2020

As colleges and universities reopen, whether in-person or online, syllabi are rapidly changing to accommodate COVID-19 requirements. Each institution requires its syllabi to have certain elements. Some examples include: learning objectives, course schedule, grade breakdown, and access to university resources. One thing all syllabi should include is a statement on academic honesty expectations. While there should be a university wide statement regarding academic honesty, course-specific guidelines are equally important. Here are some things instructors may want to consider:

  • Collusion or collaboration. With the development of hy-flex, hybrid, and online courses, students need to know what they can access to study or where they can turn to for outside help. Can they discuss assignments with peers? What about exams? Are these rules posted on each assignment?
  • Citation guidelines. Be clear about which citation style will be used. When are students expected to follow these guidelines and where can they get help to make sure their papers are not plagiarized?
  • Faculty responsibilities. If an assignment looks suspicious, what are instructors expected to do? If the policy at the institution is to report the matter, let the students know. Instructors may also want to provide examples of potential sanctions. 

It must be acknowledged that many will view this as cumbersome. Some might wonder why this is necessary, as the college, department, or university has a policy that students “should” know. Here are three reasons why specific instructions on academic honesty are beneficial to students:

  1. What is considered acceptable in one course may be considered cheating in another. Being clear on the front end helps reduce the amount of “accidental cheating” that happens in courses.
  2. Setting strong academic integrity expectations signals the importance of academic honesty. Students expect instructors to follow the syllabus, and they will understand that it is a part of any instructor’s job to follow rules outlined in syllabi.
  3. Opening conversations about integrity may reduce the likelihood of cheating in course as students and faculty develop relationships. Instructors can refer back to the syllabus for each assignment, providing students with a reference point.

There is uncertainty for many students about the start of this fall semester, but faculty can be proactive in addressing some issues now. Set guidelines. Set boundaries. Help students focus on authentic learning, no matter the delivery method.

Please comment with any syllabi language you use to address academic integrity.

Keeping academic integrity topics in your newsfeed may be difficult. If you have 10 minutes, here are a few articles you may find interesting:

Contract cheating is in the spotlight after a well attended webinar training by Dr. Robin Crockett of the University of Northampton.The webinar was recorded, and Dr. Crockett’s tips for educators have received an international audience.

Turnitin Originality was featured by Campus Technology as a tool to combat contract cheating by using a mix of text similarity, prior student submissions, and document metadata. As proctoring technology has been a focus of many institutions as they transition to online courses, plagiarism and contract cheating must be considered when discussing academic integrity.

Technology, though, should be only one tool instructors use to prevent cheating. A recent study demonstrated that faculty believe online courses lead to increased levels of academic dishonesty, but previous studies show that students disagree, thinking that cheating happens at the same rate online as it does in person. 

Student’s are not the only ones under fire for plagiarism. A U.S. Congressional candidate from Iowa has been accused of plagiarizing from the incumbent’s campaign website. The candidate, Ashley Hinson, acknowledged the plagiarized pieces, but blames a political consulting firm for the materials. According to the Taipei Times, Kaohsiung City Councilor Jane Lee, candidate for Kaohsiung mayor, has also been accused of plagiarism. This time, for her master’s thesis from National Sun Yat-sen University, which has “opened a Pandora’s box regarding the nation’s academia,” writes Chu Hsueh-ting.

If you have any additional articles, please comment below.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting transition to online classes, exam integrity and course design has become a hotly debated topic. Many platforms offer training, webinars, and articles to assist faculty, but what has not become easier is dealing with third party study services such as Chegg, CourseHero, Socratic. Online testing may be driving academic dishonesty to unprecedented levels. Complicating this issue includes how difficult it is for faculty members to remove exam or course content and have those vendors initiate honor investigations. 

For example, in order to remove a question from Chegg and initiate an honor investigation, faculty must have their institutional office responsible for academic integrity send a letter on university letterhead with all of the links relevant to the case to Chegg’s Honor Code e-mail. This does not necessarily include copyrighted material, which they may have to remove in accordance with copyright law. CourseHero also has an Honor Code. However, there is no easy way for instructors to request the removal of content unless it is a Copyright Infringement. Similarly, Socratic by Google does not list a way to remove content or the existence of an Honor Code in its Terms & Services.

