Working with Students

Academic Dishonesty: What to Know and Do

BYU-Idaho and Pathway have always had a policy on dealing with online academic dishonesty situations such as plagiarism. We have created this training module for both Pathway and BYU-Idaho that defines some common situations with academic dishonesty, what instructors are empowered to do, and how to handle situations of suspected academic dishonesty.

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  • This is a great tool.  I wish that there was uniformity in how online teachers address this issue.  I have had students that were caught cheating become very belligerent when they realized that their friends didn't get caught or were not held to the same accountability guidelines for doing the same thing in another class.  If we don't all follow the guidelines set out then it diminishes our control as instructors.

    • Great point, Eric! However, plagiarism issues are not a one-size-fits all situation. Each student and incident is different. Blatant intentional plagiarism should be dealt with the same as outlined by the college for sure. However, unintentional or accidental plagiarism is better served by using it as a teaching moment. As for students getting belligerent, such behavior sounds like an Honor Code issue. We do not know the entire story behind the "friends" situations nor what those "friends" are truthfully telling our students. Once I had a complaint from an A-level student because her fellow nursing student friends said they put much less work into the same writing course with the same grades. She felt angry that I expected more of her than the other teachers did of her friends. I addressed it twofold. First, I thanked her for putting in such hard work. AND I explained how much more knowledge she would walk away with at the end of the semester. Second, I told her she could not compare without being in the other faculty's courses. In all cases, I tackle honesty issues by the Spirit and college policy. =)

      • I think our teaching group is doing a good job of collaborating on helping the students become more aware of what is plagiarism and cheating and helping them to avoid making the decision to use other sources to write essays.  We had kind of a similar scenario that you mention, except it deals with plagiarism and not levels of work.  We have an assignment that between 15 and 20% of all of our students used a blog to give a response on one or more of the questions.  Some just copied and pasted and others changed words in the attempt to hide their plagiarism.  To me this is academic dishonesty and shows a lack of integrity so I report it as such, but many other instructors allow students to rewrite it and submit it and basically extend the deadline for a person that has cheated to meet the original deadline, thus diminishing the work of those who met the deadline honestly.  These are the types of scenarios that I really feel like need to have more uniformity of response.  I feel like a lot of the academic dishonesty we deal with gets perpetuated because we take the merciful approach instead of letting strong consequences make them rethink their decision and maybe make the change in their heart to never want the guilt of cheating again.  I would certainly accept more thoughts on this subject as I am a new teacher at BYU-I!

        • I would also point out that it depends on the student base you are working with. If this is a capstone course, I would definitely hold the students accountable. They need to understand the consequences of attempting to cheat and they should have already gained an understanding of what exactly plagiarism is earlier on.

          However, for some international students and younger freshman, they simply are ignorant. If you identify plagiarism, that may be the time to exercise the more merciful approach. Teach them what it is and why it is unacceptable for your course.

          Also, there may be room, as Trish stated, you might be able to have a chat with your OCR about improving the assignment. When we create these high-stakes assignments and don't do anything to scale the students up to it, we shouldn't be too surprised to find that some have cheated. Thomas J. Tobin of the Northeastern Illinois University said when students feel the pressure of time constraints or high-stakes anxiety, they more often turn to cheating. He recommended creating several, smaller, low-risk assignments to help students build up to the larger assignment that was worth more points. That way, students are more focused on the learning and less panicked on only achieving a good grade.

          Maybe your course is already employing this. However, maybe there is room for improvement. I wish you all the best as you consider what is best for your students.

          • Thanks for the suggestions Tyler.  We have been discussing this assignment a lot this semester trying to come up with a plan to alleviate some of the stress the students are feeling along with creating a plan to  reinforce the rules of proper writing and explaining what plagiarism is.  We do have a lot of freshman in our courses so teaching is definitely a must with this topic.  I wish the high schools were doing their job as well!  I think we will figure this out in the future, but I definitely don't see this as a high stakes assignment, it is just a difficult weekly lesson for them and most of the time they run out of time and turn to cheating to complete the work.  I am not sure we can teach them to stop procrastinating or being lazy with hard weeks, but I know I certainly warn them enough at the beginning of the week!

          • Nice thoughts, Tyler! Another idea came to mind while reading your post. When I taught FDENG 201 (now 301), I tried to alleviate some of those fears by posting announcements or in small groups that covered the most important parts of the assignment. I would include outside help, tips, videos, and easier to understand definitions (think logos, ethos, pathos). To get the point home, I would put the concepts into a real-world example. Students were empowered to focus on the most important aspect of the assignment instead of feeling pressured into regurgitating what the Internet told them. I agree with you that the level these students are at really should be looked at in handling the problem. With international and Pathway students, we need to focus on meeting them where they stand. Although I agree with Eric, we need to realize that BYU-Idaho (even with our common Honor Code and value system) is not immune to intentional plagiarism. Hopefully, that makes sense.  =)


        • Hi Eric,

          You present a good scenario for discussion. If your teaching group has a fair amount of faculty in the same class, you are right that is a good place to brainstorm on norming for that assignment. You might also have some discussion with the OCR as to instructions or wording attached to that particular assignment to warn against patchwriting, copying and pasting, and even accidental plagiarism. I agree we are not doing the students or ourselves any good by being too lenient either. I think there is always room for more ideas in the discussion on academic dishonesty. =)

  • Thanks Tyler!

  • Awesome training! It's good to know all of the steps and how to deal with these types of situations.


    • If you ever have any recommendations or feedback on the training (like a situation that you feel isn't represented or something you encountered in the discipline process that isn't covered here) please email me at and I can see if we need to modify our training.

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