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Managing Academic Integrity in Online Labs

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Managing Academic Integrity in Online Labs

When students are in a laboratory classroom, it’s evident whether they are participating in an investigation or obtaining information from a classmate or on the Internet. But how do you, as a college-level science educator, maintain academic integrity—ensuring students are actually doing the work and not trying to manipulate the system—when providing a hands-on laboratory experience as part of an online course?

Following are strategies to keep distance learning students honest and engaged, helping you avoid some of the pitfalls and enabling students to benefit the most from an online education.

Know what’s available online. Are students using online sources to adjust their results? Compare students’ work and pictures to what’s on the Internet. Since information is added rapidly, be vigilant and check for updates often. Students might post their work for others to use as well, so be sure to check social sites.

Update assessments. If a class’s grades are suspiciously high, it’s likely your assessment from a previous class is being shared. Create different versions of assessments by mixing the order of the questions to reduce the chance of students copying others’ work. Also, maintain a bank of questions so you can easily create new assessments for each class.

Change the experiments. Change the order of experiments for students in a class and between terms to help keep the data real. Or promote interest and educational value by adding other variables: Have some students test one set of variables and the other students test a second set. Then combine the results at the class conclusion.

If needed, use a proctor for exams. When it’s geographically possible, have students test at a central location. Or, with a strong Internet connection and a robust campus server, students can take exams in front of a web camera. There are also online proctoring services available that use computer algorithms to identify eye movements and body postures that indicate possible academic dishonesty.

Your interactions are essential. Students need detailed feedback, and your discussions engage them in the process of the experiment and let them know their work is important. Set a clear timeframe in which student issues are addressed, and post feedback and grades within 24 to 48 hours to decrease student anxiety and improve morale.

Student evidence of participation is key. Have students introduce themselves through pictures as they unpack their laboratory kits. During the investigations, have each student produce a live video feed while doing the work or take pictures of the key steps, including a slip of paper with their name and the date. Students should prepare detailed lab reports, describing exactly what they did. These steps will not only promote academic integrity but will also help you troubleshoot or correct any experimental mistakes.

While organizing your online lab, make sure your descriptions are easy to follow and that the labs are relevant and have clear outcomes. When you’re energetic and enthusiastic about the class and principled in your expectations, students will follow your lead.

An infographic explaining the different options for purchasing Carolina Distance Learning™ Lab Kits. Carolina makes it easy for you to design a custom kit for your course and choose student purchasing options.

An infographic explaining the different options for purchasing Carolina Distance Learning™ Lab Kits. Carolina makes it easy for you to design a custom kit for your course and choose student purchasing options.

Carolina Distance Learning™ Lab Kits

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