Course and assignment design

There are a number of simple ways that instructors can help to prevent academic offences through assignment design, including:

  • Avoid re-using the same essay topics and/or test and exam questions.
  • Design assignments that require original input from students.
  • Assign outlines, drafts, and/or annotated bibliographies so that the various stages of students’ work can be seen as it progresses.
  • Set clear policies on submission of assignments, late penalties, and extensions. State the conditions under which an extension would or would not normally be granted.
  • Be sure to hand back assignments in a secure manner (e.g. do not leave boxes of papers outside office doors).
  • Design assignments that have multiple pieces, requiring students to build upon each toward a final project and to show their work-in-progress. Focusing on process helps to deter plagiarism. For example, instructors may first request an essay proposal, then an annotated bibliography or an oral presentation on the thesis/focus of the paper or on initial findings, and a final paper. This allows students to receive feedback as they move through the assignment and allows instructors to confirm the originality of the work.
  • Be very clear whether and how collaboration is permitted, set clear rules and expectations regarding group assignments, take home work and online assignments.


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