2021

The mass transition to remote and online learning has certainly presented many challenges, not the least of which has been an increase in the opportunity for students to engage in academic dishonesty.   This has been made especially evident in service-level mathematics courses.  Applications such as Mathway and Symbolab have made it very easy for students to access step-by-step problem solutions while working on course assignments, including online exams.   In 2020, the number of questions posted to Chegg.com between April and August reportedly increased by nearly 200% over the same time-period in the previous year (Lancaster & Cotarlan, 2021).  While there are many strategies for improving and protecting online exam integrity, including the use of multiple exam versions, randomizing question order, and utilizing online proctoring services, no method is foolproof.  The online proctoring service ProctorU administered 340,000 exams in the first three months of 2020 with fewer than 1% cases of cheating.  However, over the course of April, May, and June, the number of administered exams vaulted to 1.3 million while the percentage of students caught cheating rose to more than 8% (Newton, 2020).

One way that we can encourage a culture of academic integrity is to increase instructor immediacy.  Instructor immediacy can be thought of as the behavior that decreases the perceived separation between students and the instructor.   Immediacy is about showing our students that we care; and that we are accessible.  There is a connection between instructor immediacy and academic integrity.   Indeed, it has been shown that instructor immediacy has a significant impact in encouraging honor-code compliance (LoShiavo & Shatz, 2011).  It has also been shown that instructor behavior evaluations were lower among students who had self-reportedly engaged in academic dishonesty (Stearns, 2001).  We can embolden students to embrace academy integrity by increasing our instructor presence.

One way to begin establishing presence would be to create and post a welcome video for students at the beginning of each semester.  You can use this video to introduce yourself, discuss the syllabus, and to briefly provide an outline of your course setup in the LMS.  This allows the students an opportunity to see your face and hear your voice.  I like to email a link to this video on the Friday before classes begin.

It is also important to be proactive in contacting struggling students.  If a student misses or underperforms on an assignment, send a quick email to let the student know that you noticed.  Use this contact as an opening to ask how everything is going.  This gives you an opportunity to initiate a conversation with the student regarding any issues with which they may be dealing.  In my experience, students are more likely to respond to my email and share their situation when they might not have initiated the conversation on their own.  Make it a point, also, to periodically send messages to students who are doing well.  We all like to feel recognized.  Sending out some quick kudos is a good way to acknowledge student performance while illustrating that you are paying attention.  This strategy is not as time consuming as it might seem.  I often use an email template so that I can copy-paste, and then personalize.              

Post weekly course announcements to remind your students of upcoming assignments or to give an overview of what is to come in the class.  If your class is asynchronous, you might consider recording a quick announcement video.  This will give your students another opportunity to see your face and further shows that you are a real person with whom they can communicate.

Finally, do not try to be perfect.  It can be beneficial to your students to know that you are adjusting just as they are.  When courses at my institution pivoted to a remote format in March 2020, I found myself teaching from home with two small children.  As much as I tried to limit class interruptions, they were inevitable, whether it be a herd of wild dinosaurs parading through my living room or a full-on temper-tantrum.  I was nervous that these encounters would detract from the learning experience.  However, getting a glimpse into my life was humanizing.  Students began to ask about my kids.  These students were, then, more likely to ask questions about course material or even attend virtual office hours. 

By increasing our presence and creating connections with our students, we can create an environment in which students are comfortable discussing course materials or other issues.  This will increase motivation and decrease stress and anxiety.  In doing so, we can encourage a culture of academic integrity. 

References

Lancaster, T., & Cotarlan, C. (2021). Contract Cheating by STEM Students through a fil sharing website: A COVID-19 Pandemic Perspective. International Journal for Educational Integrity. Obtenido de https://edintegrity.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1007/s40979-021-00070-0

LoShiavo, F. M., & Shatz, M. A. (2011). The Impact of an Honor code on Cheating in Online Courses. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. Obtenido de https://jolt.merlot.org/vol7no2/loschiavo_0611.pdf

Newton, D. (7 de August de 2020). Another Problem with Shifting Education Online: A Rise in Cheating. Obtenido de The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/another-problem-with-shifting-education-online-a-rise-in-cheating/2020/08/07/1284c9f6-d762-11ea-aff6-220dd3a14741_story.html

Stearns, S. (2001). The Student-Instructor Rrelationship's Effect on Academic Integrity. Ethics and Behavior, 11(3), 275-285.