There are many other services for students to use that allow for students to request tutors to provide answers. On the surface level, tutoring services are often beneficial for student, yet there is rarely a verification process to check that the posted material/course content is shareable. Further, the process for removing content is at times unnecessarily complex. Finally, honor investigations do not always result in finding the student(s) that have cheated. A student could use an alternate e-mail address that does not correspond to their name, and the site may be unable to provide a complete list of which users have accessed the answers.

Some of these issues could be reconciled with third party tutoring services. A good start includes requiring students to register their accounts with their university e-mail, with verification of that e-mail necessary to maintain an account. This would enable services to provide the contact information needed to identify students violating the honor policies. Additionally, sites could work with faculty to remove and initiate honor investigations without requiring institutional intervention.

While these two suggestions could signal the beginning of better relationships and the pseudo-legitimization of third party tutoring services, there is a long way to go before faculty may trust that their students are not using these sites to cheat in their courses.

As academic integrity practitioners, we often talk about academic integrity and assessment design. We make checklists of things faculty should and should not do to foster honest student work. We talk at them, and insist that faculty take on the additional burden of following whatever academic integrity policy is in place at your institution. But when was the last time we listened to their needs and concerns?

One of the best ideas from the last ICAI Annual Conference was a Faculty Listening Tour. This is an opportunity to engage your faculty, and build trust with them as stakeholders. While you should always include faculty in the creation of an institution’s policy, the relationship should not end when the policy is enacted. Instead, it is our responsibility to continue to develop trust.

As you check in with faculty, you can address what challenges they face in their courses. Do they know where the resources are located, and are they interested in learning more? What can the academic integrity practitioner do to support the faculty’s needs while continuing to uphold the integrity of the institution?

If you are interested in conducting your own Faculty Listening Tour, here are a few tangible steps to get you started:

  1. Create your own proposal with specific learning objectives. Remember, though, that the purpose of these meetings will not be for you to present on the institutional policy. Rather, you are attending these meetings to listen to faculty concerns and build trust.
  2. Contact the department heads and ask if you can join a previously or regularly scheduled department meeting. You may want to attach the proposal to the request.
  3. Schedule what meetings you can, as you can. Some faculty may not have room for you until later in the semester. This process will likely not be done before the start of the next academic year.
  4. Be open to feedback. Your faculty may love the policy at your institution, and regularly report. However, maybe there are legitimate concerns about the policy, or about how these issues may impact a student. You are there to learn how you can support the faculty.
  5. Consolidate the information you gather at each meeting. Using your learning objectives from step 1, see what you have learned from each unit you are able to speak to, and if there need to be any changes, you can address them when the Listening Tour is complete.

Academic integrity continues to be a problem across all disciplines that require intensive writing and extensive student projects. From my experience tutoring two students in the STEM field, I have witnessed their struggle with academic integrity and observed their development with keen interest. Specifically, both students find it challenging to understand the policies and expectations around academic integrity, specifically around plagiarism. This resulted in their failure to complete their courses successfully.  To reduce their chances of academic dishonesty, they reached out for tutorial support. Academic programs that emphasize academic integrity are more likely to have students who understand what is being asked of them and who espouse these values.

Nevertheless, as we know, not all experiences are equal. I intend to share my students’ stories with educators around the world so that they, too, can leave a positive mark on their students who may face the same challenge. This post will briefly highlight the students’ background, identify specific challenges they faced, discuss observations and developmental strategies used to help them, and share recommendations for instruction.

My first student is in his thirties and takes a project management course. He is a technician at IBM, a leading technology company, and has more than four years of experience in technological support. His experience and accolades are a testament to his exceptional skills and expertise in the field. However, the technician landed in one of my online writing classes. He asked for extra tutoring on writing skills. He strongly pleaded for specific training on citing and crediting the authors’ work, reporting that he got an F grade the previous semester because of this. He reports he felt “intimidated” by the work. The technician enrolled again in the project management course this summer to give himself a second chance. When asked to submit a weekly article review with APA citations and at least two peer-reviewed articles, he felt “overwhelmed” again. Since June, I have been working with the technician sharing tips and demonstrating how to compose reviews, reports and include proper references.

