In a 2019 installment of the popular NPR podcast, “Hidden Brain,” Shankar Vedantam explores the cognitive challenge of making good decisions in the heat of the moment, or what he calls a “hot state.” We are poorly equipped, he says, to anticipate how we will act when thrust into difficult “emotional states.” The intensity of those experiences can be so pronounced that we quickly forget what we may have learned; as a result, we are predisposed to making the same mistakes in the future.

This phenomenon is analogous to the predicament of students who find themselves the subject of an academic integrity allegation. Once the process is over and charged emotions have subsided, it is important to find ways to support our students in sorting through those difficult emotions so that they are better able to make right decisions moving forward. 

The research by Herdian Herdian and Euis Rahayu might help us do that. In “I Don’t want to Commit Academic Dishonesty: the Role of Grit and Growth Mindset in Reducing Academic Dishonesty,” the authors investigate the role of “grit” as a mediating factor between growth mindset—the perception of intellectual capacity as expansive instead of limited— and rates of academic dishonesty. They posit that higher levels of grit are correlated with strong growth mindset and suggest, therefore, that the development of growth mindset can prevent future acts of academic dishonesty. If grit and a growth mindset can serve a preventative function, perhaps they also provides us with a lens for framing conversations about academic integrity with students who have already engaged in academic misconduct.

The idea of focusing on growth and grit resonates with my work in advising. As a four-year advisor, I am often challenged to help students identify moments of success, centering conversations on what is within their control now as opposed to what occurred then. This practice of advising tends to emphasize the importance of starting from a place of strength, asking us to consider: to what accomplishments, however small, can we direct students’ attention when they are struggling? 

This is also important to do with students after an integrity violation. While it is easy to fixate on what went wrong (after all, we do not want to minimize the gravity of what occurred), it is also imperative that we shift students’ attention away from stark outcomes and toward what can be done differently.

One mechanism for promoting growth mindset for students after an integrity violation is to have the students write a mitigation letter. The mitigation letter is an invitation to take a step back. In addition to its focus on mitigating factors, which are often situational, it can help students reframe what happened in terms of what they might do to course correct. Students may choose to share what they write with their instructor with the goal of beginning to repair the harm that was done. It also provides the institution with a concrete way to identify underlying issues that need to be addressed.

Prompts for students to address in their letter include:

1. Identify the learning objectives for the assignment(s) on which you were alleged to have violated the policy. How did the violation impede the process of meeting those objectives?

2. Realizing that it is rarely anyone’s intention to commit an act of academic dishonesty, how might you have approached the assignment(s) in question differently?

3. Misunderstanding of policies does occur, but it is always a student’s responsibility to clarify the meaning behind those policies. What could you have done to clarify the policy?

4. Consider the position of the other students in the course and the campus community. In your opinion, why is it important to uphold a culture of integrity?

5. The International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) defines several academic integrity values. Identify one value that resonates with you: How can you help foster this value in your daily life?

Because students can elect to share the letter, these questions help students clarify their experience as well as the significance of it. Students are able to communicate with their instructor in an institutionally sanctioned way that may reduce the harm that was done; instead of simply explaining away what happened, this exercise promotes accountability. Finally, because many students apply to graduate and professional school, writing about their experiences involves articulating a response that is clear and coherent.

If we can help students cultivate growth mindset by coaching them on how to present an organized narrative, we may also be able to build key skills like adaptability and resilience. Studies demonstrate that growth mindset interventions result in enhanced ability to monitor one’s performance, set goals, and meet desired outcomes; the mitigation letter, therefore, affords one way to connect failure with actions that encourage positive behaviors. Simply put, we are encouraging students to meet challenges with grit.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Thank you for being a member of ICAI. Not a member of ICAI yet? Check out the benefits of membership at https://academicintegrity.org/about/member-benefits and consider joining us by contacting . Be part of something great.

If you are an academic integrity professional, or academic integrity expert on your campus, you have likely experienced what I’ve experienced the last 9 months: repeated calls for help in responding to the release of GenAI tools like ChatGPT, Bing, Bard, Midjourney, and CoPilot. Maybe those calls came from your institutional leadership or maybe they came from the faculty, but they all likely sounded a lot like this – “how do we assure academic integrity when students can outsource their academic work to GenAI?”

It can be self-affirming when our institutional colleagues turn to us for advice. Finally! They’ve noticed that I have some expertise and can provide support during these challenging times. It’s nice to be appreciated, after all.

However, when the calls come fast and furious (and desperate), it can also be very overwhelming. Especially when the situation that stimulated the calls keeps morphing and evolving, and the possible answers are complex. We can feel like a fraud if we are also GenAI novices; who am I to give advice in this area? What if I give advice that’s not sound? Shouldn’t they be asking pedagogical or instructional design specialists, not me?

