November 2020

The 5th annual International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating took place on October 21/2020 with a record 250+ organizations registering through the International Centre for Academic Integrity (ICAI) website. This event was sorely needed considering all that our world has been through with the pandemic. The day was dedicated to the memory of our trusted colleague Dr. Tracey Bretag who was a beacon of hope and inspiration for all of us working in the field of academic integrity. The main aim of the day was to increase awareness of the practice of contract cheating that runs counter to academic integrity and threatens the quality of our educational offerings. However, this year the international planning committee wanted to increase international participation and communication, as well as increase student participation and involvement. Both these efforts were met in a variety of ways.

First, the international planning committee consisted of experts, educators, researchers, and writers committed to mitigating the practice of contract cheating and promoting academic integrity across all sectors of education. The planning committee consisted of Thomas Lancaster, Irene Glendinning, Zeenath Khan, Evangeline Litsa Mourelatos, Sue Hackett, and Christine Kanawada. The international composition of the planning committee helped ensure an inclusive approach to the day.

Second, the first-ever international student steering group led an innovative social media campaign and provided a kickoff to the twenty hours of live feed that served as the spotlight event for the day. Students heralded from over nine different parts of the world and their enthusiasm and commitment to the aims and objectives for the day demonstrated how committed students are to ensuring quality in their academic careers.

Third, the creative international student contest titled Students Speaking Up for Integrity received a record number of submissions. The top three winners originated from Greece and the United States ( View Winners). All submissions were inspiring and again spoke to our students’ commitment to academic integrity.

Fourth, a spotlight event titled Twenty in 20 Live Feed — Global Conversations about Contract Cheating supported members in the academic integrity practice community to join and speak to the issues related to contract cheating. This event demonstrated the willingness of international experts to share their ideas and was successful largely in part to their informative sessions and the co-operation of international volunteer session moderators. This effort truly demonstrates that it takes a village!

Fifth, the ICAI website was updated to include current information and resources that remain available and downloadable to interested people around the world. While the IDoA is one day a year, there is an opportunity for us to continue building our relationships with each other and work to continue the discussion, research, and action focused against contract cheating. Dr. Roberts, President of ICAI, issued a statement against contract cheating with practical steps to consider at your organizations ( The video tapes for the twenty hours of live feed are now available through the ICAI website for viewing.

Coming together for the IDoA demonstrated the power that we hold to speak up and out against contract cheating. Consider continuing your efforts and sharing your ideas and successes so that we all benefit from our combined efforts. If you have questions, comments, or ideas that you would like to share, you may contact the chair of the international planning group at  Please take care, stay safe, and remain positive.

The University of Queensland is a large metropolitan research-intensive institution, which predominantly uses face-to-face or blended curriculum delivery. Academic integrity is a high priority, focused on ensuring robust policies, education for students and staff, support for staff in assessment design, and clear processes for detection, investigation, and disciplinary action for breaches.

Academic integrity work was seriously tested in 2020, with the transition to rapid remote delivery (RRD) of teaching and learning, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The shift to online assessment, with minimal time for curriculum change, placed unprecedented pressure on teaching staff. The academic integrity discourse shifted as face-to-face invigilated examinations were now invigilated online or transitioned to non-invigilated assessments. Academic developers in central units and faculties rapidly prepared just-in-time online academic integrity resources, led professional conversations and consultations, and supported central decision-making, while seeking to ground practice in established academic integrity evidence-based principles.

In both formal and informal settings, students communicated they were experiencing higher stress levels related to their study and future uncertainties. Academic integrity research identifies stress as a predictor for student cheating behaviour (McCabe et al. 1999; Brimble 2016; Tindall & Curtis 2020).  Under COVID-19 conditions, we were conscious that more students may be vulnerable to the persuasive marketing messages of online contract cheating services (Rowland et al. 2018), find more opportunities to cheat (Bretag et al. 2018) and/or engage in collusion with other students, previously connected in the face-to-face learning mode.

What have we learned from our COVID-19 academic integrity experience so far?

Overall, academic integrity profiles as a key risk.  Yet, the rapid transition to online assessment did not allow for a risk assessment of academic integrity breaches. Facing these new challenges accelerated the urgency to communicate existing academic integrity messages with students, with academic development staff facilitating outreach messages to students about their academic integrity obligations and the dangers of cheating, particularly through contract cheating sites.