Are you concerned about possible increases in academic misconduct since the COVID-19 pandemic began? Are you an administrator or faculty member in higher education who might be interested in seeing, and helping to collect relevant data? We have been collecting data from students through an online survey since January, in two countries. We’re sharing some preliminary results below, and inviting you to join in the project. Rationale: Although anecdotal reports from organizations like the International Center for Academic Integrity and the European Network for Academic Integrity indicate that academic misconduct in institutions of higher education have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, generalizable data is limited, and relevant data collected directly from students is rare. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to investigate the beliefs and experiences of students in higher education regarding academic misconduct before and after the beginning of the pandemic. Methods: Our participants were post-secondary students from five of the stronger universities in Romania (N = 480) and 11 universities and colleges in the United States (N = 414). The sample included 119 first year students, 213 second year students, 214 third year students, 120 fourth year students, and 121 graduate students. Participants reported their gender identities as 255 male, 627 female, and 28 other. Specialties/majors included Generic 6, Education 110, Arts/Humanities 73, Social Sciences 175, Business 188, Natural Sciences 75, Information Tech 22, Engineering 139, Agriculture 22, Health/welfare 84, and Services 8. Participants completed a single survey that required about 15 minutes of their time. We asked participants three questions about their beliefs and experiences regarding three different types of academic misconduct. The three questions about beliefs and experiences asked what percent of their peers they believed were engaging in each of three types of academic misconduct, how many times they had witnessed a peer engaging in each of three types of academic misconduct, and how many times they had engaged in each of three types of academic misconduct themselves. The three different types of academic misconduct were cheating on examinations in class, cheating on assignments outside of class, and plagiarism. Using a retrospective pretest design, we asked each of these questions twice – once with respect to the year before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and once with respect to the year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, we asked a total of 18 questions about student beliefs and experiences: 3 types of misconduct X 3 types of beliefs or experiences X two time intervals (the years before and after beginning of the pandemic) = 18 questions. Results: Before and after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Mean responses from Romanian students were significantly higher than mean responses for US students across all three questions and all three types of academic misconduct, with a few exceptions. In other words, students in Romania reported higher rates for believing their classmates were cheating, observing their classmates cheat, and acknowledging their own academic misconduct, than students in the US, both before and after the pandemic began.
  • Almost all of these means were also greater during the year after the pandemic began than they were during the year before the pandemic began.
  • More interestingly, Romanians reported a reduction in cheating on assignments since the start of the pandemic, while US students reported an increase in cheating on assignments.
  • Students from both countries reported a decrease in plagiarism since the beginning of the pandemic, with a greater drop reported by the Romanian students.

What’s Next:

  • We have now collected more than 1,300 responses in the United States and 1,800 in Romania.
  • We are beginning to collect data in Canada.
  • Colleagues are working on translations of the survey with the goal of collecting data in Chile, Hungary, Indonesia, Lithuania, Mexico, and Ukraine.

  To get involved, or to learn more about this study, contact the Principal Investigator: Bob Ives, University of Nevada, Reno USA, at

Understanding that cheating is not worth the risk, may be a more effective means to deter many students from cheating than solely appealing to their morality or their need to abide by university regulations. This video discusses 5 common academic cheating methods and their short- and long-term consequences. It provides real-life examples of the negative outcomes of engaging in such behavior. With students increasingly being aggressively targeted directly by contract cheating firms, the video takes the approach that it is better to forewarn students than to hope they will not encounter such solicitations. The video, created by two university professors, is available on youtube, is commercial free, and uses an animated character to walk students through real-life news clips and research studies to show the risks involved. Video link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niMb2ZyVkmc 

Motivating students to engage in college writing and understand principles of academic integrity can be challenging. Doing so when the language of instruction is a foreign one can be even more challenging. And doing all that during a pandemic is – tough. Following curfews, lockdowns, and a move to online classes, motivation has waned, frustration has soared. Yet, this year of Covid-induced struggles has shown that some techniques can help promote academic integrity and discourage contract cheating.

