How does WGU ensure the integrity of its assessments?

Students, graduates, employers, and other higher education institutions value WGU degrees because the competency they represent is truly the students’ own. How does WGU protect the integrity of its assessments against cheating? WGU does this in several ways. faq1.pngFirst, WGU requires that students submit authentic work — not that of others. Second, it investigates the originality of every faculty-scored performance assessment submitted by students. If it is a computer-scored objective assessment, all precautions are made to ensure that students are taking the exam themselves within a secure, proctored setting. Realizing that oftentimes student infractions are unintentional, WGU provides various supports to curb violations. Finally, WGU searches the Internet for unauthorized assessment activities and removes them. Let’s explore each of these approaches in more detail.

As students begin their academic journey at WGU, they agree to adhere to the Code of Student Conduct that governs their academic behavior thereafter. Further, before submitting each of their faculty-scored performance assessments online, they agree to an Academic Authenticity Commitment – in other words, that the work is truly their own. At any time, students may refer to WGU’s Assessment Policies for reference about what practices generally are or are not permissible. When students take a computer-scored objective assessment, the online proctor goes over the authenticity rules with them prior to launching the assessment.
In addition to students pledging their honesty, WGU has in place procedures and systems to make sure they follow through. The 25-member Assessment and Security team within the Evaluation Department concentrates on investigating violation cases of objective and performance assessments. To enable students to self-check the originality of their own written work, WGU encourages them to submit each written assessment artifact to the University’s originality checking system, integrally connected and available within the assessment platform. There are flexible guidelines, and students should check the specifics given in the task instructions. However, generally speaking, the work cannot match all other sources by more than 30 percent, or any individual source by more than 10 percent. In addition, the investigative team looks at other patterns denoting plagiarism (for more information see “How are students’ submissions evaluated for originality?,” “What is an Originality Report?,” and “Revising Based on the Originality Report”).

To ensure the integrity of student work during a computer-scored objective assessment, WGU has established important security measures and arranged for a proctor to verify the student’s behavior during the exam. For an online proctored exam, this means such things as displaying a government-issued photo ID; placing the webcam so that face, hands, and workspace are visible; adjusting lighting to be optimally seen by the proctor; clearing workspace of paper, books, and materials; refraining from use of cellphones, headphones, and earplugs; and being unaccompanied, avoiding talking and question-reading (for more information about security practices with online proctoring, see “Being Successful with Online Proctoring” and “WGU Assessment Policies”).

Many infractions of academic authenticity are unintentional. Examples include forgetting to cite references within the body of the paper, or asking to see a WGU friend’s submission for guidance without realizing this form of cheating. Unless teamwork is a course requirement, they should contact their Course Instructor, Program Mentor, or consult the course-of-study (COS), or learning resources for assistance with an assessment. Knowing that mistakes occur, an Originality support team member will reach out to discuss the plagiarism concern or authenticity violation, answer questions, and refer the student to resources for additional support. Realize that WGU takes seriously even the first suspected incidence of plagiarism; the student is sent an email of a formal Academic Authenticity Warning/Notice of an Investigation. The work is scored at the lowest level, and, on a first offense, students are allowed to resubmit. On subsequent offenses, submissions are held without the evaluation being completed while the case is referred to the Student Conduct Board with potentially more severe consequences (for additional information, see “How are students’ submissions evaluated for originality?”).


WGU’s assessments are its intellectual property, and the university vigilantly maintains the integrity of them against those who would compromise or take advantage of their assessments wherever encountered. Using a web patrol application known as the “Owlbot,” WGU works tirelessly to locate and protect its assessment content by crawling the Web 24/7 for infractions. It discovers approximately 800 sites monthly and demands that WGU content be removed. This includes Internet sites that specialize in sharing academic information, preparing assessments on students’ behalf, and student blog posts sharing or asking for WGU assessment information. With specialized sites that purchase or sell content, WGU sends the offenders a formal notice requiring them to remove WGU intellectual property or suffer major legal and financial consequences.
faq2.pngBecause of the University’s outstanding support of academic integrity through its internal policies, practices,
and vigilant work to maintain the security of its assessments, the Enterprise Learning Group in 2017 honored WGU with its Innovation in Assessment Delivery Award. The recognition was for the quality of WGU’s complete online assessment system, from on-demand high-stakes computer-scored objective assessments to the security of its faculty-scored performance assessments and the efforts of its web patrol application, “Owlbot.” At WGU we understand that the value of each degree depends on our constant vigilance, consistent guidance, and high standards for academic integrity. 


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