It is important to teach and assess in ways that support, enable, and motivate students to meet academic integrity expectations.  Likewise, it is important to set up fair conditions for assessment and to respond to suspected academic misconduct.

Are you a new instructor at USask?
Review the content shared on this page and also under Academic Misconduct to learn about supports available and the responsibilities you hold.

Why academic misconduct?

There is no single cause-effect relationship that consistently explains academic misconduct. Even with new technologies and ways to “cheat,” the same kinds of reasons for academic misconduct persist over time according to research.

Common Problem What students might say What may result
Misunderstanding I didn't know Students might make unintentional academic misconduct errors or omissions.
Academic skills gap I didn't know how Disguise lack of skill or cope using academic misconduct.
Disinterest I'm not motivated by this topic. Minimize effort through academic misconduct.
Disconnect I'm not motivated by this instructor. Rationalize academic misconduct as a response to an instructor. 
Opportunity and tolerance It seems easy to cheat, is everyone doing it? Assess academic misconduct as low risk and a way to "even the playing field".
Pressures and stress I'm just trying to cope. Use academic misconduct as a way to manage overload, pressures, uncertainty, personal circumstances.

*Use awareness of common reasons for academic misconduct to identify strategies to support academic integrity.

Teach for academic integrity

Practices associated with effective teaching also support academic integrity and tend to mitigate common reasons for academic misconduct.

What instructors can do:

What an instructor might say What questions a student might have
You can work together on this lab, but write the results in your own words.
  • How do I express the same results in different words, and why is this step necessary when we are lab partners? 
You should find a study group where you can discuss assignments, but I expect individual work.
  • How do I know what the line is between discussing together and working on my own?
  • Can I use an online homework service for this kind of help because I can’t find a group or can’t meet when they meet? 
You have to follow the citation style used in the discipline of this course.
  • Why are there different kinds of citation? Is this the same as referencing? 
  • Why do I need to learn this?  
  • How do I learn to do this in time for the first assignment? 
You should not cite Wikipedia or ChatGPT in an academic paper.
  • Does this mean I don’t need to cite it when I use it, or that I should not use it as a source? 
You can have someone proof-read your paper, but not edit for you.
  • What’s the difference? 
  • Who should I ask to proof-read?
  • How does this apply to help with my English?
You cannot discuss the take home exam with classmates.
  • Will I be disadvantaged if no one else follows these rules? 
  • How can this be enforced? 
 You cannot use ChatGPT in the completion of any work in this course.
  • Does this include using it to clarify concepts or generate ideas that help me get started on assignments?
  • I can still use Google and YouTube videos and books this way, right?
  • Can I use other GenAI tools that aren’t ChatGPT for things like creating images or graphics for my assignment?
 You should all bring your textbook, the exam is open book.
  • If I look things up in my textbook, how different should what I write be from the words from the text, and do I need to cite?

Telling students to act with academic integrity is not enough or trying to scare them with a threat of penalties is damaging. Use these actions instead:
  • Teach students why being able to do things the correct way matters and how to meet the expectations. 
  • Take time in class to reinforce to students how important academic integrity is.
  • Identify common kinds of academic misconduct or related errors that concern you most and teach students how to avoid them. Explore skill gaps.
  • Practice, reinforce, and model academic integrity throughout your course to prevent the time required to respond to cases of academic misconduct later in the term.
  • Explore sample lesson plans for teaching academic integrity skills.

Students might continue to make the same or more serious academic misconduct errors because no one has ever corrected them before. 

They may not know what they are doing is academic misconduct, or they may know that it is, but think it’s not serious, or even worse, they may think that their instructors don’t care.  

  • Identify and respond to academic misconduct-related errors, including minor ones as soon as you encounter them.  
  • Use practice with feedback to allow students to understand errors and improve.
  • You don’t need proof of academic misconduct to have a conversation about what a student’s process was to complete an assessment.
  • Talk with individuals and groups of students for exploration purposes. 

  • Share your enthusiasm, build rapport with your students. Make an effort to speak with individual students before and after classes.
  • Share your personal approaches to the subject material, to completing academic work, and to maintaining academic integrity.
  • Share tips with students on time management and how they can keep up with their work and prepare for course assessments.
  • Explain how breaches of academic integrity affect you personally as an instructor.
  • Normalize help-seeking. Remind students about your office hours and let them know you welcome student questions about expectations.
Read this article:

Bertram Gallant, T. (2017). Academic Integrity as a Teaching & Learning Issue: From Theory to Practice. Theory Into Practice 56(2), 88–94.

Design for academic integrity

Assessment design is a powerful lever for learning and for supporting academic integrity and preventing academic misconduct.

Resources, professional development, and individual consultation help is available from the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning and within the site teaching.usask.ca, to develop effective, aligned, engaging, and inclusive assessments.