Existing techniques to discourage and address breaches of integrity such as plagiarism and collusion remain effective, but less so when it comes to ghost-writing. Academic dishonesty can be curbed by helping students feel they do not need to, and should not, cheat because their professor is acquainted with their work, through assignment scaffolding with consistent activities in and outside the classroom, plus regular feedback. The use of plagiarism detection software such as Turnitin as a learning tool can serve to explain ethical academic practices. And when a breach does happen, it can be identified. Turnitin is the perfect informant (why a student, knowing submissions will be discussed in class, submits plagiarized material eludes me!). What is now more difficult is handling ghost-written material. In face-to-face classes, professors are familiar with students’ writing styles and like other educators, I have begun reading an essay, initially smiling happily because the student had done so well, but then frowning despairingly because the essay was clearly not the product of the authorial voice I had witnessed in class.  A year ago, I would arrange a face-to-face meeting, and students usually, albeit grudgingly, accepted responsibility. With online classes, however, detecting and proving ghost-written material is sometimes impossible, given that you may have never met or spoken with the student, have never witnessed the drafting of even one sentence; and should you suspect, virtual meetings to discuss the incident may prove futile, with the student sometimes not even turning on their camera. What I have come to realize is the need for recursive demonstration that academic integrity a) matters to me b) should matter to them c) can be achieved d) is something desirable.

Some techniques I found worked to achieve this: 

  • Repeated class discussions on reasons for cheating and practical consequences. As students have told me:
  • They hear, especially now without a physical classroom, that others are struggling just as much as they are with topics, assignments, language. This sense of shared difficulty has served as a deterrent against asking for outside assistance. 
  • They realize long-term negative consequences of plagiarism for the social whole, through questions such as whether they would trust a doctor for performing heart surgery or a lawyer for handling a murder charge, knowing these individuals had cheated their way through university.  
  • They understand the value of learning, not just getting grades and a degree.
  • They view academic integrity as something positive to strive for, not something associated with penalties. 
  • Random selection of respondents, through an online dice roller (shared screen), instead of waiting for the usual two-three students to raise their hand. 
  • Surprisingly, students enjoy it, develop deeper understanding of material, and ultimately, feel sufficiently confident to not need outside assistance. 
  • I get the opportunity to become familiar with students’ way of expressing themselves, which may facilitate the detection of ghost-written material.
  • Submission of an integrity pledge that also states they are proud of their work and time invested, alongside each formal assignment. This serves as a recurrent opportunity to get students to assume ownership of their work and gradually, even if somewhat artificially, associate pride with their efforts, not just with a good grade. 
  • Additional evaluation of assignments (incorporated in the participation grade), to reduce potential involvement of a ghost-writer, on:  
  • Use of only assigned and annotated sources or, if own research was conducted, approved and annotated sources.
  • Inclusion of a complete Works Cited, of material actually used.
  • Attendance at an individual conference to discuss first drafts.
  • Extent of feedback consideration. 

When unethical practices are common in entertainment, business, politics, it is no wonder many young minds may feel that cheating in college is, comparatively, not that tragic. And, at a time when a pandemic is depriving them of their freedoms and possibly their loved ones, to be asked to care so much about a college-essay may be annoying and seem excessive. We, as educators, however, have the responsibility – and the privilege – to find ways to make integrity both achievable and desirable, for both that annoying college-essay and post-college life.

Since 1992, the International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) has worked with academic communities around the globe to promote a culture of academic integrity and discourage academic misconduct.  Since ICAI’s founding, contract cheating, defined below, has emerged as a world-wide concern. 