This pull and tug between feeling affirmed and feeling like a fraud is natural during these turbulent times. After all, there is a lot to know and learn, and the pace at which we’ve been asked to respond is rapid. However, there is a way to respond that will help reduce those feelings of fraudulence – stick with your lived experience, what you know, and what you can do, but do it within the mission and scope of your role/office.

I’ve been struggling with this myself. The mission of my AI Office is to "promote and support a culture of integrity in order to reinforce quality teaching and learning." So, while I have knowledge and competencies in course and assessment design, and know that redesign is one of the solutions to the GenAI-academic integrity problem, it’s on the periphery of our AI Office mission. If I offer those ideas formally as the AI Office Director, I start to veer into lanes already occupied by our teaching center. I also am aware that I have read a lot more about GenAI than likely most of our faculty, and so likely have knowledge to share with them, yet offering that education really seems to fall outside the AI Office mission. 

So, I had to find a way to leverage our academic integrity expertise within our institutional responsibilities to help our faculty and administration. Here, I share my three lessons learned in the hope that they can inspire other academic integrity experts who may also be struggling. 

First, I think we should engage with our colleagues in the library, teaching and learning centers, educational technology offices, and instructional design units. What are they doing or planning to do for faculty? Is there a way you can collaborate on those projects to add the academic integrity perspective? For example, our Librarians were drafting a Generative AI guide and contacted my office to contribute to it. We were able to add the perspective that ethics/integrity should be mentioned throughout the guide, not just in a special section for academic integrity. For example, on the page where students are taught how to use GenAI, there is now an ethics reminder because of our collaboration. My office collaborated with our Teaching & Learning Commons to give a presentation to our Executive Vice-Chancellor’s Education Roundtable (made up of educational leadership) with our thoughts on what leadership could be doing to support faculty and students. We also collaborated with the Commons to create a series of Teaching Chats that provide a forum for faculty and educators to talk about the intersection of GenAI and education.

Second, I think we have an obligation to respond to what we are specifically seeing coming into our offices. For example, we were seeing an increase in faculty reports of student GenAI use where the only documentation was either the output from an AI detector or from ChatGPT itself. So, we released some guidance to faculty on how to respond to suspected GenAI use, and reminded faculty of an earlier document we released that offered alternative ways to respond to the impact of GenAI on assessments and learning.

Third, don't assume; ask. Ask them what they need or want from us. This seems obvious, but it took a while for it to sink into my dense mind. I was overwhelmed myself, and couldn't hone in on which project we should devote our limited time and energies. For my office, faculty are the easiest to ask because we have an extensive email list for instructors who have reported cases to our office. So, we sent out a survey to those faculty to ask them what assistance, advice, and materials the AI Office could offer that would help them teach in the era of GenAI. In case you’re interested, I’ll share the results. For themselves, faculty were most interested in receiving help with: Crafting a GenAI Class Policy, Talking with Students about GenAI & Academic Integrity, Rethinking their Assessments for GenAI, Identifying when GenAI Has Been Used, and Strategies for Dissuading Students from Using GenAI. For their students, faculty asked the AI Office to create educative materials focused on: Responsible Use of GenAI in Academic Work, Knowing the Difference between Cognitive Offloading and Cheating, and Ethical Considerations in Using GenAI. We also asked faculty to tell us which platform these materials/education should be delivered, and they responded with Google Drive for faculty and Canvas Commons for students. The results of that survey (with 50 responses) provides us with a focus for our time and energies, knowing what to develop and how to deliver it in time for fall term implementation.

By taking these three steps, I feel like my office is providing the needed assistance to our colleagues, while staying in the lane of our knowledge, experience, and competencies. And, as a result, I feel more affirmed and less like a fraud. If you too were feeling lost with how to help your campus in a way that honors your expertise, I hope that you now have some ideas for moving forward in a positive and proactive manner. 

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Glass half full of water

Academic integrity is a fundamental principle in universities, ensuring fairness, honesty, and trust among students and faculty members. As an instructor of first-year students in a university perspectives course, I like to create a discussion of academic integrity. My primary focus is to define academic integrity by creating discussions around situations that may constitute violations and ask students for their opinion. One incident that transpired in my class a few years ago continues to spark discussions among my current students:

In a business math course that I taught, students have four tests during the semester. Each test has a two-day period reserved in a testing center for the student to drop in to complete their one-hour test. The dates are given at the beginning of the semester, reinforced verbally in class and through email. The syllabus states that if a student is going to miss a test, they must give 3 days’ notice and it must be for a qualifying event. If this is not done, a zero will be assigned to the test grade with a make-up opportunity at the end of the semester, to retake one of the four tests assigned during the semester (which is open for all students to utilize). This is a coordinated course. There are many instructors teaching multiple sections. However, every section has the same assignments, syllabus, and course regulations to follow. The coordinator creates the course and is responsible for ensuring fair implementation of course regulations across the multiple sections.

