Applying the Same Honor Code Online and Face to Face

Author Information
Janet Moore
The Sloan Consortium
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Florida State University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

Florida State University employs an integrated academic honor code online and face to face through inculturation.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

The academic honor code is in effect as described in the above recommendation.

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

learning effectiveness: Florida State University recommended employing an integrated honor code before launching its online program.


This is the document submitted to the University by the Policy Committee, 4/7/99. Recommendation:

  • Employ the currently existing student honor code.
  • Incorporate principles of the code with references to the entire document prominently and frequently in all application and orientation materials for both students and Mentors.
  • Some revision to the existing honor code is suggested, but only as additions that are relevant to remote teaching and learning.

Justification: In all cases where possible, policy and procedure addressing the remote student should coincide with existing policy and procedure for traditional on-campus, matriculated students. Therefore, prior to addressing policy and procedure for courses and degrees offered at a distance, it is important to review existing guidelines for appropriateness and fit. FSU's academic honor code is thoroughgoing and comparable in scope to codes from several other public and private universities. Therefore, it is suggested that the code be employed with minor additions that are particularly relevant to the distance learner. These are discussed specifically later in this document. A substantial body of administrative and legal literature exists that examines experimentally, logically, and legally, the behaviors of students in academic institutions vis a vis academic integrity. The most frequently cited practice that is positively correlated with decreased incidences of academic honor code infractions is the infusion of academic integrity in the institutions, formally and informally, as a pivotal cultural component. This can be operationalized by:

  • Prominent use of the Academic Honor Code in application and orientation materials and presentations. "What appears to be most important and imperative is a philosophy that stresses a sense of community. This philosophy can become institutionalized by stressing academic integrity at every opportunity. For example, academic integrity can be made a major topic of discussion in student handbooks and in orientation sessions for all incoming students. (May and Lloyd, 1993)
  • nclusion of a pledge of academic honor that is to be signed by students upon applying for admission. It is further suggested in the literature, and supported in the FSU honor code, that such a statement can be included, at the discretion of the faculty, on any and all assignments, especially examinations.

Suggested revisions to the existing honor code include:

  • Where examples of infractions are provided, the inclusion of "online plagiarism and personal misrepresentation" or words to that effect will speak directly to remote students and aid in inculcation of the culture of academic integrity;
  • Under "Faculty Responsibilities" suggestions might be made that instructors designing materials for remote student assessment include an honor statement such as "I will be academically honest in all of my academic work and will not tolerate academic dishonesty in others" (University of Georgia Student Honor Code);
  • In discussions of violations of the code, there might be some language addressing distance accommodation of student and/or Mentor synchronous chat or conference call discussions with student court members or university officials;
  • A possible penalty for violations by a student at a distance might be denial of further enrollment in distance learning courses or programs from FSU.

A careful, team approach to this revision will likely reveal other opportunities for addressing remote learners as members of the university community and, therefore, responsible to themselves and the community to participate in teaching and learning processes with integrity. Seven points are cited as guideposts for "Planning" for integrity in academic communities (Pavela and McCabe, 1993):

  1. Develop clear, specific definitions of academic dishonesty and employ them uniformly in all part of the institution. Foster a culture and community of academic integrity.
  2. Involve students in educating their peers about the importance of academic integrity, as well as reporting and resolving academic dishonesty allegations. Perhaps infusion of the honor code could be a focus of a collaborative learning experience early in each course.
  3. Appeal to the students' sense of honor and personal integrity. This is addressed by the inculcation process.
  4. Reduce temptations to engage in academic dishonesty. Collaboration and communication aid the development of community and familiarize students, Mentors, and Lead Faculty with distinctive communications styles of students.
  5. Encourage teaching styles and examinations that call for active student participation, such as collaboration, and critical thinking rather than memorization. This is critical in all teaching and learning, but is vital in distance learning for pedagogical as well as for reasons of security.
  6. Impose reasonable, but strict, penalties when academic dishonesty does occur.
  7. Eliminate proceduralism in the resolution of academic dishonesty cases. This item primarily addresses processes that can unduly burden faculty thus discouraging them from pursuing perceived violations of the honor code.

It is widely recognized that academic integrity must be adopted, it cannot be imposed. (May and Lloyd, 1993; DiMatteo and Wiesner, 1994; and others) The strongest recommendation for development of this acceptance of academic integrity is, as stated earlier, prominent use, discussion of, and invocation of the honor code. That is, "students consistently indicate that they are less likely to cheat when they feel part of a campus community, when they believe faculty are committed to their courses, and when they are aware of the policies of their institutions concerning academic integrity."(Trevino and McCabe, 1999) Derek Bok concluded that an honor system, despite inherent drawbacks or complicating factors, might be the most effective approach to academic integrity in academic institutions. (Bok, 1990) Conclusion: Those who are intent on "Cheating" will do so. However, there is ample evidence to support the use of the academic honor code as an acculturation tool and as a frequent referent. The design of courseware, assessment activities, and communications systems among teachers and learners at a distance require special consideration, but are not insurmountable challenges. Tools and guidelines can be provided to address new teaching and learning modes. However, the institution should maintain its existing honor system and, as has always been the case, the choices of best teaching and assessment procedures are, and should remain, at the discretion of the faculty. There is no need for a separate code of academic integrity for remote learners. The existing code should be relied upon and fully integrated into student application, orientation, and assessment procedures.

References, supporting documents: 

Pavela, G. and McCabe, D. The Surprising Return of Honor Codes. Planning for Higher Education, Vol. 21 (1993) 27

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Carol Hayes
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