“The term contract cheating describes the form of academic dishonesty where students get academic work completed on their behalf, which they then submit for academic credit as if they had created it themselves.” (contractcheating.com)

Members and leaders of ICAI work on the front lines with students, instructors, and educational institutions to uphold the integrity of the degrees and certificates their institutions confer.  

In the past, contract cheating was often accomplished student-to-student. Now, in addition to this avenue, we (the members and leaders of ICAI) are seeing students turn to online companies advertising to “help” a student, when in fact, they undermine teaching and learning. Here are a few examples of this: 

  • Students look to internet sites for the exact question/problem/scenario given to them from their instructors.
  • If the student is unable to find the question/problem/scenario, they post the exact (or very similar) question(s) online for someone to answer.
  • Students copy the provided answer directly from the online source without spending time to understand it or check it for errors.
  • Students attempt to hide their online activities from institutional authorities by not making their name visible or by logging into “help” sites in a way that cannot be tied to their educational institution ID.

While the behavior of students is concerning, the behaviors exhibited by the so-called “helping” or “tutoring” websites are more concerning still.  The following are examples of such behaviors:

  • Allowing students to register with a non-institutional identifying email – in essence allowing them to hide or make it more difficult for educational institutions to know who has viewed or posted information.
  • Creating hurdles for educational administrators and instructors who are trying to get information about the posts and/or remove posts of copyrighted materials.
  • Requiring educational administrators and instructors to buy an account to monitor the illegal posting of copyrighted or otherwise-prohibited materials, to check if academic assignments and tests have been shared, and to determine who shared these materials and who has accessed them, both of which are academic offenses. 
  • Blackmailing students by threatening to notify their educational institutions that the student has been accessing unauthorized materials or assistance.

Especially on this day, the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating, ICAI is taking a stand to say that these behaviors are wrong and do not create the culture of academic integrity that we as an association and our members strive for. 

We ask our members and other educational providers worldwide to take a stand as well.  This can be seen in a variety of ways:

  1. Blocking various internet sites that claim to “help” students but that promote academic misconduct and fraud
  2. Creating strong syllabus statements telling students to avoid these sites and let students know that even looking at them for course help could be an academic offense.
  3. Talking to students about the difference between looking at an answer online and understanding the thought process necessary to generate the answer, which is the goal of learning.
  4. Creating and/or promoting a wide variety of resources (i.e., writing workshops, tutoring centers, counseling services etc.) for students to support their academic success and maintain academic integrity.
  5. Developing course assignments and examinations that are resistant to cheating of any kind.

We also ask online companies to change their behavior, too, by:

  1. Ensure that all users are registered through their institutional email.
  2. Require all users to sign a pledge acknowledging they will uphold the values of academic integrity.
  3. Provide an easy method for challenging copyright and other infringements.

Unfortunately, contract cheating and the market for dishonest online “support” appears to be growing, particularly during the current pandemic. Far from being a benign problem, contract cheating has implications for the credibility of academic degrees, institutional accreditation, and for society as a whole, as the students who engage in contract cheating graduate, enter the workforce, and move into leadership positions. 

As an organization dedicated to enhancing academic integrity,  ICAI specifically denounces companies that profit from helping students cheat. Moreover, we call upon educational institutions, the corporate world, accrediting bodies, and governments to act to promote academic integrity by setting high expectations for themselves and those around them.

#integritymatters, #excelwithintegrity #myownwork

At the International Center for Academic Integrity Conference 2021, I delivered a presentation entitled “Developing an Academic Integrity Research Module for Undergraduate Students”. This detailed my experiences developing and delivering a new academic integrity module for students at Imperial College London.

I’ve advocated for a long time that we need to think of students as our academic integrity partners, not just as people we lecture to about what is right and wrong and how to avoid plagiarism. So, to me, encouraging students to not just champion academic integrity but also to actively conduct research, seems like a natural progression.

The new module I developed ran in its pilot form in Autumn (Fall) 2020. For the first year, it was open only to students on a small number of courses. Next year, it will be available as a credit bearing option across almost all courses at Imperial College London.