On the first day of the testing period, I received an email from a student along with an attachment of approved travel dates for the university's softball team. In the email, a student explained that they were leaving for Virginia that night and would return on Sunday for an approved softball tournament. Participation in this tournament would result in them missing Exam 2. They inquired about taking Exam 2 upon return of the trip since they were unable to complete Exam 2 that day due to their class schedule and sports commitments. Would you let this student take the test soon as they returned from their tournament, or give them a zero and suggest they make-up the test during the period at the end of the semester?

Since this was a gray area (a qualifying event, but not enough time was given), I consulted the coordinator. The coordinator found a two-hour period between the student's class and their departure for the tournament. An email was sent to the student, informing them to take Exam 2 during the two-hour period or utilize the make-up opportunity at the end of the semester. Does this response seem fair? Would you accept it?

The student continued to request for a test makeup upon their return. The subsequent emails between the student and the coordinator led to the student misrepresenting their schedule, prompting the coordinator to file an academic integrity violation. Ultimately, the student chose to withdraw from the class. Why did the student misrepresent their schedule? What could they possibly have been thinking and feeling?

This situation, when it happened, prompted many hours of self-reflection. When the event was unfolding, it never occurred to me to look at the student’s schedule. Should I have conducted more extensive research to identify alternative test-taking times? What can I expect myself to be able to do with 200 or more students a semester? What best aligns with my university’s academic integrity policy? I have come to the conclusion that the glass is half-full, at least for me.

Personally, I would have asked the student to meet with me in a face-to-face setting upon return. Discussed the late notice of the email and how it would be difficult for me to get an accurate response from the testing center so quickly for an alternative date. Then let the student take the test a week later, and possibly complete the course. I prefer to assume positive intent and honesty from my students. Engaging in constant suspicion and verifying every claim of illness, personal issues, or life events would be an arduous task that contradicts my teaching philosophy.

Would the student have learned a lesson about honesty and integrity? Is the student now more likely to complete assignments on time? Did the student benefit in any way? By assuming negative or positive intent in students’ emails can dramatically alter the subsequent line of events. So, do you think the glass is half-full or half-empty?


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Two people working at a desk.

About the orientation 

The orientation for students enrolled in online undergraduate programs at the University of Arkansas is a facilitated two-week course offered prior to their first semester. Various information and assessments are covered in the course to help students get orientated to the technology and the systems used at the university. Some of those assessments include preparing a weekly calendar, writing a short paper about ethics in the workplace, creating a success plan, etc. Students are not required to participate in this course.  

Lesson Structure and Assessments 

We can't discuss the orientation without mentioning our start student, Yvonne! She's a fictional character that we developed to give our students a different perspective. Most advice in the orientation comes from their very own friend, Yvonne.  Here's a brief outline of the lessons that are in the orientation: 

Lesson 1  
This lesson covers their motivation and strengths for online learning, support services, sharing expectations with friends and family, setting up a study space, and learning how to use Blackboard.  

Lesson 2 

This lesson covers analyzing syllabi, creating a schedule, netiquette, and accommodations.  

Lesson 3 

This lesson covers the writing assignment using library resources and the writing center. 

Lesson 4 

This lesson covers math anxiety, study strategies, and resources, preparing for exams, and creating a success plan.  

Multi-faceted Approach in Highlighting Academic Integrity 

The orientation was initially developed for our nursing program, which saw a boom in enrollments a few years back. Students enrolled in the program were working nurses looking to advance in their careers. A writing assessment that links their day-to-day lives at work to academic integrity was an eye-opener for most of our students. We later adopted this to all our undergraduate programs, where students were asked to link the ethics of their profession to academic integrity.  

The writing prompt: 

Write a minimum 1.5-page paper that discusses the relationship between academic dishonesty and workplace ETHICS related to your field of study. Using at least three reliable, peer-reviewed sources from the library, draw conclusions about the most common incidents that occur in your field. What conclusions does each of your sources come to?  

To help students structure their papers, we have prepared videos that walk them through understanding a writing prompt, finding resources, and structuring their papers. We also offer workshops hosted by the writing center tutors. 

The writing assignment is not the only area where we focus on academic integrity. We also teach them about the integrity policy at the university and give them scenario-based questions (created using commonly seen cases) that will help them understand some things they may see when interacting with other students.  

Data, Thoughts from Students, and Lessons Learned 

Here are some things our students have said about their experience with the writing assignment: 

"Thinking about these articles, they really make sense. If you are okay cheating in the classroom, then what is going to stop you from cheating at work." 

"I must admit that I never considered the impact associated with cheating or plagiarizing work on my medical career." 

