrity in teaching and learning online, and even more so with sharing her knowledge and expertise on the topic.