Developing a new module of this type is not without its challenges. Putting aside those caused by online delivery and the pandemic, one area I hadn’t fully planned for would be the wide range of academic disciplines, student backgrounds and engagement levels involved. Some students had previously studied ethics and thought this might be an advanced version of their previous subject specific module. None of the students had really looked at research methods before. In general, the students had only considered academic integrity as being the set of rules they had to follow during their academic careers, but had never had the discussion that academic integrity extends much more widely across the educational community (and beyond).

The diverse range of student backgrounds also proved to be a strength, meaning that we could bring in different perspectives and have engaging class discussions. I encouraged students to become reflective practitioners and think about how the ideas we considered applied to their own context. I also made sure we were operating within an environment that was not judgemental.

One thing I discovered is that there is a lot of academic integrity research out there. Even as a researcher in this field, there was more research than I ever expected, with hundreds of papers that had never been cited. It was a useful experience for me to put findings into context and to make sense of everything. I tried to use an examples and case study led approach wherever possible. But there is so much interesting material that this just wouldn’t all fit within a single academic integrity research module.

I was fortunate in that I was able to bring in Dr Irene Glendinning from Coventry University for a guest session, where Irene talked about her own career as an academic integrity researcher and the wider lessons she’d discovered. I had also previously generated internal funding from StudentShapers and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme, so I had been able to partner with students to develop academic integrity research examples. The panel with existing student researchers turned out to be one of the highlights of the module and helped to inspire the new groups to conduct their own research.

In the end, I was very impressed with the research studies produced by the student groups. The students really engaged with the materials. I saw a difference in their views and reflection as the module went on. We ended the module with a group of students seemingly much more willing to act with courage when addressing academic integrity challenges. I also saw my views develop as well. I already know our students are capable of being active members of our community, but I now know they can be valued research partners as well.

I’m already looking forward to delivering this module next year. I have some material updates planned, some more content I’d like to include and the difficult question to consider, what do I take out? I encourage other academics and educational institutions to consider developing an academic integrity research module in partnership with their students.

Happy Finals season to all of our readers far and wide! We hope that you have enjoyed reading the Integrity Matters Blog over the last academic year. Today, I want to share with you the process for curating and developing the blog posts you read each week.

This blog is a collaborative effort. It would not survive without the hard work of the editing team. We currently have five rotating editors that review and write blogs to ensure that you receive new content each and every week. Some days, like today, one person serves as both the editor and author of the blog. Other days, we ask outside experts to share thoughts, ideas, and opinions on topics related to academic integrity. Once the editor receives a blog post, they review it. Provided the post is not a marketing or promotional post for a product, it is considered for publication. 

At this point, I wish to issue a disclaimer: the ICAI blog is a weekly publication written by guest contributors from around the world. The views expressed are the author’s own and not necessarily those of the International Center for Academic Integrity. If and when the International Center for Academic Integrity expresses a position, they will release an official statement, such as the statement on contract cheating found here

You may have a different opinion than the blog post you see in your inbox. If you do, I am glad you are still reading and would encourage you to consider submitting your own blog post for review! The opinions of all of our members and the academic community at large are valuable as this field continues to grow and expand. Do you have some research you want to share? I hope that you will write about it. Did you successfully pilot a new pedagogical technique that promotes integrity? Consider authoring an instructional post to help other faculty, practitioners, and students. Guidelines to submit a blog post can be found here.

If you would like to help with blog content, and you are an ICAI member, consider joining the Content Committee. A committee is a group of volunteers working to develop and create blog posts, webinars, and other works.

Like many institutions around the U.S. and Canada, my university has seen an unprecedented rise in the number of academic dishonesty incidents involving social messaging apps (GroupMe and WhatsApp) this year. Fortunately, our institutional leadership took this seriously and formed a task force comprised of colleagues from different vantage points at the university. Our goal was straightforward: produce recommendations for addressing (1) how to deter mass academic dishonesty incidents facilitated by social messaging apps,  (2) how to reduce the impact to a course when they occur, and (3) to use this opportunity to further promote academic integrity on our campus.