The second student is in his forties and takes an engineering management course in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. He is a bioengineer working with hospitals with over ten years of mechanical engineering experience. As the technician, the engineer is a well-renowned expert in his field. Although the engineer had ten years in the field, he reports there is “low demand” for extensive writing in his work and describes the engineering management class as “tedious.” Unlike the technician, the engineer had some exposure working in groups to produce project portfolios for designing high-tech devices such as smart pill bottles. However, he explains he has not had much practice with academic writing, which jeopardized his grades. I have been working with the engineer since May, building upon his knowledge and guiding him through the process of quality academic writing.

My strategies with both students are very similar. I use emotional support strategies and offer supplemental resources for them to explore, such as Purdue University’s citation guidelines. During my first online meeting with them, I shared my concern and empathy for their frustration with academic writing and explained that many students across multiple disciplines face the same challenges. STEM students are not alone. However, all STEM students who find themselves in this situation must take active responsibility to find help and avoid risky short cuts such as reusing their own past work as in one of the engineers’ assignments. Finding tutors who can help with and train students in proper academic writing is one great option these students chose.

In addition to emotional support and exploration of online resources, I supplement my instruction with the use of graphic organizers for writing papers or reports. For example, the technician knows a lot about how software designers develop websites and launch them for use by organizations. He used the knowledge from his work to explain the process in detail, ‘filling in the blanks’ of the graphic organizer. To properly cite a source in writing, he would have

  1. A topic sentence or argument,
  2. A quote or evidence from your source,
  3. An in-text citation,
  4. An explanatory sentence, and
  5. A concluding sentence.

Graphic organizers and similar tools help my students develop a rhythm for writing academic papers. This strategy also worked well for the engineer’s weekly article review and final project papers. He was able to ‘fill in the blanks’ and refine his work with me to make it more presentable. As a result, both students are now at a better place, reporting better grades and good standing to pass their courses.

I encourage educators at all levels to adopt strategies like those I use with students. The use of emotional support, graphic organizers, and supplemental resources have shown to be effective in empowering students in producing quality academic work. My STEM students, in particular, struggled with writing at first but benefited immensely from these strategies.

Mahal Miles, (pictured, photo credit Hamza Molvi ) is a 3rd year economics major at Oregon State University. Mahal offers her perspectives on academic integrity as a follow up to Isaac Parham’s recent post, and provides several research articles as additional resources for our readers. 

Another Student’s Perspective: A response to Issac Parham’s spotlight post

Isaac contributed some thought-provoking points to the academic integrity discourse. I am moved to build upon Isaac’s analysis. I will identify who students are and how students make decisions about cheating. Finally, I will explore what faculty, institutions, and students can do.

Who Are Students

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a strange reality for everyone. Coursework is restructured to continue remotely, meaning that students have the same academic responsibilities despite simultaneously facing challenges in terms of meeting basic needs.

Under normal, pandemic-free circumstances, 25% of students experience food insecurity (Shelnutt et al.). And now, with social distancing mandates, jobs are disappearing. It can be hard to prioritize academics when you are worried about food. Students may also have additional challenges with housing during this pandemic. Before COVID-19, housing insecurity was greater among college students than the general population (Broton et al.). Students are more likely to live in informal situations, sharing rooms and units with others. This can create uncertainty in that roommates may have contact with people out in the community. Imagine doing homework when you are worried about your roommate exposing you to COVID-19!

Students are humans who are navigating academics, work, and life during a time of crisis.

How Students Make Decisions About Cheating

Isaac mentions that remote learning may increase academic misconduct. I agree that some cheating behavior is based on opportunity. However, my review of literature suggests that remote learning may not increase opportunities for students in the way that Isaac assumes. Since most cheating occurs when students panic, and there are fewer opportunities for panic cheating in the remote setting, we may not see significant increases in misconduct (Grijalva et al.). There has not yet been a large-scale study which examines the effects of remote learning on plagiarism (Jamieson et al.).