Academic integrity was considered an important principle to maintain in this situation, however, under intense pressure, the balance between organisational practice and educative approaches had the potential to become skewed. Increasing pressures due to COVID-19 and new assessment techniques resulted in unfamiliar situations for both staff and students. Non-invigilated online assessment allowed more scope for cheating, yet more difficult to detect. Notwithstanding, decision makers reported an uplift in the number of hearings to address suspected cases of academic integrity breaches.

We were underprepared to respond to academic misconduct through curriculum development and online assessment design. Many assessment tasks were simply shifted from face-to- face to online, with little or no redesign. Further, our learning management systems are designed for face-to-face learning and a quick transition to online assessment delivery presented various system challenges. Academic integrity, although important, was not the primary focus. Urgent delivery and assessment solutions were required.

Change fatigue motivates a preference to return to our ‘normal’ academic integrity support programs. However, new markets and new expectations will require ongoing redesign of assessment that is authentic, measures learning outcomes and can be completed with assurance of academic integrity.


Bretag, T, Harper, R, Burton, M, Ellis, C, Newton, P, Rozenberg, P, Saddiqui, S & van Haeringen, K (2018) Contract cheating: a survey of Australian university students, Studies in Higher Education. doi: 10.1080/03075079.2018.1462788

Brimble, M (2016) Why Students Cheat: An Exploration of the Motivators of Student Academic Dishonesty in Higher Education In: Bretag T. (ed) Handbook of Academic Integrity (pp. 365-382). Springer, Singapore.

McCabe, D, Trevino, L & Butterfield, K (1999) ‘Academic Integrity in Honor Code and Non-Honor Code Environments A Qualitative Investigation’, The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 70, No.2, pp. 211-234.

Rowland, S, Slade, C, Wong, K & Whiting, B (2018) ‘‘Just turn to us’: the persuasive features of contract cheating websites,’ Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, Vol. 43, No. 4, pp. 652-665.

Tindall, I & Curtis, G (2020) ‘Negative Emotionality Predicts Attitudes Toward Plagiarism’, Journal of Academic Ethics, Vol. 18, pp.89-102.


Christine Slade (University of Queensland)

Professor Karen Benson (University of Queensland): Her role includes leadership of the academic integrity agenda at UQ and oversight of programs for academic integrity officers. In 2020 she led the implementation of online invigilation, engaging an external provider, in response to COVID-19.

La pandemia de Covid-19 que estamos viviendo a nivel mundial, en este 2020, está suponiendo nuevos desafíos para todo el mundo, incluyendo la educación superior. La mayoría de las universidades han tenido que pasar a esquemas de educación en línea o por lo menos híbridas (combinando la presencialidad con la virtualidad).

Esto ha conllevado tener que readaptar metodologías y pedagogías para lograr mantener la calidad de la enseñanza en entornos virtuales, así como, crear ambientes de aprendizaje propicios para los estudiantes y algunos otros retos, entre los que se destaca la integridad académica.

Muchas de las medidas de integridad académica hasta ahora, se han basado en el control de tener al alumnado presente físicamente para poder vigilar ciertas condiciones de la evaluación. Esto, por supuesto, cambió drásticamente con la pandemia y ha hecho que los profesores busquen nuevas alternativas para evitar la deshonestidad académica en sus clases.

Según Butler-Henderson & Crawford (2020), los estudiantes en su mayoría, sienten que es más fácil copiar en exámenes en línea que en exámenes regulares. Por ello, la mentalidad sobre el control absoluto debe cambiar y trabajarse en dos líneas:

  • La primera, un nuevo diseño de nuestros instrumentos de evaluación, que impida el plagio, en donde la aplicación de los conocimientos sea la clave y donde el estudiante pueda evidenciar claramente sus aprendizajes, con independencia de utilizar los recursos que tenga a su alrededor.
  • La segunda, y creo que la más importante, trabajar en una cultura de responsabilidad e integridad. Uno de los grandes problemas que existe en la actualidad, es que los alumnos consideren como normal la existencia de comportamientos deshonestos. Un estudio de Reskala (2019, p. 164) indica que “el 90% de los participantes señalan haber visto a otro estudiante copiar”.