"It would be difficult for me to cheat at school only to be turned around and placed in a sort of “spotlight” when working through a complaint or issue an employee was having." 

"The more understanding that is placed on the correlation between academic dishonesty and workplace ethics the more it can help reduce the influence of cheating and increase the credibility of communication field." 

As expected, not every student completed all the assignments. In Fall 2022, 63.4% of the enrolled students turned in a submission for the writing assignment. We understand that a writing assignment is a heavy task, so we continue improving it and its resources by working with the writing center and the library.  



Thank you for being a member of ICAI. Not a member of ICAI yet? Check out the benefits of membership at https://academicintegrity.org/about/member-benefits and consider joining us by contacting . Be part of something great.

Two hands reaching toward each other.

About a year ago, I had a conversation with a colleague regarding academic integrity.  The catalyst for this conversation was a situation the colleague had experienced in class that day.  In her class, students were given weekly in-class quizzes for which the questions were available in advance.  As the students were taking the quiz, she noticed a student attempting to surreptitiously view answers on his phone.   Although my recollection of the situation has faded, I remember that she was devastated by this discovery.  The student was a “good student” who always participated in class and submitted assignments.  Whether or not to report the incident weighed heavily on the mind of my colleague and I know that I was not very helpful at that time in alleviating the stress she felt in deciding how to handle the situation.  The student did engage in academic dishonesty, but my colleague was worried that filing a report may lead to feelings of shame and a loss of motivation for the student.  While I can certainly sympathize with her feelings in this case, I now believe it is important to take such situations seriously. 

 Reporting cases of academic dishonesty makes it clear to students that academic integrity is something to be taken seriously.  If a student realizes that the instructor will simply let these things slide, the door is left open for an increase in such activity.  Why take the time to study and prepare for an assessment when it is apparent that other students can take an easier route with the same resulting score?  Have you ever participated in a rule violation just because you saw other people doing so?  If other people are doing it and getting away with it, then it must really be allowed, right?  It would be a short leap for students to develop the mentality that the instructor sort of expected them to cheat on the assignment and so they weren’t really doing anything wrong.

Reporting can also help to create a fair and impartial learning environment.   If I were called out or punished for breaking a rule or a law that I knew others had broken with no enforced penalty, then I think I would feel singled out.  If my colleague had chosen not to report the “good student”, but then later reported someone else for a similar infraction, this could certainly be viewed as an inequitable situation.  It is important for students to know that class and institution rules and regulations apply to all.

Reporting incidents of academic dishonesty should also be viewed as opportunities to help support students and certainly not as a vehicle for embarrassment or dishonor.   We know that sometimes students are compelled to engage in academic dishonesty when they are stressed out or under a great deal of pressure.  They may not fully understand the material, or they may feel the burden of a demanding course load.  By filing the report, we are in a better position to connect the student with available resources and the student may be more likely to take advantage of such resources.  Our goal in reporting should be to help the student to see why the behavior was undesirable and to help them to develop strategies to avoid such behavior in the future.  It may not feel like it at first, but this is a chance to show the student that you care about their learning and their well-being.

In short, were I again to interact with a colleague in such a situation, my advice would be to file the report.  The potential benefits to the student and to the class far outweigh the negative feelings that may be associated with doing so. 

Picture of hand with a pencil and paper at a desk.

Recientemente he tenido la oportunidad de entender y explorar un poco el sistema educativo de este país. He aprendido que existen distintas formas de manipular el sistema para poder costear u obtener apoyo económico para poder tener la mejor opción académica posible en cuanto a prestigio se refiere. He sido testigo y participe de la presión social y académica a la que un individuo se somete para poder lograr sus objetivos académicos.

Soy una persona que creció en un país donde el desempeño académico es prácticamente lo único importante y decisivo en cuanto admisión y apoyo económico se refiere. En los últimos diez años de mi vida, he tenido la oportunidad de convivir y experimentar con estudiantes con talentos extraordinarios, a quienes sin embargo les han sido negadas y/o cerrado las puertas a instituciones de mejor prestigio. Los motivos son falta de liderazgo en actividades extracurriculares, o quizás simplemente porque de acuerdo con las organizaciones o instituciones ellos representan un riesgo a la inversión económica que puedan otorgar. Y la razón más triste, a mi parecer, es la de no poder costear una colegiatura de cantidades impagables para una familia con un salario promedio.

