Preventative Resources and Educational Info

Mason is a member of the International Center for Academic Integrity, which hosts regional and international conferences on an ongoing basis.  For more information, visit their site.

Faculty members looking for preventative measures can incorporate the Honor Code Module created by the Office of Academic Integrity into their teaching.  We highly encourage faculty to use Blackboard to have students complete this module as it will directly notify via the gradebook completion of the course.  If you would like to receive the package with instructions on how to embed it in your Blackboard (which will send results directly to the grade center under the student's name), email us at  If you have a student with a documented disability who needs a version of the module for their reader, you may also contact us and we can provide the student access to a text based version of the training program.  We have also created a Plagiarism module which can also be imported into Blackboard.

Online Study Site Challenges

Over the last 6 years, we've seen an increase in situations where students are using websites that are advertised as 24/7 homework help.  Usually they provide an ability for students to share resources and ask questions of tutors. The challenge is that students tend to use the site in ways that result in honor code cases.  Such use has included:

  1. Uploading copies of tests, quizzes, exams, and papers
  2. Sending out requests for help with answering questions and using those answers in classes
  3. Sending out requests for help with creating codes and error checking functions in coding classes and turning those answers in as original work

With the increase of the number of sites, we cannot police students and prevent them from using these resources.  The goal is to ensure students understand appropriate use of said resources.  To share information they personally create (study guides for example) is one thing.  To upload copyright protected information and intellectual property created by their professors is not.  We have created a sample syllabus statement that can be used to provide direction for students.  It can be found here.

Syllabus Language Suggestions

Additionally, this document is a list of sites that were found on the web, some of which have been used by Mason students, so faculty can be aware of sources for unethical behavior.  If you have questions or need to consult with our staff about a situation, feel free to contact us at 703-993-6209 or via email at