Creo que esta segunda línea es clave para lograr cambios efectivos en modalidades presenciales, pero, sobre todo, en la formación en línea. Debemos generar en los estudiantes una conciencia de actuar con integridad y responsabilidad desde el momento que cursan cualquier materia, especialmente, cuando realizan sus evaluaciones; porque, si lo logramos, no solo tendremos estudiantes íntegros, sino también, ciudadanos íntegros.


Butler-Henderson, K., & Crawford, J. (2020). A systematic review of online examinations: A pedagogical innovation for scalable authentication and integrity. Comput Educ, 159, 104024. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2020.104024

Reskala, F. (2020). Nuevos comportamientos de deshonestidad académica en estudiantes mexicanos: Un estudio exploratorio. Informes Psicológicos, 20(2), pp. 155-170

In the middle of the Spring 2020 academic term, schools were suddenly forced to adapt themselves to a completely online offer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Professors were forced to learn, change, and adjust their courses on the fly. Now, in the middle of a complete online academic system, colleagues from the Engineering Department of Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM) are constantly exchanging their best practices, not only in terms of teaching activities but evaluation practices that we think are among the most effective to prevent plagiarism and assess the students learning according to these new circumstances.

In a pleasant virtual atmosphere of camaraderie, nice ideas have been proposed, replicated, complemented, and given feedback by the peers. This is a summary of them:

Work harder on the exams

Despite the effort that this implies, we are in dire need of changing the format, content, and dynamics of our exams. The most common actions are:

  • Design more and more questions; enlarge our pools of closed questions.
  • Set the available time to a reasonable but tight time.
  • Do not repeat exams from previous terms, especially if they contain closed questions. Modifying and personalize critical values in engineering problems always work to change a question. For example, using the last digits of the IDs.
  • Increase the open questions where small answers are enough.
  • Foster the “writing in your own words” questions.
  • Request the submission of support files (with calculations, images, graphs, videos, etc.)
  • Design the evaluation with more challenging open questions with free (but tight) time and open book and notes.
  • Add a little of competition.
  • The submission time can be graded. Early submissions can be rewarded.
  • Run programming codes that track file’s origin.
  • Ask for small videos (1 to 3 minutes) in which students prepare an elevator speech of their work.

Squeeze the online learning platform

At UDEM we have been using Blackboard platform for years. Now with the conjoint use of Zoom, we have learned to make the most of many of their features:

  • All cameras on, as a compulsory requirement to present an exam.
  • Enable the random order of questions from larger pools.
  • One question at a time, prohibiting backtracking.
  • Forcing completion with automatic submission when time is up.
  • Generation of calculated formula questions.
  • Using Lockdown browsers when possible.
  • Individual rooms in Zoom with everybody sharing their screen in their own rooms, where students can ask their individual questions without interrupting others.
  • Recording the sessions.

Change the exams

I mean the activity itself, not just the instrument. This implies to increase the intensity of active learning activities, POL, PBL, gamification, among other learning techniques, that can be applied at home. Examples that we have used in our engineering classes are:

  • Home-made short experiments with kitchen recipes or with paper airplanes in the Design of Experiments class.
  • A pendulum lab with coins in the Physics class.
  • Analysis of household materials in the Materials class.
  • Legos assembly in the Manufacturing class.
  • Identification and priorization of risks at home, in the Industrial Security class.
  • Autonomous and preventive maintenance to home appliances and family automobiles.
  • 5’s project at home in the Quality class.
  • The use of collaborative apps to innovation and improvement projects at home (Agile, Kanban, Scrum, etc.).
  • Application of the continuous improvement cycle with simple experiments, such as a balloon and a pin.
  • Mechatronic projects for home: smart mailbox, home security system, smart rice cooker, safe with remote activation, automatic irrigation system for the garden, etc.

Not all is for worse

It is very gratifying to perceive the student’s satisfaction of seeing the results of their engineering projects applied at home, and sharing them with their families. In addition, some activities’ features allay their stress such as clearer and simpler questions, more detailed instructions, and less stressing conditions (e.g. open resources).

It is our job to create an environment in which we all understand that there is a trade-off between the freedoms that we enjoy in a virtual learning environment and the renunciation of certain comforts that we used to enjoy in face-to-face learning. For us, as teachers, definitely, any of these options demand much more work. No doubt about it! What it takes to create a virtual environment that prevents cheating and foster true learning.