Ciertamente liderazgo, originalidad, creatividad, conciencia social y por supuesto desempeño académico, entre otras cosas, son características importantes que deben tomarse en cuenta cuando se selecciona una comunidad estudiantil. Sin embargo, pienso que existen factores que afectan el desarrollo y desempeño de una persona. Factores como falta de dinero para sustentar una familia, falta de tiempo para demostrar liderazgo en actividades extracurriculares, falta de apoyo moral y anímico para que una persona desarrolle una personalidad segura y con fuertes convicciones. Existen comunidades minoritarias que desafortunadamente no tienen las posibilidades y oportunidades de desarrollar estas características que muchas veces pesan mas que un excelente desempeño académico. Estas cualidades que un estudiante debe desarrollar para poder demostrar que es una persona calificada para obtener apoyo económico puede prestarse a actividades antiéticas y sin integridad. En mi proceso de aprendizaje de como funciona el sistema educativo me di cuenta de que existen métodos, aunque legales, podrían considerarse poco éticos, tales como contratar a un entrenador para poder escribir cartas de presentación, y compañías que se dedican a buscar formas de comprar propiedades para ser considerado un alumno del estado y poder reducir el costo de la escuela.     

Hoy me pregunto, ¿Como podemos medir mejor la capacidad académica de un estudiante sin quitarle o negarle mejores oportunidades si no tienen las posibilidades de reunir todos estos puntos que más que ayudarles los dañan? ¿Es el sistema un sistema justo para estas comunidades? ¿De verdad existen métodos éticos en las instituciones académicas para escoger su comunidad estudiantil? ¿Por qué la buena educación es un negocio y no un derecho? ¿Por qué no podemos tener un sistema educativo más equitativo?

Open book with pages folded into a heart shape.

I’ve been teaching for over 20 years and have often wondered, which student is the best of the best?  I decided it had to be Carl.  Carl was a motivated, bright student who wrote his work beyond the basic requirements, was friendly and polite, and served as a messenger from the student group-me to me as part of my class advisory board.  I taught him in multiple classes and became the advisor to a student group he formed.  He kept in professional contact often letting me know when he reached goals.  Carl was a delight. 

Carl recommended friends to my class including Jane, who he said was a friend.  Jane missed some key material but turned in an excellent submission despite a lack of attendance.  I clicked on the Safe Assign report and found that the paper had 24% similarities to Carl’s work, but instead of on things like headings and directions it was noting a few sentence phrases.  Odd, I thought…so I pulled up Carl’s old paper from the semester past, and this new submission followed the framework sentence by sentence although it had been carefully reworded. 

I reached out to Jane.  She said that all students would likely have similar papers because the prompts were the same.  I continued to look at the two papers, and they were too similar for Jane to not have studied the paper to write her own work.  After talking with the academic integrity monitor, the paper was submitted for a violation with both Jane and Carl to be questioned.  The monitor had advised no further contact with either student before submission and said I should not have spoken with Jane and to not talk with Carl.  In a few weeks I was notified that both had pleaded guilty to plagiarism.  The punishment for Jane was a zero on the paper.  Both Carl and Jane received one academic integrity point in their records which would mean little unless they were found guilty again.  The academic integrity monitor found the papers to be almost identical.

After this, Carl reached out to meet.  Carl said that Jane was his girlfriend and that on the day the paper was due she’d been at his apartment.  While he worked in the living room, she went to his bedroom where his laptop was and used the password she knew to access it.  She went to the file for the class and then carefully wrote her paper in the hour before it was due.  He said at the time he thought she was just putting finishing touches on her work and submitting it.  When he got the email about academic integrity, she admitted to accessing his work without his permission. 

He thought about fighting it, but it would go to a board and because Jane had stolen the paper from his computer, her sanction could potentially be greater, and there was a fear that her parents would cut financial support for college or not let her go on a much dreamed of internship this summer.  Carl and Jane had two days where they did not speak, as the irony was that Carl tutored statistics and could have guided her through working the statistics in the paper, and she could have created her own work.  After two days, Carl decided Jane had just made a mistake and they got back together as a couple.  Jane had planned and paid for a trip to a state almost 1,000 miles away to see Carl’s favorite band prior to the incident, and Carl felt like that showed her true feelings for him.   Carl had concerns about graduate schools finding out that he had pleaded guilty to an academic integrity sanction.  He had talked to the Dean of the Honors College who said that I had handled the situation incorrectly, and he should never have been charged.  Carl vowed to continue his relationship with Jane and hoped to marry her one day.

I only heard from Carl once more with one of his life update email shortly after our conversation although he did ask me to remain as the faculty advisor for the student group.  After the many updates of the past, I found it a bit odd that there were no updates, not even for the student group, in the past year.

Was Carl more involved than he stated?  Should he have fought the sanction?  Would you continue a relationship with someone in this situation?  Would you have handled the situation differently?

(Editor's Note: During UC San Diego’s Virtual Symposium on “The Threat & Opportunities of Artificial Intelligence and Contract Cheating: Charting a Teaching & Learning Path Forward”, Kane Murdoch gave a talk on Detecting Contract Cheating. This blog post is a follow-up to that talk.)