The group was comprised of representatives from:

  • Student Government Leadership
  • Faculty Council Committee on Teaching and Learning.
  • The Registrar
  • The University Testing Center
  • The Student Disability Center
  • Student Conduct Services
  • Faculty Committee on Scholastic Standards
  • The Academic Integrity Program

Over the course of four weeks, we met for intensive conversations on the subject, tried to understand the problem, listened to the viewpoints shared by the members, and crafted steps the campus could take to reduce the number of potential incidents as we plunged towards finals (which, on our campus, would be conducted after transitioning to a period of remote learning post- spring break).

In the end, we settled on two mass emails: one to students and one to faculty. The recommendations we delivered are not groundbreaking, but they do serve as a clear plan for how to best weather the next few weeks. These emails accomplish multiple things:

  1. Increase awareness of the apps and the challenge they posed to a course’s final assessment in a remote environment.
  2. Give faculty clear steps to help prevent or limit academic dishonesty.
  3. Communicate to students and faculty the value our institution places on academic integrity.

You can find a copy of our letter to the faculty here.

You can find a copy of our letter to students here.

I’m sharing here so that anyone in a position similar to the one we were in can use these emails as the starting point for their own approach. If you find something helpful in this, please feel free to use and adapt as you see fit.

A note on disseminating these letters:

  • We planned for the faculty letter to be shared via Faculty Council representatives and the leadership structures of the different colleges.
  • The student letter is intended to come from our Dean of Students, cosigned by our campus student government leadership.

Next steps:

We are following this coordinated communication with a series of ads designed and promoted by our university social media group. These will run during the last weeks of our semester and through finals.

Once the semester is over, the task force is moving to a permanent status. Our hope is to continue leveraging the different viewpoints and ideas to keep our campus ahead of the next big disruptive issue in academic integrity. The future is uncertain, but approaching it with a sense of resolve (and a little bit of hope) seems right.

New Open-Access Writing Textbook graphic

Mindful Technical Writing: An Introduction to the Fundamentals is an open textbook we co-authored specifically to support student success in co-requisite pairings of developmental writing and introduction to technical writing; however, the text’s modular design is flexible enough for use in a variety of college-level writing course applications. The book is available for no-cost download: to access it from the Open Textbook Library, follow this link. The book is housed in the OER Commons as well, and available through this link.

Attending to Academic Integrity

Montana Technological University is an institutional member of the ICAI, and on October 16, 2019, the university’s Writing Program facilitated a campus education and outreach event coincidental with the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating. Interactive activities included a board game called Defeat the Cheat and a chart-your-own-course experience in which participants ‘escape’ with their integrity (or not) based on the paths they choose through a scenario designed to test their understanding of academic integrity.

Additionally, the institution’s writing instructors invited responses from students, faculty, and staff to prompts about academic integrity. The prompts and some participant responses are excerpted below:

We were among the writing faculty who facilitated this awareness event, and we were pleased to learn that the outcomes supported our efforts to address critical concepts – like the importance of academic integrity – in our recently-published open textbook.

Students in developmental writing and college-level technical writing courses likely benefit from focused lessons intended to build skills that lead to academic success. In support of faculty and programs that value combining study skills work with discipline-specific instruction and a linked curriculum, our book provides ample opportunities for learners to discuss and demonstrate the ICAI’s fundamental values of “honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage” (ICAI, 2021, pg. 4). This new textbook offers multiple chapters that integrate the principles of academic integrity throughout the examples and exercises. For example, consider the following excerpt from page 270 of our “Managing Time” chapter:

Supporting Academic Success

In a co-requisite pairing, students who place into a remedial class can enroll simultaneously in a college-level and accompanying developmental course. The developmental segment of the co-requisite arrangement supports students’ success in the college-level class by combining study skills work with discipline-specific instruction and a linked curriculum.

