Some students may be tempted to believe that they’ll have an easier time cheating in an online course. They may think: “the instructor’s not here in the room with me; my cheating will go unnoticed.” However, acting on this (mistaken) belief could exact a heavy toll. Depending on your school’s policies, their lack of integrity could cost them a passing grade, credit for your course, time spent re-doing the work, or other disciplinary actions, some of which may be noted on their permanent transcripts. Repeat offenses may bring about suspension or expulsion.

Though you may not be able to stand over your students’ shoulders as you might in a traditional classroom, you and your institution likely have a series of tools, processes, and procedures that enable you to assess the authenticity of your online students’ work. In order to curtail the temptation to cheat, you may want to increase your students’ awareness that you are, in fact, alert to the many ways that students may attempt to cheat, and that you have strategies for catching and dealing with dishonesty.

In the Instructor’s Manual for Plugged In: Succeeding as an Online LearnerJoel A. English recommends taking the following steps to discuss your various means of detecting and handling cheating, plagiarism, and other acts of academic and intellectual dishonesty. This conversation can also provide an opportunity to enlighten those students who may not realize that certain activities do, in fact, count as cheating:


The goal here is not necessarily to “threaten” students, but instead, to make visible the methods that instructors use and the awareness instructors have of plagiarism methods. Within lecture and discussion format, discuss with your students your experiences with students cheating and the methods you use if you suspect plagiarism. Knowing that you are savvy about methods of cheating will help the students understand the folly of cheating themselves. An open and frank conversation about your detection methods is likely to help students understand that you’re no sucker. (17)

Reference: English, Joel A. 2014. Online Instructor’s Manual to accompany Plugged In: Succeeding as an Online Learner.  Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. 

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What are your methods for preventing cheating and ensuring academic integrity in your online course? Respond below.