Promoting Academic Integrity with Online Assessments

Promoting Academic Integrity with Online Assessments

Dr Shahida Shahana, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition explains the approaches being implemented in a large first year class to design assessments, which support academic integrity.


The 20-credit course, Anatomy 1 ME2020 was developed in 2020 as a blended module during the COVID-19 pandemic, is generally undertaken by approximately 230 first year medical students. The course comprises of lectures, tutorials and practical classes and introduces students to the fundamental discipline of topographical and clinical anatomy, covering introductory musculoskeletal system, respiratory system, and cardiovascular system. Course assessment consists of a blend of formative assessments, low-stake in course assessments, and a final summative assessment. These assessments use single best answer and very short answer style questions, which assess students’ understanding and application of core anatomical terms and concepts. All the assessment tasks are designed to address the intended learning outcomes of the course and use Bigg’s model of constructive alignment in curriculum design (Biggs, 1999).


To minimise the opportunity for academic misconduct this course adopts a number of approaches to promote academic integrity. First, the opportunity to explain and discuss the assessment with students is built into the course, as well as advising students how they might avoid potential academic integrity breaches. Second, randomised exam questions in online exams, non-googleable and problem-based approaches in question design were implemented. Third, rather than having a single high-stake assessment, several formative and low stake assessments are used throughout the course, this can reduce student stress and provide feedback to prepare for the final exam. The approaches used in the first year Anatomy course map onto Dublin City University (DCU), Academic Integrity Principles (link: 12 academic integrity principles) for Assessment Design, specifically, principles Number 2, 5, 6, 7 and 8 (see the diagram below).




The multiple types of assessment used throughout the Anatomy course, help to measure students’ understanding of the course material, foster student engagement throughout the entire course, while helping to safeguard academic integrity through bespoke assessment design. The online formative assessments were designed to help with self-learning and to provide feedback to prepare for the summative exams. The continuous in-course assessments help to provide students with feedback and enable staff to monitor student progress during the course, compared to traditional, end of course, high-stake exams. Assessments used in the course are designed to motivate, challenge, and cater for a diverse student cohort. The range of CGS scores achieved by the first blended ME2020 (2020-21) cohort is encouraging and demonstrate the impact of these assessment approaches on student learning.