How to Maintain Academic Integrity in the Online Environment

The topic of Academic Integrity and Misconduct comes up in class every time there is an upcoming assignment or a test. We usually don’t intend to cheat, but when there is an opportunity, sometimes it is hard to resist. Here are some of my tips to prevent ourselves from cheating in class.

Make sure you understand what the terms Integrity and Misconduct mean

I’ve always thought that academic misconduct is all about cheating in exams. It was not until I went to university that I realized that discussing an individual assignment with a friend, to some extent, would count as well. Moreover, sometimes your intention is irrelevant.

Although it may seem obvious, you may not have understood entirely what counts as Academic Misconduct and what your responsibilities are when it comes to Academic Integrity. As a result, you can’t adhere to something you don’t know of. It is important to remember that even in online classes, the rules of Academic Integrity still apply, and should be taken seriously. Therefore, your first step is to read and fully understand Ryerson’s Academic Integrity Policy: Policy 60, and refer to other resources provided by the Academic Integrity Office.

Remind yourself that you are here to learn

Cheating in class defeats the purpose of learning (Hughes & McCabe, 2006). The decision to cheat in a course usually comes when you just want the grades and not the knowledge from the course. There are several steps you can take to get the best out of your learning. Firstly, don’t just choose a course because it’s a “bird” course. Instead, choose the courses that really interest you. When you are passionate about the topic, you will be more motivated and will put your best efforts into understanding the course materials.

Secondly, regardless of the course, remind yourself that you are paying for the course and at the end of the day, you are here to learn. Good grades might be alluring to you, but in the long run, you are going to waste your time chasing vain numbers.

Stay organized

One of the best ways to keep yourself out of a situation where you’re tempted to cheat is by practicing better time management (Mackenzie & Kretschmer, 2019). The temptation to cheat is higher when you are not confident before the test. Check your course outlines early in the semester and plan out your timetable accordingly. Don’t leave it until the last day before starting on an assignment or preparing for a test. Give yourself enough time to rest, study and do sufficient research.

If you are not sure how to stay organized and motivated in the online environment, read these blog posts: “Staying Organized in an Online World”, “Boosting your motivation, positive emotions and learning”, and “Motivation during COVID-19”.

Seek help when needed

There are many reasons why a student would cheat, both internal and external. One of the reasons for cheating is education anxiety. The ultimate way to prevent yourself from cheating is to eliminate those reasons to the best of your ability, and you are not alone in this fight. There are several resources on campus that can help you with this:

  • Course-specific supports, academic writing supports, mock exams, time management and learning tips: Academic Success Centre (for Ted Rogers School students), Student Learning Support
  • Mental counselling, academic accommodation: Academic Accommodation Support, Centre for Student Development and Counselling
  • Academic counselling: Centre for Student Development and Counselling, Student Advising

Just, don’t

You may think: “How is this even a tip?”. Well, hear me out. You are, let’s say, a straight-A student, but you are struggling in a course. The final exam is online and there is no proctor procedure in place. You think it’s okay to cheat just once. Don’t, or you’ll regret later! In psychology, a habit is formed when you receive a cue to do an action and get a reward from it (Ho, 2020). Once you have received good grades from the first time you cheat and gotten away with it (the reward), you will continue to cheat whenever a test is coming up (the cue). And before you can even realize, you have formed a cheating habit.

I’m no psychologist, but I can see it’s true from my past experience. In my first semester in university, I was a diligent student who attended all lectures. One day, the weather was harsh, and I was too lazy to come to class, so I decided to skip class that day. After just that one time, I started to feel like there was no need to come to class and my absence rates started to increase. A first is followed by a second, a third, a fourth and so on. Therefore, my advice is to try your best not to cheat, not even once.


At the end of the day, you are the only person who can stop yourself from engaging in academic misconduct. It is important to be prepared for school, and these are some tips that can help you with it. However, do remember that everyone is different, and these tips are not one-size-fit-all. Use these as a guide and find what works best for you. Ryerson offers a wide range of resources and services to support your learning career. When in doubt, reach out for help!


Diego, L. (2017). Friends with Benefits: Causes and Effects of Learners’ Cheating Practices During Examination. IAFOR Journal Of Education5(2). doi: 10.22492/ije.5.2.06

Ho, L. (2020). The Psychology of Habit Formation (And How to Hack it). Retrieved 8 April 2021, from

Hughes, J., & McCabe, D. (2006). Academic Misconduct within Higher Education in Canada. Canadian Journal Of Higher Education36(2), 1-21. doi: 10.47678/cjhe.v36i2.183537

Mackenzie, M., & Kretschmer, K. (2019). 4 ways to avoid the temptation to cheat on your next exam. CampusWell. Retrieved 8 April 2021, from