The pursuit of ethical practice in Distance Higher Education assessment in a Business Leadership School

The pursuit of ethical practice in Distance Higher Education assessment in a Business Leadership School

Angelo Nicolaides

UNISA Graduate School of Business Leadership


The pursuit for quality in the learning process in Distance Higher Education is ongoing and continually leading to better ways in which to facilitate learning. It is evident in current literature that high-quality learning outcomes can be achieved by giving students in higher education institutions greater control over their own learning and by engaging in reflective inquiry and enhanced critical thinking within a constructivist paradigm. In the era of open access and digital-based information and communication in which we live, a huge challenge facing higher education is the issue of unethical practices by students. Ensuring academic honesty is a major challenge for traditional classroom teaching, but it is even a more pressing problem for online course-work in which students submit for example, individual assignments and projects. How can unethical student practices be eliminated where the use of information technology is manifest for all learning and instruction?

Academically dishonest behaviour in Distance Higher Education (DHE) institutions is on the rise and manifests in various ways including inter-alia, plagiarism in which students use the work of others and which they fail to disclose through acceptable citation methods or even fail to acknowledge. Many find it expedient to cheat and may even stoop to bribery. There are also instances where students fabricate information and falsify what they present as the fruits of their own labours. Whether in assignments or portfolio work, or other such activities and assessments online, there are cases in which students either offer, or acquire assistance from other parties in their formal academic activities, falsify information, are guilty of misrepresentation and thus act out-of- line from an ethical perspective and demonstrate that they are devoid of ethical practice. It is thus crucial to integrate academic ethics education in all core programmes so that students and also their lecturers’, become conversant with what is expected as an absolute minimum when it comes to academic honesty. Lecturers should also be obligated to immediately report where cases of dishonest activity are evident in student submissions and stern action should be meted out to guilty parties. A carefully crafted moral education approach and well-conceived course design are needed to construct a sound academic culture and promote integrity.

This article discusses what strategies can be utilised by institutions to minimize common unethical practices and suggests some of the reasons why students opt to be dishonest in the digital era. It also suggests what academics can do to mitigate unethical academic practices in online distance higher education.

Keywords: Ethics, online learning, asynchronous learning, distance higher education (DHE), academic integrity, adult learners

Free Full-text PDF

How to cite this article:
Angelo Nicolaides. The pursuit of ethical practice in Distance Higher Education assessment in a Business Leadership School. Global journal of Economics and Business Administration, 2018, 3: 8. DOI: 10.28933/gjeba-2018-01-1802


1. Adkins, J., Kenkel, C. & Lim, Ch. L. (2005) Deterrents to online academic dishonesty. The Journal of Learning in Higher Education, 1(1), pp.17-22.
2. Anitha, C., & Harsha, T. S. (2013) Ethical perspectives in open and distance education. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE, 14(1), pp.193-201.
3. Appelgren, H. F., Olofsson, M., Hansson, H. & Moberg, J. (2012) Can we rely on text originality check systems? Evaluation of three systems used in higher education and suggestion of a new methodological test approach. In: 5th International Plagiarism Conference Proceedings & Abstracts 2012: Celebrating Ten Years of Authentic Assessment (CD-ROM), Newcastle GB: Iparadigms Europe Ltd, 2012.
4. Badge, J., & Scott, J. (2009) Dealing with plagiarism in the digital age.2009 synthesis project. Retrieved on 29 December 2015 from
5. Baggaley, J. (2012) Plagiarism: cross-cultural and genealogical perspectives. In: 5th International Plagiarism Conference Proceedings & Abstracts 2012: Celebrating Ten Years of Authentic Assessment (CD-ROM), Newcastle GB: Iparadigms Europe Ltd., 2012.
6. Bailie, J. L. & Jortberg, M. A. (2009) Online learner authentication: Verifying the identity of online users. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5(2), pp. 197-207.
7. Bandura, A. (1986) Social foundations of thought and action. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
8. Berge, Z. L. & Mrozowski, S. (2001) Review of research in distance education: 1990 to 1999. American Journal of Distance Education, 15(3), pp.5 19.
9. Berger, C.J. & Berger, V. (1999) Academic discipline: A guide to fair process for the university student. Columbia Law Review, 99(2), pp.289 – 364.
10. Bishop, T. (2003) Linking Cost Effectiveness with Institutional Goals: Best practices in online education. In J. Bourne and J. C. Moore (Eds.) Elements of Quality Online Education: Practice and direction. Needham, MA.: Sloan-C, pp.75-86.
11. Bisoux, T. (2016) The World has changed. BizEd, AACSB International, March/April, pp.71-74.
12. Bombaro, C. & Mitchell, E. (2012) Doing honest work: A campus-wide approach. In: 5th International Plagiarism Conference Proceedings & Abstracts 2012: Celebrating Ten Years of Authentic Assessment (CD-ROM), Newcastle GB: Iparadigms Europe Ltd., 2012.
13. Brey, P. (2006) Social and ethical dimensions of computer-mediated education. Journal of Information, Communication & Ethics in Society, 4(2), pp.91-102.
14. Brimble, M. & Stevenson-Clarke, P. (2005) Perceptions of the prevalence and seriousness of academic dishonesty in Australian universities. The Australian Educational Researcher, 32 (3), pp.19-44.
15. Butakov, S., Dyagilev, V. & Tskhay, A. (2012) Protecting students’ intellectual property in the web plagiarism detection process. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(5), pp.1-19.
16. Cambell, E. (2001) Let it be done: Trying to put ethical standards into practice, Journal of Education Policy, 16 (5), pp.395-411.
17. Carmean, C., &Haefner, J. (2002) Mind over matter: Transforming course management systems into effective learning environments. EDCAUSE Review, 37 (6). Retrieved 18 June 2016, from http://www.educause.eduirlibrarypdfERM0261.pdf.
18. Chickering, A. W. & Gamson, Z. (1987) Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. Racine, WI: The Johnson Foundation.
19. Chiesel, N. (2009) Pragmatic methods to reduce dishonesty in web-based courses. In A. Orellana, T. L. Anderson, & M. r. Simonson (Eds.). The perfect online course: Best practices for designing and teaching. Information Age Publishing, pp.327-399.
20. Dee, T. & Jacob, B. (2010) Rational ignorance in education: A field experiment in student plagiarism. NBER Working Paper No. 15672.
21. Dietz-Uhler, B. & Hurn, J. (2011) Academic dishonesty in online courses. ASCUE Proceedings, pp. 71-77. Retrieved 18 March 2015 from 190
22. Dixon, S. (2011) The plagiarism detection learning curve – the experience of a further education college. Journal of Research & Scholarly Output, 4, pp.13-19.
23. Ellis, C. (2012) Streamlining plagiarism detection: The role of electronic assessment management. International Journal of Educational Integrity, 8(2), pp.46-56.