What instructors can do:

Common Issue Why this may increase the likelihood of academic misconduct
Focus is on lower-level learning
  • Memorizing can seem disconnected from real-world application and some students may think academic misconduct is okay because they do not value or expect to use this level of learning.
Misalignment between assessment and the learning outcomes
  • Assessments that do not seem to be valid measures of the learning that students have been told is important, may mean some students think academic misconduct is okay because of the disconnect.
Lack of information
  • When there is little information about what will be assessed or how it will be assessed, some students may think academic misconduct is justified because the situation is so uncertain and seems unfair.
Lack of practice or useful timely feedback
  • If students don't know how they are doing or what to do to improve, some may think academic misconduct is a way to cope.
Hard-to-enforce restrictions
  • Expectations for academic integrity that cannot be realistically enforced may lead some students to think academic misconduct is low risk or common among their peers.

  • Help students see the intrinsic value in what they are learning—not just what to learn, but why learning it is a good thing.
  • Help students value the feedback you provide and see that it can be used to help them improve in time for later assessments or for next levels of study.
  • Connect what is to be learned to students’ futures.
  • Use reflection activities or assignments that require students to connect the course material to their own lives.
  • Use assessments that are close to real-world application.
  • Double-check the alignment between your assessment task and the learning outcome you want to see students have achieved.
  • Allow for more choice and voice in classroom activities and assessment.

  • Coordinate assessment due dates within programs to reduce coincidental overlap or overload.
  • Stage submission of components of larger assignments over the term to help students avoid procrastination and to know whether they are on track.
  • Consider appropriately flexible extension policies.
  • Reinforce academic integrity expectations when students are most vulnerable to the temptations of academic misconduct (e.g., just before the due date or exam).
  • When possible, coordinate assessment due dates within programs to reduce coincidental overlap or overload.

When students feel uncertain about:

  • their standing – sometimes because of a lack of feedback, 
  • the nature of the assessment – sometimes due to a lack of information, and/or
  • their ability to do what is required in terms of the needed skills, competence, time, or energy; 

this can mean some feel desperate or resentful and some may see academic misconduct as a coping strategy or a justified response. Reduce uncertainty by:

  • Sharing as much information about the nature of assessments as you can, so that students understand what you are looking for and what they should do to be successful.
  • Giving students practice with the knowledge and skills you will assess for grades.
  • Providing useful and timely feedback for students so that they know what to do to improve and what to focus on.
  • Sharing the criteria for grades so that students know what good looks like on your papers, assignments, reports, presentations, and so on.

Clear expectations

Students have a lot to learn about the expectations at university and in specific programs and courses.

What instructors can do:

  • Remember what it is like to be new to these expectations.
  • Different instructors and programs will set different kinds of restrictions and options for students, and this can confuse matters.  
  • When students are new, they may make assumptions or not understand the instructions.
  • Welcome questions and clarifications.

  • Do more than provide a link to the academic misconduct regulations 
  • Provide examples of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable

  • Students are more persuaded by reasons the expectations are good for their learning or for their futures as professionals.

Sample syllabus statement

Sample supporting rationale

[When No GenAI Use is acceptable]

Any use of GenAI for assessments constitutes academic misconduct (in this course, and/or on this assessment)” 

As your instructor, I want to assess what students can do unassisted by GenAI.  If you use GenAI,  

  • you will not get the practice you need;  
  • the feedback you get will not be meaningful; 
  • your grade will not reflect what you can do unassisted by GenAI; and  
  • it will not be fair. 

[When only specific GenAI use is acceptable]

Some limited and specific use(s) of GenAI is acceptable in this assessment.  Any unacceptable use(s) will constitute academic misconduct.  See the following list of acceptable and unacceptable use [insert your specific examples]” 

As your instructor, I want to assess what you can do only with specific use of GenAI and other similar forms assistance.  I have permitted some uses and restricted other uses to support your learning. If you use GenAI beyond the acceptable uses: 

  • you will not get the practice you need;  
  • the feedback you get will not be meaningful;  
  • your grade will not reflect what you can do within the expectations; and  
  • it will not be fair. 
Sample uses with supporting rationale
  • Generate ideas
For the purposes of planning content multiple resources exist. You may use web searches, course materials, library resources, instructors, qualified peers and to support your process.
  • Identify relevant information to further research
  • Improve formate of what student has produced
For the purposes of finalizing content multiple resources exist. You may use software, library resources, instructors, qualified peers, and GenAI to support your writing process. 
  • Support final edits

Sample syllabus statement

Sample supporting rationale

[When GenAI use is acceptable with acknowledgement]

Use of GenAI is acceptable for this course/assessment and will not constitute academic misconduct when appropriately acknowledged.

As your instructor, I want to assess what you can do including when you have access to and use GenAI.

[When use of GenAI is required as part of a learning outcome]

Use of GenAI is required for this course/assessment and will not constitute academic misconduct.>

As your instructor, I want to assess your ability to use according to specific criteria.