This book’s repeated focus on academic integrity is encouraging since students in the co-requisite pairing of developmental writing and introduction to technical writing will need to hone their ethical source integration skills to be successful in their studies and can look to the textbook chapters for explicit instructional guidance in what academic integrity means and implicit guidance on how it is demonstrated in a writing product.

Mindful Technical Writing: An Introduction to the Fundamentals employs a modular design to maximize flexibility of use. By interlacing new material with reviews of key topics, such as academic integrity, and combining practical guidance with interactive exercises and thoughtfully designed writing opportunities, it also offers ample coverage of topics and genres. The textbook’s Creative Commons license means instructors can adopt it as is or customize it for their own co-requisite or other writing courses.

Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge funding and support from Montana Technological University’s Faculty Seed Grant Program and the TRAILS (Treasure State Academic Information and Library Services) Open Educational Resources Program through the Office of the Commissioner for Higher Education, which helped to make the textbook a reality.

Co-Author: Stacey Corbitt

Stacey Corbitt is a faculty member of the Writing Program at Montana Technological University. She teaches developmental and college-level courses in co-requisite pairings, as well as stand-alone introductory and advanced writing courses. She earned an M.S. degree in Technical Communication from Montana Tech of the University of Montana (now Montana Technological University). Prior to becoming a full-time writing instructor, she worked as a professional technical writer for private sector businesses and publicly-traded companies in environmental remediation, energy marketing, and public utility service contracting. Her research interests include textbook and course materials development. She values opportunities to mentor students in all disciplines, recognizing that strong writing skills serve professionals well at every career level.

Reference

ICAI. (2021). The Fundamental values of academic integrity (3rd ed.). License: CC-BY-NC-SA-4.0. Retrieved from https://www.academicintegrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/20019_ICAI-Fundamental-Values_R12.pdf

Laptop photo

If we have attended school at some level, we all have taken exams.  Most of my experience with testing had me focusing on the content and the outcome and not the environment.  So what is all of this “hype” about proctoring and academic integrity anyway?  As a director of a university testing center, my focus has shifted from an exam taker to an exam protector.  What are the most critical functions of proctoring and what are the challenges of proctoring either in person or when using an online platform?

There are five things that I feel every student, faculty member, and administrator should know when it comes to proctoring and academic integrity.

  • Don’t “hate” on the proctor! Try to put yourself into the shoes of the person that has been highly trained to perform the duty of making sure the exam is taken according to prescribed instructions.
  • Realize what role the proctor performs. Remember that all exams and exam environments were created to be equal.  The proctor’s job isn’t to catch students cheating, but to create an equal testing environment that all test-takers would be experiencing during the exam.  Proctors exist to be the testers’ advocates!
  • Why is academic integrity such a hot topic? Students may not realize that if the content of exams cannot be protected, the entire program might suffer in the eyes of future employers.  If students continue to cheat, then grades become meaningless, content is not learned/mastered, and the program credibility is compromised.
  • The online proctoring platforms need to have certain requirements in place in order to help protect the student and faculty member. With the onslaught of using a variety of group chats, posting exam content to testing “cheat sites” and other less than desirable methods of taking exams, the online proctoring platform serves as a balance between the acceptable (what you would experience in a classroom testing setting) and the unacceptable. The platform isn’t there to spy on you but to ensure that the exam environment is equal and level for all students.
  • Why you are testing in a proctored environment? One day, you will receive a diploma – one you have worked tirelessly to earn.  It is in your best interest to do your part to protect exam content (do not be tempted to share with friends/classmates), abide by the proctor’s or proctoring platform’s guidelines, and focus on learning. When you “cheat” you cheat yourself out of possible job opportunities, scholarships, and awards. Don’t enable someone else to benefit from your hard work.

As you prepare to take an exam, give an exam, evaluate a program, or mediate an academic misconduct hearing, please bear in mind the intended outcome of each process.  The goal is for students to thrive and achieve, faculty to teach, and administrators to oversee programs and staff.  As the Testing Center Director, I want all of our customers to feel like they have received quality, professional service; making it less stressful for all.