Online learning platforms 2020



Faculty Strategies to Prevent Academic Misconduct

  • At the beginning of each semester and throughout the course, clearly communicate with students the penalties associated with violating the Honor Code. Be familiar with OAI policies and process regarding how to handle academic dishonesty.
  • Help students understand specific policies related to Academic Integrity as it relates to your course. Policies related to teamwork and collaborative activities may vary from course to course, and they should be explained in the syllabus.
  • Make sure your syllabus spells out expectations, and hold yourself and your students accountable to them. See the suggested syllabus section of our website for more information. Discuss your specific course expectations with your students and encourage students to ask for clarification if they do not understand the policies related to academic integrity.
  • Consider quizzing students on academic integrity and other course policies during your first or second class. You can give this quiz whether the course is an online or in-person course.
  • Consider adding the honor statement on all work submissions and ask students to sign this prior to submitting each assignment.
  • Be aware of and monitor "study sites" for your materials, exams, and assignments, and issue a takedown notice if and when you find them.
  • Examples of some “study sites” include:
  • Understand how students commit acts of academic dishonesty, students can commit acts of academic dishonesty in a number of ways. Faculty should be familiar with these possibilities and take proactive steps in preventing them. Students often may be one-step ahead of faculty when it comes to cheating and plagiarism, but faculty should make an effort to find out how students commit acts of academic dishonesty to prepare to deal with it. This information can be obtained through professional development workshops, web resources, journal publications and networking with colleagues, and the OAI website
  • Prepare in advance for students who are sick (or other emergency) for exams--consider requiring a doctor's note and use alternate assessments or a different type of assessment that students perceive as being harder, even if it's not (essay, etc.). Tell the students about this practice in the course contract or syllabus.
  • Limit grades for collected homework to no more than 10% of the total course grade, except in courses where regular practice is deemed essential and which cannot be replaced by in-class quizzes or exams.
  • Replace the balance of customary homework assignment grades (traditionally, 25-30% of the course grade had been typical) with a second midterm or in-class quizzes closely based on homework assignments.
  • Get to know your students. When students feel they are invisible in the classroom and think their instructors do not know them, they may be tempted to cheat or plagiarize. Students will most often be embarrassed to commit acts of academic dishonesty when their instructors know their names and who they are. If faculty take the time to learn students’ names, call them by name inside and outside the classroom, and show an interest in their learning and academic performance, students will be less likely to cheat or plagiarize.
  • Even in large classes, faculty can make an effort to learn a few names in each class and address students by their names, or they can arrive at class early and get to know students through informal conversations. It is also important for faculty to familiarize themselves with the unique issues related to cultural differences and avoid misunderstanding or stereotyping students from different backgrounds.
  • One effective step for preventing academic dishonesty is for faculty to model academic integrity in all situations. Faculty should include proper citations and acknowledgments in all their instructional and research materials and follow copyright, fair use and intellectual property guidelines. Seeing their faculty demonstrate academic integrity makes a much stronger impression on students than only hearing about policies and procedures.
  • If faculty are familiar with the journal publications, conferences, popular textbooks, and Web resources in the areas they teach, they will be able to guide students in using those resources properly for course activities. Familiarity with those resources also makes detecting plagiarism easier.
  • Often times, students participate in academic misconduct because they are doing poorly in the class explain to students that you are willing and available to discuss academic concerns with them. Regularly encourage students to go to office hours or to schedule a time to meet with you.
  • Encourage students to reach out to you if they suspect other students are engaging in academic misconduct
  • Be consistent with addressing potential academic misconduct incidents.
  • Refer students to OAI when necessary and appropriate. Information on how to do so can be found in the Referral submission portal of our website. Taking a strong stance and completing the paperwork for such violations lets the students know that they cannot violate academic integrity standards. When instructors pursue violations, students can come to understand that it does not serve them well to engage in cheating.
  • Avoid topics that are too general where students can easily purchase papers online
  • Ask for a tentative bibliography and outline in advance
  • Have students complete in-class writing assignments to help establish a student’s voice and writing style
  • Vary final project list so that no two similar projects are assigned in back-to-back years
  • Randomize project assignments, so friends are not assigned the same projects
  • Explain clearly what level of collaboration is acceptable, keeping in mind that students must submit individual reports and are graded individually
  • If a student wants to continue work from a previous class, consult with the student and develop clear expectations regarding the assignment. To verify the student is expanding on the topic, have the student turn in their old assignment before they start the project to verify the additional work they completed.
  • Compare a student's "voice" on a writing assignment with his/her discussion postings and e-mail messages. If the voice is dramatically different, examine the written assignment more closely.
  • Use Turnitin or Safeassign to ensure that writing assignments do not contain plagiarism. Be sure your course syllabus states you use this service.
  • Students often have trouble relating the abstract definitions of cheating and plagiarism to their own work. They need concrete examples and specific guidance to help them recognize and avoid cheating and plagiarism. By providing examples of students’ work (without names or identifying information) from previous semesters, instructors can demonstrate how those students did or did not properly paraphrase or cite sources.
  • It is a good idea to discuss in class good writing strategies, different citation styles, and proper paraphrasing techniques, and provide students a list of online resources on these topics. Listed below are some online resources that students may find useful:
  • Consider authentic assessment(activities or projects where students demonstrate an application of their learning) utilizing rubrics where possible. Not only will rubrics save time in grading, they will make expectations for all assignments clear for students.
  • Utilize test blueprinting to produce fair exam question pools. This also makes it easier to create multiple questions that test the same idea. For more information on blueprinting a test, see Penn State’s resource on blueprintingfor details.
  • Change exams/quizzes each semester or create three or four versions that you rotate throughout the year. Students use course material sharing sites such as CourseHero to post information, so changing things up is often the best way to prevent issues.
  • Share with students in advance about the methods you are taking to prevent academic misconduct during exams – this information may help deter students from engaging in academic misconduct.
  • Give oral and written instructions concerning material allowed or not allowed during the exam at the beginning of the test.
  • If using blue books for exams, collect all of them and randomly redistribute them to the class. Additionally, be sure to collect all blue books, whether used or not, at the end of the exam.
  • Randomize seating order to avoid friends sitting together or have students fill out a seating chart that you can reference if you suspect academic misconduct.
  • If a student needs to leave the room, collect their exam materials while the student is out of the room.
  • After the exam, mark the answer sheets in a way where responses cannot be changed and allows you to see if there have been alterations if a student brings up a concern about grading. You can also scan a copy of the exam before returning to students.
  • Give an alternate version of the exam for students you allow to make up the test. Avoid letting students take tests early, if a student needs to make up an exam due to a foreseen personal issue, require them to take the makeup exam after everyone else.
  • Rotate homework assignments so that no two similar assignments are used in back-to-back years.
  • Use different versions of the assignment for each course section. Create two or three versions of a test but differentiate them with only a small tick or mark prior to copying. This way, students won't recognize the exams as different, but you will. Further, it will help detect if a student copied an incorrect answer from a nearby classmate.
  • Ensure that different versions of an exam do not use the same grading scheme. For example, if Form A's key is A-B-B-A-C-D, Form B's key should be different.
  • Have students put books, backpacks, or other items not permitted during exams either under their chairs or in the front of the room.
  • Instruct students that materials not permitted for use during exams must be put away so that they are not visible to anyone.
  • Distribute blank paper with exams so students can use it for scratch and cover completed work.
  • Do not post answers until after all sections have taken the exam.
  • Use quiz banks and randomize the questions and answers so that students have a more difficult time sharing answers.
  • Limit the time during which a student can complete an online assessment to something that is reasonable, yet prevents their looking up answers.
  • For high-stakes assessments like exams, consider utilizing proctors. You can request proctoring services here: Proctoring Request Form
  • Utilize the reports available in Blackboard to analyze suspicious test results. For example, you can easily see the exact time and date when a student took a Blackboard-based exam. If you contact Blackboard support, you can even see the IP address they had. The IP address designates what computer they were using to access the assessment. If you see two similar test results from the same date/time and from contiguous IP addresses, you might surmise that the two students were sitting next to each other in a computer lab! (Note: IP addresses are in the format of four sets of numbers separated by decimal points, e.g.,
  • Require that student phones are face down on top of desks so that it is clear if a student picks up his/her phone and looks at it during an assessment.
  • Walk around--a lot! Proximity is an easy way to discourage cheating during exams. If you have TAs, each should walk around a "zone" of the lecture hall to monitor the students in all areas of the classroom.
  • Use test proctors-you can request proctors from our Honor Committee on our website.
  • Emphasize to students your expectations about academic integrity related to the use of clickers or Poll Everywhere.
  • Clearly define these expectations in class and in your syllabus.
  • Consider using time limits for your questions to reduce the chances that a student has time to use another student’s clicker or contact a friend who is not in class with the question and/or answer.
  • Ask a question that can only be answered correctly if the student is in class (what color shirt is a particular TA wearing?).