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Ditching Proctoring and Approaching Academic Integrity with Flexibility

Cheating is an ongoing concern in higher education and is increasingly more complex as classes and resources become more available online. Students have created online environments to share answers to assignments and exam questions, and will sometimes spend time utilizing resources to cheat instead of studying the course material. Particularly in large enrollment classes where exams are the same semester after semester, answers to full exams can often easily be found online.

Students report cheating for various reasons, and promoting and supporting academic integrity can be challenging. Completely eliminating breaches of academic integrity is unlikely, therefore, as instructors, we must decide which approaches to utilize in the classroom to balance efficacy and peace of mind.

Monitoring cameras to represent proctoring

ASU offers multiple tools to attempt to reduce incidences of cheating, including anti-plagiarism software and online proctoring. Anti-plagiarism software can also be used as an opportunity to further educate students and create discussions about plagiarism. Online proctoring, which at ASU can consist of enabling a lockdown browser and recorded webcam monitor, allows instructors to revisit flagged instances of suspected cheating to further review. If a student is suspected of cheating, the process can become stressful and ultimately time-consuming for students and instructors, and potentially lead to severe consequences for students.

Reflecting on my previous experience as a graduate-level teaching assistant (TA), some of the most stressful times in the course occurred due to issues related to online proctoring technology. Additionally, exams are often taken over the weekend, making it more challenging to resolve issues in a timely manner. This challenge can cause stress for both the students and instructors and can result in students missing test deadlines. This is often coupled with instructor-implemented strict deadlines and minimal flexibility.

Online proctoring tools to reduce incidences of cheating and support academic integrity can be useful, but they are not the only way. As an instructor, I attempted an alternative approach by omitting online proctoring for quizzes and exams and expanding options for students to complete work in a flexible time frame. I found that when I saw the students as individuals, I learned that each student has their own story and circumstances; many of the online students are deployed in the military, are taking care of children and family members while working multiple jobs, and have complex feelings and motivations about college in general. In addition to omitting online proctoring tools, I modified deadlines to allow the submission of late assignments until the last day of class, with the thought that if students are willing to do the work, then I will support them.

Student studying and taking notes with cat in background
I have heard concerns that allowing late assignments can mean significantly more work for instructors and TAs, however, I personally found it less time-consuming overall (largely because I spent less time telling students no). I also found it created more positive interactions when due dates were flexible to accommodate student needs. Most students closely followed the structured due dates even when they realized that I would allow late work. There were random instances where a student requested a single extension, but where the flexibility seemed to be the most impactful was for a few students with particularly challenging schedules or situations.

This class also needed some content updated, so I started meeting with an Instructional Designer (ID) in the Teaching Innovation Center (TIC) at ASU to see how I could merge these updates with my goal to omit online proctoring and to encourage student success in the course.

Before the semester started, I went through the course to identify which modifications would be necessary and how they would support the learning outcomes. I incorporated assessments with more open-ended questions; questions that allow them to be creative with their answers and encouraged that they research and apply topics versus relying solely on memorization. When redesigning the content, I found that many of the answers to the assessments could be found word for word online, therefore even slight changes in assessments from semester to semester could deter some issues of cheating. Because I had modified questions to encourage individual thought and application, I felt more comfortable giving students the trust to do their exams un-proctored; they could have supporting materials and utilize as much time as they needed. My hope was to support a space where students could perform comfortably, rely more on their skills and knowledge, and be less inclined to act with academic dishonesty.

Woman sitting down with her hands over her head demonstrating success
Regardless of the specific tools that we apply to support academic integrity in our classes, we can start by setting our students up for success by clearly defining the university’s and our class rules to reduce intentional and unintentional instances of academic integrity violations. Clear communication is critical. It is important that students understand what academic integrity violations are and why having personal academic integrity will support their success both in our classes and in their future careers. For example, if a student wants to be a nurse but they cheat on an Anatomy and Physiology exam, they might not gain the proper tools to support their patients. It is also critical to help students ensure they do not accidentally or intentionally breach guidelines. Sometimes there are issues that students haven’t considered; for example, if students are working in a group, but have to turn in non-plagiarized individual assignments, they might need clarification on how to do this successfully. Once academic integrity expectations are clearly defined, explain any technological tools that will be used and any unique guidelines they can expect.

There are a few things I would implement in future iterations of this course based on what I learned experientially as well as the student feedback that I received at mid-semester and at the end. One change is that I would create more opportunities for student collaboration. One example is to have students preview and edit each other’s written assignments, discussing content and delivery, as well as addressing any issues of potential plagiarism (in conjunction with plagiarism software).

I found this semester to be one of the most fulfilling I have experienced as an instructor. Based on this experience, I will continue to be student success-oriented and support a more relaxed, flexible environment (without sacrificing content). Support from the Teaching Innovation Center team provided me with the tools and confidence to approach the course this way; if you would like similar support for your contact TIC at

Post Author:

Tiffany Lewis is an ELS PhD candidate in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. Her research focuses on how we can work with communities to find collaborative solutions to pollution. She is also committed to teaching, learning, and continuing to improve educational environments, particularly online.


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