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Designing Canvas Quizzes for Dealing with Academic Integrity Issues in Large Online Asynchronous Courses

Teaching Survival Guide

Michael Filimowicz, PhD
Higher Neurons
Published in
4 min readMay 27, 2024

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In this article, I am sharing my Canvas quiz design principles for my large online courses, for maximizing academic integrity (or conversely, for minimizing academic dishonesty). This is a direct copy/paste from my Canvas courseware:

Notes on the Quiz Design

This is an online asynchronous course, which presents specific challenges when it comes to taking quizzes. With an in-person course, the teaching team has a much wider range of methods available to them when it comes to invigilating quizzes to (as best as possible) assure general academic integrity.

For example, with my in-person courses, I have often used a projected slide deck and paper answer sheet for quizzes. Cheating is still possible, of course, because students can look at the answers written by others sitting next to them, or find some clever way to utilize their cellphone. However, generally speaking, acts of academic dishonesty that occur in an in-person course context tend to be limited in scale to individual students or perhaps a few sitting close together.

This is not the case with an online asynchronous course, where the numbers of students participating in academic dishonesty can be quite large, since Canvas Quizzes is the only tool available. When it comes to designing a Canvas Quiz, with respect to how one can approach presenting the answers afterwards, there are only three choices:

  • Show the correct answer after the quiz is taken.
  • Show which questions were answered incorrectly.
  • Do not show either the correct answers or which questions were answered incorrectly.

Based on my experience with teaching many large online asynchronous courses, here is what I have found to be the case:

  • The problem with showing the correct answers is that some students will sell the quizzes online.
  • The problem with showing which questions are answered incorrectly is that some students will live-share and discuss the quiz via chat channels such as in private Discord servers.
  • The problem with not showing either the correct answers or the incorrectly answered questions is that some students will find it annoying that they won’t get feedback on their quizzes.

Of these three ‘evils,’ clearly the third evil is by far the least evil. That’s how I look at it, anyway.

Therefore, based on past experience with my online asynchronous courses, I have had to make some quiz design decisions, which includes:

  • The quizzes are timed.
  • The answers are shuffled.
  • Multiple attempts are not allowed, as this can lead to gaming of the quiz. E.g. I once had a student do 90 attempts in one session to get a higher grade! Thankfully, Canvas has a backend Log of all student interactions on the platform, which helps with discovering these kinds of quiz taking strategies :)
  • Students may not see either the correct answers or the questions incorrectly answered.
  • One question is shown at a time.
  • Questions are locked after being answered.

Faculty have academic freedom to design their courses as best they see fit. Academic freedom in universities is a foundational principle that ensures faculty members have the liberty to explore, research, and discuss ideas without fear of censorship or institutional retaliation. Beyond the research context, academic freedom extends to the classroom, granting educators the autonomy to design and implement pedagogical approaches that they believe will best facilitate learning and uphold academic integrity.

I will point out that the quizzes overall are quite generous in their design, for example:

  • They are open book/open web.
  • Students are given three minutes per question, whereas the norm for in-person memory recall based quizzes is 30 to 60 seconds per quiz question.
  • Each quiz question points to the relevant module where the information can be found.

In my courses, the main goal of weekly quizzes can be encapsulated by three Rs and a P, with the quiz design grounded in the neurocognition of learning. The three Rs are Forced Recall, Rehearsal, and Review. Forced Recall refers to the process of retrieving information from memory, which strengthens neural connections and enhances memory retention. Rehearsal involves the cognitive process of repetition, through which information is transferred from short-term to long-term memory. Review emphasizes the importance of going over course material before a quiz, reinforcing knowledge and aiding in the retention of key concepts.

The P stands for Pacing. Weekly quizzes are structured to ensure that students pace their learning consistently throughout the semester rather than in sporadic bursts. This is particularly important for online asynchronous courses, where the absence of regular class meetings can lead to uneven study patterns. By Pacing their learning, students engage with the material regularly, allowing the three Rs to work their neurocognitive magic. This structured approach ultimately improves the long-term retention of knowledge, and helps students achieve a deeper understanding of the course content.

So there you have it, my quiz design parameters and quiz philosophy summarized in one handy Canvas module. I wish students didn’t live-share quiz results in Discord or sell them afterwards on the internet, but that’s the reality we live in. But regardless of how this minority of students approach Canvas quizzes, the vast majority of students in the course will benefit from the weekly quizzes to cement their learning of the main course concepts.

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