Good morning,

This Tuesday I was tempted to send you an email simply saying “take breaks” as the Tuesday teaching tip. It may have been a way to show you that I was taking my own advice. Instead, I decided to take this opportunity to extend our discussion around cheating and trust.

Bitmoji Image
Cheat day Bitmoji

Cheating is a concept that is highly influenced by context and culture. For that reason, we as educators should be defining it in relation to specific programs, courses, and assignments (Lang, 2013). Cheating in our context is defined in Cambrian’s Academic Integrity Policy (2018) as “The use (or attempted use) of material, or helping others in the use of material that is prohibited or inappropriate for a specific academic assignment or evaluation” (p. 5). In nursing, cheating is a risk to patient safety so it is an important issue to explore (Birks & Smithson, 2018).  

Considerable discussion in education happens around issues of cheating and the measures we take to prevent it. There are many factors that impact if students cheat. The pressure that students are under is one that is associated with the risk of cheating (Lang, 2013). For that reason, educators need to create a safe, shame- and blame- free learning environment just like we would with clients in clinical practice (Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, 2012). Relationships are important. I plan to talk more about the importance of relationships the future, but for today I want you to know that I trust you.

Just like in clinical nursing practice, the best prevention is upstream. Decreasing barriers to success and improving supports helps students or clients achieve their goals. The most reasonable and effective strategy to prevent cheating is to set up a situation where cheating does not feel necessary (Lang as cited by Killam, 2018). That is what I have tried to do in different ways both of the classes I am teaching you this term.

all my love and support
All my love and support Bitmoji.

It is my hope that students in my class do not feel the need to cheat because:

  • Testing and assignments are clearly related to the course outcomes and meaningful to your learning and nursing practice
  • You feel like you can approach me if you are struggling for more supports including added tools, 1:1 help, extensions, or whatever else you need  
  • You have the tools you need to learn the content in a variety of ways (online activities, Mentimeter, class discussion, handouts, readings)
  • There are multiple opportunities for success (practice activities, lower-stakes assessments)
  • The degree of collaboration that is acceptable for assignments is discussed (and usually not limited)

Even though I trust you I still use tools like Lockdown browser. Why? The sad reality is that students sometimes cheat (Birks & Smithson, 2018). I have an ethical responsibility to monitor for and deal with cheating. It is also important for me to be consistent with other faculty around testing expectations when delivering a traditional exam. That is why for nursing research the closed book exam follows all those rules (a post in that course is on the way).

Have a wonderful day,


Bitmoji Image
Keep it in the vault Bitmoji

PS NCLEX Prep: Did you know the NCSBN has a weekly question you can answer? Check it out here: I got this week’s correct 🙂


Birks, M., & Smithson, J. (2018, June 27). Cheating in nursing and why students might fall into the trap. Retrieved October 29, 2019, from James Cook University website:

Killam. (2018, August 25). Cheating Strategies for Educators from @LangOnCourse at @CambrianCollege. Retrieved October 29, 2019, from Insights from Nurse Killam website:

Lang, J. (2013). Cheating lessons: Learning from academic dishonesty. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Registered Nurses Association of Ontario. (2012). Facilitating Client Centred Learning. Retrieved from


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit


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