24. Eshet, Y., Grinautski, K. & Peled, Y. (2012) Learning motivation and student academic dishonesty: A comparison between face-to-face and online courses. Proceedings of the Chais conference on instructional technology research 2012: Learning in technology era. Raanana: The Open University of Israel, pp.22-29.
25. Faucher, D. & Caves, S. (2009) Academic dishonesty: Innovative cheating techniques and the detection and prevention of them. Teaching and Learning in Nursing, 4 (2), pp.37-41.
26. Finn, K.V. & Frone, M.R. (2004) Academic performance and cheating: Moderating role of school identification and self-efficacy. The Journal of Educational Research, 97(3), pp.115 – 122.
27. Florida Institute of Technology. FIT. (2010) Student handbook. Retrieved 15 February 2016 from student handbook/print.php
28. Foster, A. (2008) New systems keep a close eye on online students at home. Chronicle of Higher Education 54(46), A1.
29. Gallant, T.B. & Drinan, P. (2006) Organizational theory and student cheating: Explanation, responses, and strategies. The Journal of Higher Education, 77(5), pp.839-860.
30. Gibson, J. W., Blackwell, C. W., Greenwood, R. A., Mobley, I. & Blackwell, R. W. (2006) Preventing and detecting plagiarism in the written work of college students. Journal of Diversity Management, 1 (2), pp.35-41.
31. Greenwood, R. A., Gibson, J., Blackwell, C. W., Mobley, I. & Blackwell, R. (2006) Preventing and Detecting Plagiarism in the Written Work of College Students, HCBE Faculty Articles. Paper 81. Retrieved on 11 May 2016 from
32. Grimes, P.W. (2004). Dishonesty in academics and business: A cross-cultural evaluation of student attitudes. Journal of Business Ethics, 49(3), pp.273 – 290.
33. Grijalva, T.C., Kerkvliet, J. & Nowell, C. (2013) Academic honesty and online courses. Retrieved 08 April 2014 from pap.pdf
34. Hard, S.F., Conway, J.M., & Moran, A.C. (2006) Faculty and college student beliefs about the frequency of student academic misconduct. The Journal of Higher Education: 77(6), pp.1058 – 1080.
35. Hauptman, R. (2002) Dishonesty in the academy. American Association of University Professors. Academe 88(6), pp.39 – 44.
36. Hillman, R. (2011) For-profit schools: Experiences of undercover students enrolled in online classes at selected colleges. U.S. Government Accountability Office. Retrieved on 11 December 17, 2015 from
37. Howell, S. L., Sorenson, D. & Tippets, H. R. (2009) The new (and old) news about cheating for distant educators. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12 (3). Retrieved on 15 December 2015 from
38. Kelley, K.B. & Bonner, K. (2005) Digital text, distance education and academic dishonesty: faculty and administrator perceptions and responses. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks – JALN, 9(1), pp.43-52.
39. Lee, C.Y. (2000) Learner motivation in the online learning environment. Journal of Educational Media and Library Sciences, 37 (4), pp.367-375.
40. LoSchiavo, F. M., & Shatz, M.A. (2011) The impact of an honor code on cheating in online courses.Journal of Online Learning & Teaching, 7 (2). Retrieved on 08 December 2015 from
41. Lunt, I. (1993) The practice of assessment. In Charting the Agenda: Educational activity after Vygotsky, ed. H. Daniels, London: Routledge.
42. McCabe, D. L., Butterfield, K. D. & Trevino, L. K. (2012) Cheating in college: Why students do it and what educators can do about it. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
43. McCabe, D.L., Treviño, L.K. & Butterfield, K.D. (2002) Honor codes and other contextual influences on academic integrity: A replication and extension to modified honor code settings. Research in Higher Education, 43(3), pp.347 – 378.
44. McCabe, D.L., Treviño, L.K., & Butterfield, K.D. (2001) Dishonesty in academic environments: The influence of peer reporting requirements. The Journal of Higher Education, 72(1), pp. 29 – 45.
45. McGee, P. (2013) Supporting academic honesty in online courses. The Journal of Educators Online, 10(1), pp.1-31.
46. Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary. Retrieved on 8 November 2016.
