Academic standards are the pillars of trust in education and academic research.

Without safeguarding them, what we hold to be true and valid starts to shift. And in a time when any image or video can be manipulated or ideas consolidated into something homogenic in seconds, it’s integral we maintain them.

For institutions undergoing digital transformation and already using digital assessment, online assessment integrity has a direct influence on academic standards.

In this post, we’ll be looking at academic standards and integrity in online assessments. This includes the challenges we face and the effective solutions we can implement to overcome them.

Defining Academic Standards and Integrity

Academic standards in higher education refers to the established criteria and principles that ensure the quality of education at an institution. Linked closely with academic integrity, they emphasize ethical conduct and transparency. These standards contribute to the institution’s credibility, global recognition, and research excellence.

Academic integrity – as defined by researchers at the International Center of Academic Integrity (ICAI) in 1992 – is the uncompromising commitment to six fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage.

As institutions undergo digital transformation, academic standards extend beyond traditional classrooms and now encompass integrity in online assessments. They guide the development of digital strategies, ensuring that the quality, integrity, and effectiveness of education are maintained in the evolving educational landscape.


Challenges Faced by Education

The potential challenges higher education institutions face, particularly in the transition to online learning, are mostly related to originality and credibility. While these are obviously concerns, emerging technology also provides an opportunity for increased standards and efficiencies.

These opportunities include enhanced flexibility and scalability, opening up programmes to a broader group of students, including working professionals and those further afield than commutable distance. Digital technology can also create a more efficient grading process and provide more support and adaptive teaching methods.

However, the concerns surrounding originality and credibility are valid and shouldn’t be ignored. These include academic dishonesty, plagiarism and use of proper citation as well as inappropriate generative AI use.

Academic dishonesty can take various forms. For example, self-plagiarism, rewriting others’ existing work, getting outside help & using cheating websites. Educating students about the various forms, as well as the reasons these are categorized as dishonesty, is integral to improving perception and gaining student buy-in to academic integrity.

Academic Standards and Integrity in Online Spaces

Academic standards still apply in online education and assessment. However, there is a need to measure compliance and effectiveness of these and to evolve. It’s important to align and balance the benefits of digitization with traditional methods and to potentially reconsider your assessment format to continue to offer assessment with integrity.

 Challenges of Maintaining Online Academic Standards

A 2021 Frontiers in Education study looked in detail at the available research into academic integrity. This key passage highlighted the emerging challenges institutions face:

“There are many new ways to cheat, some that are unique to the online course environment and some that are also observed within in-person courses; these include but are not limited to: downloading papers from the internet and claiming them as one’s own work, using materials without permission during an online exam, communicating with other students through the internet to obtain answers, or having another person complete an online exam or assignment rather than the student who is submitting the work (Jung and Yeom, 2009; Moten et al., 2013; Rogers, 2006; Underwood and Szabo, 2003).“

Given that all this research was conducted over 10 years ago, it’s safe to assume these methods have become more sophisticated. However, at Inspera, we don’t assume students are attempting to cheat, but instead believe they do not have the information regarding the different types of plagiarism. This is a fundamental difference in approach that focuses on student learning, education and support rather than an attack on student credibility.

Maintaining Academic Standards in Online Assessments

That being said, it’s important to understand why students may engage in academic dishonesty. Those include the pressure to succeed, time limits, inadequate preparation, influence from a cheating-tolerant environment, and, as we’ve already mentioned, insufficient ethical understanding.

Addressing these issues requires a comprehensive approach, including nuanced investigations, educational initiatives, fostering integrity, and reducing external pressures.

There are a number of technologies institutions can engage in the pursuit of overcoming these factors too. These include online exam proctoring, AI-generated text prediction and the use of locked browsers.

These various methods can collectively contribute to maintaining academic integrity by preventing unauthorized access, detecting plagiarism, ensuring compliance with regulations through proctoring, and introducing variability in assessments to minimize the potential for cheating. All of these can be achieved with a digital assessment ecosystem.

Best Practices for Online Assessments with Integrity

Digital assessment ecosystems serve as essential tools for educational institutions to uphold academic standards in the online testing environment. Their multiple capabilities contribute to academic integrity through security and flexibility.

Institutions can leverage the range of capabilities offered by online assessment platforms and ecosystems to comply with best practices and successfully maintain standards during digital transformation.

The impact of clear, detailed guidelines, secure online proctoring, and transparent assessment methods on academic integrity is significant. Best practices for maintaining academic standards and integrity in online assessments include:

  • Having a secure environment
  • Checking for originality
  • Enabling online proctoring
  • Using polling and randomization
  • Ensuring logistical ease of assessments

 Secure Environment

A secure online environment is fundamental for maintaining the integrity of online assessments. Ensuring that users can access their assessment and any permitted resources while removing the potential of accessing unauthorized resources is a relief for all involved. Inspera Integrity Browser allows you to secure the assessment browser window, with the flexibility to allow specific PDFs and URLs.

 Originality Checking

Originality checking is essential for upholding academic standards by detecting plagiarism and ensuring the authenticity of students’ work. Inspera Originality operates in multiple languages with cross-language checking and optional AI-text-generation prediction. This empowers educators to differentiate between properly referenced material and plagiarism.


Proctoring can play a crucial role in maintaining academic standards for online exams by providing a means to assess if candidates comply with academic regulations.

Inspera Proctoring allows educators to choose from live or recorded proctoring options, including screen, audio, and video recording. This comprehensive approach captures data necessary for making judgments about candidates’ compliance with academic regulations.

 Randomization and Polling

You can randomize questions to make questions less predictable. Our Numerical Simulation question type allows you to create auto-marked math questions with programmed parameterization and response outcomes to achieve even greater randomization.

Polling is the practice of having a set of questions from which a selection is presented to the candidate. With careful planning, this ensures assessments are equal but not identical.

 Logistical Ease

The design, structure, and standard of digital assessment delivery profoundly shape student trust in the evaluation process. When exams are well-designed, transparent, and delivered with integrity, students are more likely to trust the system and uphold standards. However, poorly designed assessments or inconsistencies in delivery can erode student trust, leading to increased temptation to engage in dishonest behavior.

Giving students the right to control who can access their documents is also important to developing the trust needed between institution and student.


Learn More About Academic Integrity in Digital Assessment

Explore how Inspera can help to maintain academic standards and integrity for you and your students.

Read our guide

Written by Jo Bowden

February 16, 2024