Amidst the uproar and shock of ChatGPT and similar Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) tools, it's easy to forget that while there is certainly a brave new world ahead of us, it is not yet here in some ways. GenAI has not so much supplanted all of the existing forms of academic misconduct, as supercharged them. In fact, GenAI makes contract cheating services even cheaper for both providers and students. That is, contract cheating remains a very serious problem for higher education.

So, we're left with not a singular problem, but multiple simultaneous problems. Truth be told, this is one of those times where short-term academic remedies won't be as useful as we would like. As I see it, rather than twisting our underwear in the absence of a better approach, we should be breaking up our challenges into short-to-medium and long term, and planning the steps we can take now, and later, as the case may be.

To begin, then, what core short-to-medium term problems does contract cheating, and now GenAI, pose for assessment and academic integrity? Our primary problem has existed for a long time now - we assess products (e.g., essays) and not processes (e.g., the thinking behind the essay or the writing that produced it). Why is this a problem? We simply do not know the provenance of a disturbingly large proportion of those products. Did the student actually complete the assessment or are they merely handing in a product that someone (or something) produced for them?

When processes are observed, they are usually observed by the course instructor, but this has limitations. Take oral exams, for example. Although some faculty have found some successes in this approach, holding an oral exam for every student may not be tenable in a modular subject-based degree structure. If academics and staff work together, though, we can do something as a team. There are relatively cheap and very effective steps that we can take to gain some visibility of the process students use to create products, thereby giving us a method for assessing the integrity of that process. I'm going to provide two very powerful examples of scalable techniques to identify where students are not learning, ones that my team and I use every day, to assess whether students are doing their "own work", as the slogan goes.

Analysing Document Metadata

As you may know, Word documents, excel sheets, and pdfs contain some information about when the document was created, by whom, and any user who may have edited the document. So, when we think about assessable products, such as essays and the like, we should reasonably be able to view patterns of authorship. Like most of us, students follow their own patterns of behaviour, typically using a relatively small number of devices to create their work. Viewing the provenance of documents across a whole set of submissions becomes significantly easier when you have the whole submission history. Turnitin offers a product that can do this (no, I have no relationship with Turnitin), but you can also do this yourself by downloading all of a student's assignments and looking at the info tab of the files. Everybody has to start somewhere, and that's where I started.

Along with the user who authored ("created") a document, and the user who "last modified" a document, you can also find what software was used, what language that software had as a default, and other pieces of information to build a picture of who was responsible for producing these assessment items.

However, if we want to be more confident of the integrity of the process, additional information would be helpful. This brings us to the second scalable technique.

Interrogating LMS (aka VLE) Logs

Your LMS (or VLE depending on where you are) is a particular kind of website. And like most websites, it logs who is on it, when, and what they're doing, and from where they are doing it. By analysing these logs, universities can gain insight into how students learn. This is basically learning analytics. However, I’m suggesting we can also use these logs for "non-learning analytics"; that is, as a source for information that may indicate an enrolled student has not been learning and is not engaging in the process through assessment.

As anyone who has observed contract cheating up close may know, the 1-1 model of students having an essay written for them by a writer is only one form of cheating. Unfortunately, organised contract cheating has scaled up to involve teams of people carrying out work for many students. Many. And it's vastly more profitable to serve many students in the same subject. So large subjects, such as electives, often become riddled with contract cheating workers acting as students. But this can be visible to those of us in educational institutions. When students are connected through IP addresses to many other students, when they login to the LMS directly from multiple countries in a semester, for example, all of this is visible. There are a range of behaviours which can be searched and found in logs, if only we start looking.


The goal here is not to catch students cheating, but to better support them. The business model of contract cheating threatens students as well as institutions, and we can only break their business model when we start breaking their profitability. Sadly, as I mentioned above, the patterns clearly visible in data become all the more apparent as the course of study progresses. It is, in truth, quite easy to detect students cheating across the course of a degree. The most important final juncture, to my view, is that a student who has not demonstrated their learning should not be able to graduate with a degree from our institutions. Aside from the obvious reputational risks we run when we graduate a student who is not who we say they are (knowledgeable, skilled, etc) there are further risks that we run. Firstly, the risk that other students see cheating as a perfectly valid approach to gaining a qualification. This is the stage we are at now. Thousands of students have graduated, and are currently completing their studies, without nearly the learning we expect them to have. Cheating is extremely widespread, and largely unchecked. Secondly, and most importantly, we run the far greater risk that our society will stop seeing the value in what we do. They will stop seeing the value in education. If that happens, nothing will save us.