Cheating may reflect the higher stakes faced by students in a time of crisis. Imagine a student without secure housing who is completing an exam from a McDonald’s parking lot in order to access internet connection. This same student may need to pass their course to maintain satisfactory academic progress and financial aid—they may be more at risk of using references to complete the exam.

Like everyone, students are doing their best to get by in the face of adversity. For some, the decision to cheat is rational, even if it falls outside of other people’s expectations about moral behavior.

What Faculty Can Do

Instead of concentrating on catching students who engage in misconduct, instructors could instead shift their focus to learning measures. There are ways to keep honest students honest: writing an additional test version decreases the probability of cheating by an estimated 25%. A simple warning before each assignment or exam is shown to reduce cheating by 12.5% (Kerkvliet et al.).

While shifting to digital proctoring and using same testing strategies is a natural pivot, it has significant risks. Software like ProctorU imposes an unexpected financial burden on students. It collects biometric data such as facial recognition and keystroke measurement. The surveillance associated with facial recognition has historically affected minority communities disproportionately (Guariglia).

What Institutions Can Do

Universities can lower the stakes of measuring achievement through grades during this global crisis. Universities conscious of equity—including Oregon State, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, Princeton, and others—have expanded “pass/fail” options. From my perspective as a student, passing a class during this time of crisis is the achievement, not the grade.

What Students Can Do

Students have the best chance of succeeding academically when basic needs are met. SNAP and Unemployment are financial resources that students may find helpful. Tools to manage mental wellness, like the Sanvello app, offers students access to mental health support.

Academic Integrity Training for Students and Faculty
GVSU’s Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution
Anthony T. Williams, Jr.

Holding students accountable for academic misconduct has been a priority for colleges and universities since the beginning of higher education. Faculty expect and trust that their students will honestly complete work independently as they pursue their academic studies. Like many universities, Grand Valley State University (GVSU) understands that we must use a multifaceted approach to address academic misconduct effectively.  In addition to the facilitation of a  restorative, socially just, and educational conduct process, GVSU’s Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (OSCCR) provides students and faculty a variety of academic integrity workshops to prevent academic misconduct.

College courses are fundamentally different and, in many cases, more complicated than what most high school students experience. In preparation for this difference, colleges and universities must proactively prepare students for this change. Our general workshop, Avoiding Academic Misconduct, provides students with an opportunity to explore and fully understand our academic integrity policies, students

  • Learn the specific policies they are being held accountable for
  • Gain an introduction to the student conduct process should any allegations arise
  • Identify the potential harms of academic misconduct and restorative measures should they be found in violation of any policy.

Knowing this information up front has proven to be a deterrent in students committing academic misconduct. This workshop is also very engaging. The workshop facilitator assists students in working through a series of scenarios to identify specific types of academic misconduct and invites students to share how they have avoided or addressed related scenarios in the past. This workshop facilitation technique truly fosters a more engaged group of participants and creates an invaluable shared learning experience. We end the workshop by providing students with a list of campus resources to avoid academic misconduct.

Working with students to avoid academic misconduct is only half of the battle. Working with faculty to ensure that they are promoting academic integrity and holding students accountable for student misconduct, per the student code, is also very important. In collaboration with GVSU’s Faculty Teaching and Learning Center, we developed a Promoting Academic Integrity and Avoiding Academic Misconduct workshop. This workshop provides faculty with the same opportunity to explore and fully understand our academic integrity policies – faculty must know what the university is holding students accountable to and the procedures for appropriately responding to and reporting academic misconduct concerns. We open this workshop by asking faculty, “How do faculty help students cheat?” This question highlights the primary focus of this workshop – promoting academic integrity. We invite faculty to share how they communicate their expectations, how they design their assignments, and how they assess student learning, all while keeping student learning and academic integrity at the core. This dialogue was especially important as we transitioned to 100% online classes in response to COVID-19. Like the student workshop, we invite faculty members to share how they address academic misconduct within their specific disciplines and end the workshop with campus resources.

The data from our assessment efforts have been consistent across all workshops. Both students and faculty have shared that they benefit from understanding our policies and procedures, the opportunity to learn from their peers during the workshop, and the list of campus resources provided by the OSCCR facilitator.

It is time to be strategic.

