10 ways ed-tech tools promote academic honesty

Online assessment expert shares academic tools and resources for educators to prevent student plagiarism


Going to the web for teaching and learning doesn’t have to be the den of student cheating (intentional or not) as some make it out to be. In fact, online tools–if you know how to choose and implement them–can promote academic honesty at whole new level.

The internet empowers students with readily available means to compare answers, use outside resources, and look up answers to their online assignments and exams.

With answers literally at their fingertips, instructors using ed-tech tools are often challenged with maintaining their students’ academic honesty.

Instructors need to be familiar with methods that make cheating far more difficult than traditional paper and pen homework assignments, and how to check for signs of cheating in their class. With the help of sophisticated ed-tech tools, instructors can easily check for signs of cheating and employ methods to crack down on student dishonesty.

The following tactics help provide peace of mind when it comes to academic honesty and ensuring that students maximize their learning potential. These best practices can be used for homework, quizzes, or exams.

While these methods are effective, they can limit student learning when used simultaneously—so it’s important to consider all available resources and create your own cocktail of cheating prevention tactics based on your own classroom goals.

1. Randomized questions prevent students from comparing answers, as different variations of the problem will appear to students. While the problem type is the same, the numerical values and solution is different.

2. Consider using question pools, a collection of prepared questions on a single topic. Question pools let instructors develop a large list of questions on the same concept and assign each student a different set of questions from the same pool to ensure a similar, but distinct, homework experience.

(Next page: More ways to promote academic honesty)

3. On assignments where all questions appear at once, students are presented with an opportunity to compare assignments with others by scrolling through the questions for matching or similar problems. By displaying one question at a time, students cannot easily make those comparisons.

4. Randomize question order to limit students working together on assignments.

5. Use new questions from term to term to prevent former students from sharing question sets, exams, and assignments with future students taking your course. You can also slightly modify the questions so they cannot be searched for as easily online.

6. Remind students of your school’s Honor Code regularly by posting it at the beginning of a test or quiz in the description of an assignment. Studies show that this reminder can significantly deter students from cheating attempts.

7. To prevent usage of outside resources, consider using a secure environment. You can add restrictions that allow or disallow specific IP addresses or password protect assignments.

8. Use LockDown browser during testing to restrict other computer activities while students are working on a test. While an assignment is open in a LockDown browser, students cannot search the internet, print, copy text, or use other applications. This solution does not prohibit use of mobile devices, so a proctoring service might be necessary for additional security.

9. For additional security, use a remote proctoring service. A live proctor remotely observes test takers and their surroundings to ensure they are not using prohibited resources, such as textbooks or mobile devices.

10. Check student logs or student data for signs of cheating after an assignment, quiz, or test. Look for student completion times being too similar across assignments, and beware of assignments downloaded and submitted in an unreasonably short amount of time. These are red flags for student cheating. While this practice is not preventative, it can help track students that are of concern to an instructor.

Andy Trus is a product manager at WebAssign. He oversees enhancements to core parts of the platform, with the goal of continually improving the educational experience for instructors and students.

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