When you live in San Diego California, especially when you were raised with cold Ontario winters, you hate to complain about the weather (or, at least, you hate to complain too loudly). After all, San Diego has a reputation of always being Sunny and always with the perfect 20-24oC or 70-75oF air temp. But, it’s a lie. San Diego isn’t perfect, isn’t always Sunny, and isn’t always the perfect temp, and especially wasn’t this year. We have been colder, wetter, and greyer than I've experienced in my 23 years of living here. And it’s been this way for months. So, when we hit our normal and expected “May Grey” and “June Gloom” weather, it wasn’t a refreshing or even palatable change from the winter Sunshine and warmer temperatures; it was just more of the same. Dull, drizzly, and uninspiring.

What I have discovered about myself this past 5 months is my need for the Sunshine to feel alive, motivated, energized, and positive. Especially first thing in the morning. If the Sun is shining and the birds are chirping, I feel ready to start my day – no matter how difficult or tiring I know it might turn out to be. There’s an optimism, a brightness that serves to counter anything negative or distressing about the events of world. With the Sun, it feels like all things are possible. That there is hope for a better day, and a better future.

In Klara and The Sun, a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, the Artificial Friends (AFs) like Klara share my need for the Sun. The novel doesn’t explicitly say that the Sun recharges their batteries – that the AFs are solar powered – but rather poetically insinuates that the Sun is that, but also more than that. The Sun is their guiding light. Their Saviour. Their God. For example, the AFs believe that the Sun can heal all that is wrong in the world, and can heal people, like Klara’s human friend Josie who is sick with an unnamed but debilitating condition.

What’s my point? Why does Klara and the Sun, you might ask, belong in a blog post for the International Center for Academic Integrity?

Those of us who work on academic integrity often need inspiration. Perhaps especially those of us who do not just research academic integrity, but work day-in and day-out on preventing and responding to integrity violations. We need a guiding light, reminding us that we're doing good work. We need a sense of hope, a sense of optimism that with our efforts, tomorrow will be better than today. We need a source of courage.

After all, that’s why many (most?) of us chose to work in the educational sector. We believe in growth, opportunities, empowerment, and the power to make a difference. We need to believe that what we do matters, and that with our guidance, the professionals and citizens of tomorrow will make the world a better, more ethical, place.

Yet, just like the grey skies have cast a shadow on the light of San Diego this winter, so too has Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) cast a shadow on the light of learning. What will be the impact of GenAI on teaching, learning and assessment, let alone on skills, jobs, and prized values like integrity, equity, and privacy? We just don't know yet. And we're just at the beginning of this revolution. Even with all of its current abilities, GenAI is quite limited. But as it gets folded more seamlessly and ubiquitously into our workflows - as it will wtih Google Workspace and Microsoft CoPilot integration - will we know what is human versus machine generated? Will we be able to create meaning or make meaning out of what we do? Where will humans be in that scenario? Will we all be out of work, with no sense of agency or care about the world like in Wall-E? Or, will we work alongside of it to better every planet in every galaxy, like in Star Trek?

I’d like to think it’s the latter. But when I think about a future where genetically enhanced humans need Artificial Friends, as portrayed in Klara and the Sun, I lose my sense of my optimism. I feel like the dark grey sky that settled over San Diego this winter and spring is not temporary, but permanent.

And this is weird for me. Normally I’m optimistic (it’s one of the values at my workplace!). Or, to be more accurate, I consider myself a realist optimist. When new things come to disrupt our normal ways of doing things, I think about the realistic challenges of the short term as well as the exciting possibilities of the long-term. For example, yes, GenAI is putting a lot of stress and responsibilities on the shoulders of individual faculty members to figure it all out – how to redesign their courses and their assessments to engage students and their learning in the face of machines who will do their academic work for them. This is a very real challenge. And it’s also a real challenge that students can easily, quickly and cheaply hand over their learning to GenAI. I worry that the ease, the quickness, and the seemingly confidence of GenAI will dull the human mind. That it will slowly but surely numb us to the instant gratification that it can provide, convincing us that there is no value in being challenged, in struggling, in thinking, or in learning. After all, why make it with my own efforts and thoughts when I can generate it with the touch of The Button?

But, I also find it exciting to think about the possibilities of GenAI. The probability that GenAI can free up faculty and support staff from the drudgeries of their work, so we can spend more time with students. That we can offer individualized and meaningful educational experiences, even in large universities. That we can mentor, coach, facilitate and guide individual humans, rather than shepherd large herds of students through an industrialized credit-hour, term-limited system. That GenAI will be the impetus that will finally force higher education to change – to become the active, engaged learning environment that it was always meant to be. That it needs to be. That it should be.

Which will be our future? The one in which we are Wall-E, or the one in which we are Klara and the Sun? In the former, the people are complacent and dumb, happy to let machines run their lives. In the latter, the humans seem to hold their place in the world. Josie – the genetically modified human – recovers from her mystery illness and goes on to live her life. Klara, the Artificial Friend, ends up in a junkyard full of other discarded AFs; left alone within memories of her time in the sun. In Klara & the Sun, the humans “win” by not ceding all of their power, creativity, intelligence, and humanity to the machines.