As we prepare for next semester, it seems as if there is more to do and less time than ever before.  Managing increasing academic misconduct caseloads with limited budgets and few staff can seem especially daunting. Faculty managing academic misconduct may feel removed from the process, relying on online tutorials and remote communication to resolve issues. Students are overwhelmed and making sense of an altered learning environment.

There is an ongoing, meaningful conversation about the increases in sophistication of computer-assisted tools designed to pass off unattributed academic work, or to provide test and assignment answers. An immediate response is to be as vigilant as possible, to prevent the perception of academic dishonesty. In response, software and curriculum designed to respond to cheating is also created at a rapid pace. It can be time consuming to keep track of the updates, products, and offers. For those of us who prioritize academic integrity, the time for an effective strategy in refining our tools and product decisions is now. Christian Moriarty offers important suggestions to update or create a new policy. While tools and products are great resources, consider these tips as you refine and refresh your strategy to manage academic misconduct.

Education –No tool can replace targeted resources to provide faculty and students with clear policies, guidance, and support in maintaining academic integrity. Need help? Consider ICAI’s top 10 ways to improve academic integrity (without much money).

Consistency– Does the strategy, tool, or product you are considering align with your mission? Do the processes align with policies of the academic units you serve? What are the educational supports available beyond the technical considerations? Consider restorative practices designed to align with the mission of your institution.

Logistics-products and curriculum look great on paper, but what are the challenges these processes have, and how will they be resolved? Is your strategy effective in the online environment? Is the product easy to use? There is never a one-size fits all approach.

Stakeholder buy in- Consider who will use the tool. Does the product interface with current faculty systems? What is the learning curve? Are all instructors encouraged and supported in using the product? Do administrators understand the decision-making behind the choice?  How will students engage with the product? A purchase of a program that no one uses means that everyone loses.

Equity- How do we make equity universal? Consider carefully what the data shows.  Are there disproportionate reports from a particular course, a particular student demographic? Look for trends as an opportunity to educate, and to interrogate the why of the violation. What is the behavior in response to, and how can the institution be a part of mediating the issue? Lead with care, and care by understanding the data and the nuance behind the numbers.

Sustainability– Will the program be institutionalized, or will this remain a stop-gap measure? What are the additional costs (time and otherwise?)

Contract cheating- Does the program plan account for the nuances of contract cheating? Symbolic events like supporting the International Day against Contract Cheating is a way

Student voice– Is the program vetted by a student advisory? To what extent do students feel as if they are a trusted part of the academic community? Centering the student perspective helps us to be as responsive as possible to their needs and concerns.

There has been little control over the past semester. Intentional strategy building will make all the difference.

Spotlight: The Alberta Council on Academic Integrity

 Statement Against Racism in Matters Related to Academic Integrity

On June 4th, 2020, the Alberta Council on Academic Integrity released a Statement Against Racism in Matters Relating to Academic Integrity. The group formed in 2019 to promote and advocate for academic integrity across Alberta.

The Alberta Council on Academic Integrity stands united against systemic racism and discrimination in all forms. As such, they have released a statement recognizing and opposing the racism evident in the manner in which particular students are identified, reported and sanctioned for breaches of academic integrity based on race, colour or language.

The council issues a call to action for other academic integrity networks and organizations to develop similar public statements against systemic racism. The full statement follows:

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Academic integrity cannot co-exist with injustice. The Alberta Council on Academic Integrity denounces racism in all forms.

 This includes:

  • Negative stereotyping of students from particular countries or cultures.
  • Racially biased reporting of academic misconduct that either implicitly or explicitly targets students of colour, students for whom English is not a first language and other racialized minorities.
  • Excessively harsh sanctioning of academic misconduct among racialized minorities.

We call upon all educators, administrators and institutions to:

  • Acknowledge that particular groups of students are over-represented in academic misconduct reporting.
  • Speak out against racial stereotypes that persist against Black, Asian, Latinx, and Indigenous students with regards to academic misconduct.
  • Ensure that reporting of academic integrity violations is consistent across the student body and breaches are addressed in fair and equitable ways.
  • Collect institutional academic misconduct data on racialized minorities in order to identify, prevent, and pro-actively address racial bias in reporting and sanctioning of students who are not white or for whom English is not their first language.

