The University of Iowa

Academic Misconduct for Online Exams

Academic Misconduct:

Definition: All forms of plagiarism and any other activities that result in a student presenting work that is not his or her own are academic fraud. For online exams, this could be a student using unauthorized materials to answer questions on an exam, someone else helping the student complete the exam, or someone else taking the exam for the student. 

Online Course Policies: Students taking online courses at the University of Iowa are entitled and held to the same student rights and responsibilities as on campus students. Policies and regulations affecting University of Iowa students are outlined on the Dean of Students’ website.

Identification: A determination of whether or not academic misconduct has occurred during an online exam is up to the instructor of the course.  

Common Types of Suspicious Behavior in Online Exams: 

  • Looking away from the screen - Some students do look away from the screen while they are thinking. However, if a student came prepared with a cheat sheet or a phone, looking away will be characterized by sustained looking away and looking at the same point in space each time. 
  • Talking - Some students talk to themselves while taking an exam. However, if a student appears to be talking to someone else or another person’s voice is heard, that signals a problem. Using headphones is not allowed because there is no way to know who is talking to the student. 
  • Unauthorized materials - Some students may try to use unauthorized materials like notes, textbooks, calculators, phones, or even other programs on their computers.  
  • Camera - Students are required to stay in full view of the camera; the camera serves as the proctor. This means that students should not get up and leave during an exam. They should not move themselves out of view of the camera. 
  • Poor room scan - Students may show only parts of the room or may not even show the desk they are working on. There is no way to know what the student may have access to while taking the exam. 
  • Suspicious ID - Student may attempt to take an exam for someone else. If the photo on the ID and the person don’t match, take a closer look. 
  • Behavior - Some students do not respect an online exam. If a student displays behavior during an exam that makes the viewer uncomfortable (not wearing appropriate clothing, testing while using the restroom, anger at the computer, etc), departmental supervisors may need to be involved. 


Room Scans: 

Room scans are the primary method of ensuring that the student have a private testing environment. If the scan is poor, it is harder to determine whether or not academic misconduct has occurred. Exam Services strongly recommends, after completion of the practice quiz and/or the first exam in your course, to give the student's feedback about the room scans they completed. Students should be given information about what they are doing wrong (or right). 

A good room scan allows the instructor to confirm whether or not a student is consulting unacceptable sources. The room scan should: 

  • include a 360 degree view of the entire room 
  • include the work surface 
  • include what is behind the computer 

A poor room scan: 

  • is not 360 degrees 
  • moves too quickly or is blurry 
  • only shows student eye level 
  • doesn't show the work surface 
  • stops short of showing certain areas of the room 
  • has the student in the screen for the entire room scan (preventing you from seeing behind the student) 



For cases that lack sufficient evidence or are unclear, it is important for the instructor to follow-up with the student. Any time an instructor contacts a student about a questionable activity, the student’s likelihood of repeating the same mistake goes down on subsequent exams.  


For example, a student may complete a poor room scan. The instructor may not be able to see what is on the desk surface that the student is using. During the exam, the student may be constantly looking to the right and appears to be reading. Not being able to see what is there makes it a challenge to say with certainty that misconduct happened. The instructor may choose to require a better room scan for the next exam or a penalty will follow. The instructor may choose to give the student a penalty on the first exam. The instructor may choose to require the student to take future exams at the Iowa City Test Center rather than through Proctorio. Exam Services has found that questionable behaviors drop significantly in subsequent exams when students are approached about their performance.  


Most importantly, you should become familiar with how your department handles and defines academic misconduct. Then, follow the policies and processes outlined by your academic department and College if you identify a student who has committed academic misconduct in a Distance and Online Education course. 


Sample Messages to Students: 

Gentle Reminder (Misconduct Not Detected) 

Dear ___, 

I am writing to make you aware of concerns raised from your [name of exam] recording, which was flagged with a high suspicion level. I’ve reviewed the video and the high suspicion level appears to be triggered by sound in the room. I do not believe you committed misconduct, and I’m writing to remind you to take the following steps for future exams to ensure success with online proctoring.  

Select a well-lit, quiet, and private location with a clean work surface. 

Exit from all online chat rooms; turn off your cell phone; and put all books, notes, and mobile devices away. Earbuds are not allowed, and hats should be removed. 

Before beginning your exam, present your student ID and slowly scan the testing area with your computer so the video clearly shows the room—including your desk. 

Keep your focus on the monitor so that there is a high level of confidence that unapproved resources are not being used while completing online exams. 

Refrain from attempting to select text, employing the right-click function of your mouse, and using any special keystrokes (such as, Ctrl+F). 

Progress through the exam questions with attentiveness, as if you have a live proctor in the room, and stay on the full-size testing screen until finished. 


Firm Reminder (Questionable Behavior) 

Dear ___, 

I am writing to make you aware of concerns raised from your [name of exam] recording, which was flagged with a high suspicion level. I’ve reviewed the video and the high suspicion level appears to be triggered by sound in the room and the fact that you look off to your left throughout the exam. 

Please be sure to complete future exams in a well-lit, quiet and private location. Before beginning your exam, slowly scan the room with your computer so the video clearly shows the room—including your desk surface. Finally, it is important that I be able to see you throughout the entire exam and that you keep your attention on the monitor so that I can feel confident you are not using unapproved resources while completing future online exams. 


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