47. Moore, M.G. (2007) The Theory of Transactional Distance. In M.G.Moore (Ed.) (2007) The Handbook of Distance Education. Second Edition. Mahwah, N.J. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 89–108
48. Peters, O. (1994) Otto Peters on distance education: The industrialization of teaching and learning. Edited by D. Keegan. London: Routledge.
49. Piña, A. A. (2010) Online diploma mills: implications for legitimate distance education. Distance Education, 31(1), pp.121-126.
50. Rettinger, D., Jordan A. & Peschiera, F. (2004) Effects of Classroom Context Variables on High School Students’ Judgments of the Acceptability and Likelihood of Cheating. Journal of Educational Psychology. 96(4), pp. 765-777.
51. Roberts, C. J., & Hai-Jew, S. (2009) Issues of academic integrity: An online course for students addressing academic dishonesty. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5(2), pp.182-196.
52. Rogers, C.F. (2006) Faculty perceptions about e-cheating during online testing. Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges. Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges (JCSC), 22 (2), pp. 206 – 212.
53. Rowe, N. C. (2004). Cheating in online student assessment: Beyond plagiarism. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 4 (2). Retrieved on 17 December, 2015 from
54. Rungtusanatham, M., Ellram, L.M., Siferd, S.P. & Salik, S. (2004) Toward a typology of business education in the Internet age. Decision Sciences, 2(2), p.10.
55. Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2006) Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy, and technology. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), (Tran.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp.97–118.
56. Sharma, R. C. (2004) Learning at a Distance in India: A History. Asian Journal of Distance Education, 2 (2).
57. Shea, P. J., Pelz, W., Fredericksen, E. E., & Pickett, A. M. (2002) Online teaching as a catalyst for classroom-based instructional transformation. In J. Bourne and J. C. Moore (Eds.) Elements of Quality Online Education. Needham, MA.: Sloan, pp. 103-123.
58. Sheard, J., Carbone, A. & Dick, M. (2002) Determination of factors which impact on IT students’ propensity to cheat. Australian Computer Society, Inc. In the proceedings of the Australasian Computing Education Conference: Adelaide, Australia.
59. Sileo, J. M. & Sileo T. W. (2008) Academic dishonesty and online classes: A rural education perspective. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 27 (1/2), pp. 55-60.
60. Smith, C. M. & Noviello, S.R. (2012) Best practices in authentification and verification of students in online education. Nursing Research Congress 2012, Brisbane, Australia.
61. Smith, R. (1996) Essential ethical considerations in education. Education, 117 (1), pp. 17-22.
62. Spafford, E.H. (2011) Security, technology, publishing, and ethics (part II). Computers & Security, 30(1), 2–3. p.194.
63. Spaulding, M. (2009) Perceptions of academic honesty in online vs. face-to-face classrooms. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 8(3), pp. 183-198.
64. Stannard, C.I. & Bowers, W.J. (1970) The college fraternity as an opportunity structure for meeting academic demands. Social Problems. 17 (3), pp. 371-390.
65. Stuber-McEwen, D., Wisel, P. & Hoggatt, S. (2009) Point, click, and cheat: Frequency and type of academic dishonesty in the virtual classroom. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12 (3). Retrieved on 12 December 2015 from
66. Suller, J. (2005) The online disinhibition effect. International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 2(2), pp. 184-188.
67. Turnitin. (2011) Plagiarism and the web: Myths and Realities: White Paper. iParadigms. Retrieved 19 June 2016 from
68. Vilchez, M. & Thirunarayanan, M.O. (2011) Cheating in online courses: A qualitative study. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 8(1).
69. Watson, D. (2006) The university and civic engagement. Ad.Lib, Journal for Continuing Liberal Adult Education, 31, pp. 2-6. Cambridge. University of Cambridge institute of Continuing Education
70. Webster (2015) Retrieved January 11, 2014, from
71. Young, J. R. (2010) High-Tech cheating abounds and professors bear some blame. Chronicle of Higher Education 56(29), pp. 1-14.