Academic Integrity and Online Learning
Online learning can seem very different from in-person course work: lectures are viewed online, discussions are often conducted through posting comments, and many quizzes and tests are open-book or self-invigilated.
What is not different about online learning is Trent’s commitment to authentic student learning and the values of academic integrity. Remember, while the format of your course work may be online, the principles that underlie Trent’s Academic Integrity Policy are still being enforced.
- Academic Integrity Principles
- Protect the Integrity of Your Identity
- Protect the Integrity of Your Assignments and Papers
- Protect the Integrity of Online Quizzes and Exams
- Study Aids, Websites, and Social Media
Just like in an in-person classroom, this means that any work you submit for credit should be individual, original, and free from unearned advantage:
- Your work should be completed on your own and represent the product of your own efforts. You must make it clear when you use someone else’s ideas, data, or words.
- All assignments should be newly created for the course that you are taking.
- Free from Unearned Advantage
- You should not receive any aids or extensions that other students in your class do not have access to.
It is important to consider how to protect your academic integrity in an online environment:
From discussion posts, to papers and assignments, to online quizzes and exams, it is essential that you individually complete all of the work that you submit for an online course. Asking or paying someone to complete online work for you is a violation of Trent’s Academic Integrity Policy. It is also important not to collaborate with others on work that is supposed to be completed individually: asking another person to help you write a discussion post or take an online assessment is a form of academic dishonesty. Finally, it is important to protect your log-in information; you do not want another student to be able to access the work that you submit.
Like assignments and papers completed in any other courses, all work that you submit to your online course should be free from plagiarism and unauthorized collaboration. Most students know that handing in their friend's paper or paying someone to write a paper for them are forms of plagiarism that should be avoided. But, other forms of plagiarism, such as improper paraphrasing, failing to cite sources of information, or cutting and pasting words from the internet, may be less obvious. Make sure you understand how to properly use and cite sources in your discipline so that you can avoid plagiarism.
When taking quizzes or tests online, it is important to ensure that you work independently, and that you do not have access to unauthorized aids. Make sure that you know what materials you are permitted to use during the assessment: Can you use notes or readings? Are you permitted to look information up on the web during an assessment? Also, be aware of and follow any time limits your professor imposes. Finally, unless your professor explicitly tells you otherwise, you should always complete online quizzes and tests on your own: do not work with someone else while you take an assessment; do not show anyone else exam or quiz questions; and do not ask anyone for help as you complete a quiz or test. Make sure to close all social media while you complete an online assessment – you don’t want to be tempted to see what other people are saying about it.
Finding and sharing study resources on social media or commercial websites, such as Course Hero, Cheggs, or Studocu, may seem like a very normal and helpful thing to do, but it is important to know that posting course resources online or referring to course materials posted by others can often lead to acts of academic dishonesty that violate Trent’s Academic Integrity Policy and Trent's Policy on the Sharing and Distribution of Course Content.
Certainly, copying student work – in part or whole – and presenting it as your own is an academic integrity offense. However, posting essays, assignments, labs, quizzes and tests online can also constitute or contribute to acts of academic dishonesty. Trent’s Academic Integrity Policy (2013) defines “copying from one or more other individuals or knowingly permitting one or more other individuals to copy from one’s own test, examination paper, lab report, or assignment” (Section 1.6, p.2) as cheating.
According to the Dean’s office, posting an assignment or essay online before that assignment is due facilitates cheating and can be considered a violation of Trent’s policy. Further, posting old essays and exams makes your words and ideas available for others to copy; hence, you are “knowingly permitting” others to plagiarize.It is important to note that your professor also holds the copyright on materials they create, including lecture slides, course resources, exams, assignment sheets, and lab materials that they have written; thus you may not post these materials online. Posting materials that someone else created is a violation of their copyright and a violation of Trent policy.
If you are concerned or unclear about whether you can post or access materials in a particular course, there is a very simple solution: check your syllabus and ask your professor. Trent’s Academic Integrity Policy (2013) requires that “students who have any doubt as to what might be considered academic dishonesty in a particular course should consult the instructor of the course to obtain appropriate guidelines” (Section 1.7). This means that if you have questions or concerns about whether your actions are acceptable or not, it is your responsibility as a student to seek clarification.
(This material is an excerpt from Trent’s Academic Integrity Module, 2020.)
Trent University offers students a wide range of resources to help you understand how to maintain your academic integrity. If you have questions about whether an action could be considered academic dishonesty, talk to your instructors to clarify what is, and is not, permitted. You can also book a confidential, one-on-one appointment with an Academic Skills Instructor to ask questions about your work.
You can also access many helpful online resources:
- Avoiding Plagiarism
- Documentation Guide: What to Cite and How to Cite It
- The Academic Integrity Module
- Trent’s Academic Integrity Page