Secure assessments

To secure an assessment is to decrease the opportunity for academic misconduct. 

Some assessments are designed to see what a student can do within a time constraint and/or with restricted access to resources or other people or tools like calculators or software. These kinds of assessments require additional effort to secure. Exams are typically the most restricted form of assessment and therefore take the most effort to secure compared to other assessment approaches.

For approaches to assessment that have fewer security issues, contact GMCTL.

What instructors can do:

Common security issues for assessment Possible academic misconduct implications
Re-used assessments from year to year. Some students have access to information that gives them an advantage over students who do not.
Unpermitted posting or sharing of assessment among students through various means.
Access to answers or answer keys.
Limits of proctoring or invigilation. Some students access unpermitted materials or tools or others despite invigilation.
New technologies and devices. Some students use sophisticated academic misconduct strategies that evade detection.

Exams are not inherently secure.
A large contract cheating study in Australia, found students most commonly reported cheating during exams and this was the setting where invigilators reported the least cheating. (Harper et al 2021)

Consider space:

  • Room set up and practices related to placing resources and/or devices out of reach.
    • This may be challenging when course enrolment is determined by classroom capacity for lectures and learning activities rather than the spacing for exams.

Consider how to judge the written work (e.g. in-class essays) knowing:

  • few students today are accustomed to physically writing by hand,
  • few students today are accustomed to composing without real time revision options of word processing,
  • students who are reading and writing in an additional language may be disadvantaged by time restrictions.

Consider allowing some resources, where it makes sense.

  • Formula sheets, calculators, software.
  • Single page of notes meeting specific criteria.
  • Textbooks or other course materials.

Consider that students new to university finals may need to have some of the norms and practices associated with the formality of exam-taking explained. 

Consider the range of devices students may have on their person that could be a concern.

  • Recognize it will be difficult to restrict access to resources and devices during online assessments, and this means students will not feel confident that the assessment conditions are fair.

Consider online assessments where:

  • there are no restrictions in terms of access to resources or devices, and
  • use of invigilation software is practical and brings sufficient security.

Consider capabilities and limitations of proctoring software.

  • Learn about functionality and EDI concerns associated with USask licencsed software called Proctorio.
  • Some Colleges have licenses for other kinds of proctoring software. Check with your College or academic unit.

Consider capabilities of Canvas quizzes and whether they fit your security needs.

Contract cheating is not new. It involves getting someone else to do your academic work. During remote instruction, many campuses and students became more aware of third-party businesses completing students work and assisting with academic misconduct in other ways.
  • Change assessments every term so that what was posted in the past is limited to being an example and not the actual assessment.
  • Check sites of concern and ask for copyrighted material to be removed.
  • Design assessments to rely on more in class context or experiences so that a person or service or tool without that context has trouble doing the assignment well for a student.
  • Teach about matters of copyright as a legal issue, that is different from but related to academic integrity in university study.
  • Use watermarks logos, disclaimers, or other commentary to make it more difficult for students to share content downloaded from Canvas.

Identify academic misconduct

Unaddressed academic misconduct undermines learning and assessment, but the lines are not always clear-cut and feeling certain that academic misconduct has occurred is often not possible.

Many behaviours that could be considered academic misconduct exist on a continuum and depend on what students have been told is allowed.

What instructors can do:

In-person assessments are typically invigilated or supervised by an instructor or their designate to ensure any restrictions placed on students while they complete the assessment are followed.

What the restriction is will determine how to identify it during or after the timed, supervised assessment is complete.

USask does not subscribe to text-matching software. (e.g., Turnitin)

Finding matching text can suggest plagiarism, but instructors need to apply their academic judgment to discern whether the match is plagiarism or not.

Interpretation must be done by a course instructor who:

  • knows what was permitted and what was not,
  • recognizes their own assumptions, perspectives, and biases about what learning processes are expected of students and how this means they use Canvas,
  • understands what activity logs show and what kinds of activity or non-activity they suggest. 
Learn more:

Yes, do talk to students

Instructors can talk to students about academic integrity and about academic misconduct. By talking with students about possible or confirmed academic misconduct, instructors show they care about:

  • students and their learning,
  • whether the assessments show what students truly know and can do, and
  • the fairness of grades for all students in the course.

What instructors can do:

Students may find a conversation about academic misconduct very distressing, understandably. You can set an appropriate tone that shows respect for the student and the processes laid out in the USask Regulations.

If you reach out to a student about a concern, be sure you are in a position to respond to their email promptly. Most students will be distressed by even a gentle inquiry and waiting days to hear back from you won’t help.

  • Consult your Academic Administrator in your College.

  • Students are not made aware of their errors and may make the same ones or worse again.
  • Students are aware of their academic misconduct, but without consequences, they may risk it again.
  • Other students see that academic misconduct goes unaddressed, they lose confidence in the fairness of assessments, and might feel like compromising their own academic integrity could be worth it.