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Questions about this statement can be directed to members of the Steering Committee.

More information on the council can be found here https://albertaacademicintegrity.wordpress.com/

Steering Committee (Members listed alphabetically by institution):

  • Margaret Toye, Bow Valley College
  • Melanie (Mel) Hamilton, Lethbridge College
  • Marg Olfert, Mount Royal University
  • Nazanin Teymouri, Norquest College
  • Sheryl Boisvert, Norquest College
  • Cheryl Kier, Athabasca University
  • Sarah Elaine Eaton, University of Calgary

The Importance of Research Integrity in a Global Pandemic

David Ison
PhD Professor 
Graduate School
Northcentral University

While much of the attention of ICAI and its many members focuses on academic integrity from the student side, we have to remember – and advocate for – integrity in the work of faculty and researchers as well. What better example can we lay forth for students than for teachers and professors to “practice what they preach.” Unfortunately, retractions of research articles occur regularly, sometimes for honest errors and, for others, due to egregious breaches of ethical standards. No place can misleading or deceptive research cause more real harm to the general public than medical research. This genre of research has the potential to impact our lives and those of our loved ones, leading doctors who care for us to prescribe specific pharmaceuticals or perform other types of treatment based upon the findings of writers.

In times of crisis, such as within the global COVID-19 pandemic within which we all have been living for the past several months, it is not surprising – and we all are glad to see – that medical researchers have been frantically trying to find treatments, vaccines, or cures for the deadly virus. Yet these are the times in which we must guard against rushing to conclusions based on pseudoscience, poorly executed studies, or worse, ethically questionable research and conclusions thereof. Sadly, there have been examples of spurious or illusory research on COVID-19 treatments.

The danger of misinformation in medical research cannot be underestimated. One significant example of ethical misconduct at the hands of a researcher was the claim of a link between vaccines and autism. In Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 article in the Lancet, he claimed that, in short, vaccines caused autism. This created a wave of outcries concerning vaccine safety and subsequently led many parents to forgo vaccination of their children. It was determined that Wakefield’s study was paid for and crafted by a group of lawyers in the process of suing vaccine companies in Britain. Moreover, the findings were dubious, contrary to previous research, and based upon inadequate research design and ethical standards. It took 12 years, but the Lancet eventually retracted the article and the science community has dismissed the claim linking vaccines to autism. The impact of Wakefield’s false claims cannot be entirely measured but has potentially played part in the trend of more unvaccinated children and even recent outbreaks of measles in the U.S.

Recently, we have seen medical researchers following similar paths of presenting questionable findings with real and significant potential public impact related to COVID-19 treatments. Headlines quickly highlighted the results of a study titled “Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as a treatment of Covid-19: results of an open-label non-randomized clinical trial” appearing in the March issue of the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, which touted the use of an antimalarial drug to lessen COVID-19 symptoms. Further recommendations for this treatment were advocated for by President Donald Trump. Not surprisingly, many people scrambled to get their hands on the drug and an unknown number of patients likely received the drug as part of their treatment. An example of the deadly results that may ensue from specious research findings is that an Arizona couple poisoned themselves while taking a form of chloroquine, under the assumption that it would protect them from COVID-19. The IJAA article was eventually retracted due to a slew of confounding variables, possible ethical issues, missing patient data, and a peer review process that was expedited more than necessary. Around the same time, the FDA recommended extreme caution in the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients. Many infectious disease doctors have concluded that the drug has a low likelihood of making a significant positive impact on the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

While it is understandable that in time such as these, rapid and aggressive research tactics must be employed to try to identify treatments or possible cures to COVID-19. In fact, the rapid pace at which scientists have been ramping up their understanding of the virus is astounding and laudable. The aforementioned, however, serves as a warning and reminder of the importance of maintaining ethical and honest research practices even in light of this adrenaline fueled COVID-19 sprint to the finish line. Research can have substantial influence on society which cannot be underestimated. Thus, there is no place for fallacious research in academic or other media. We as academics must guard against these transgressions, as researchers, peer-reviewers, and consumers of such media, and take action if we see that something is amiss.