It is Sunday afternoon in San Diego. And, for a change, it is Sunny. So, for now, I will live in the hopeful possibility that we will not let this moment overtake us. I will live hopeful that we will seize the opportunity to evolve with GenAI, so that we continue to be the source of power in our own lives. I live with the promise that we will figure out how to use GenAI in a way to enhance our lives and our learning, but not let it control us or control our learning. I live with the possibility that we will continue to grow and evolve because that is the only thing, no wait, that is the only human thing to do. And, it is the only thing we can do with integrity.

During UC San Diego’s Virtual Symposium on “The Threat & Opportunities of Artificial Intelligence and Contract Cheating: Charting a Teaching & Learning Path Forward”, Guy Curtis gave a talk on the Scale of Contract Cheating. This blog post is a follow-up to that talk.


Text-matching software has made blatant copy-paste plagiarism almost impossible for students to get away with undetected. Contract cheating - the outsourcing of assignments to third parties like essay mills - seems like a logical alternative for lazy or time-poor students. When assignments are written afresh, so long as the writer has not plagiarised, they can elude text-matching software, and graders are usually unable to detect that the assignment was not written by the student whose name is on the front.

Despite the ease and lack of detection of contract cheating, it seems that very few students do it. In a 2017 mini meta-analysis conducted with my colleague Joe Clare, we found that only 3.5% of students admitted to contract cheating, something that text-matching software would not detect, yet over 20% of those same students admitted to plagiarism, which text-matching software would easily detect.

These findings led us to a new interesting research agenda - “why students don’t engage in contract cheating?”. Luckily, we had an exceptional honours student who wanted to work with us named Kiata Rundle. Working with Kiata 2018, we developed a list of reasons why students may not engage in contract cheating. This list drew on a focus group, relevant literature, and our own expertise in psychology, academic integrity, and criminology. Then, we gave this list of reasons to a large group of students, asking them to indicate their strongest reasons for not engaging in contract cheating. We also gave them an opportunity, in an open-ended question, to tell us any other reasons they had for not engaging in contract cheating. Finally, we measured various aspects of the students’ personality that we thought might predict their reasons for not contract cheating. The resulting study, published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2019 (and recognized in the ICAI Reader (2nd ed) as a foundational and influential research piece) presented the main reasons students refrain from engaging in contract cheating as falling into five broad categories: morals and norms; motivation for learning; fear of detection and punishment; self-efficacy and (mis)trust; and lack of opportunity. This list of five categories is in the order of importance that students, on average, rated these reasons for not engaging in contract cheating.

Our latest study (stemming from Kiata's Ph.D.) continues this line of research. "Why students do not engage in contract cheating: a closer look" (which will be available June 16th in the International Journal for Educational Integrity at this link), addresses inconsistencies and unanswered questions concerning the psychological variables we measured as predictors of students’ reasons for not engaging in contract cheating. We added new measures to our overall survey to include a more reliable measure of a critical set of personality dimensions (the Dark Triad: Machiavellianism, psychopathy, narcissism), a measure of academic self-efficacy, and a measure of satisfaction and frustration of the psychological need for autonomy.

We also thematically analysed students' open-ended responses (obtained in the previous study) and reviewed subsequently-published literature on contract cheating to update the list of reasons for not engaging in contract cheating. With this updated list, we identified a sixth category that we called “academic environment”. The explicit reasons for not cheating that were part of this category included statements such as “I have respect for my lecturer” and “I believe that marking is fair”. Academic environment was rated as a more important category of reasons for not cheating than fear of detection and punishment, self-efficacy and (mis)trust, and lack of opportunity.

There is a lesson for higher education providers in the finding that the academic environment is an important reason for not contract cheating. Specifically, when people who teach within higher education put in effort, attempt to be fair, and are fair, students will reciprocate these efforts by being more likely to act with integrity. We think the same lesson can be drawn from the findings of Bretag et al.’s (2019) large-scale survey of contract cheating, which found that dissatisfaction with the learning and teaching environment was related to engagement in contract cheating. We should quickly add, however, that we do not believe there is a silver bullet that will slay contract cheating. Nonetheless, being mindful of good practice in teaching and assessment clearly can help.

In addition to this new finding concerning student reasons for avoiding contract cheating, we also found some interesting new results regarding the psychological predictors of students’ reasons for not engaging in contract cheating. Specifically, when students’ psychological needs for autonomy are satisfied in the educational context (that is, they feel they have more choice and control), they are more motivated to learn and this motivation for learning is a justification for not cheating. Again, the lesson for educators is clear. Give students some scope to make their own choices and pursue their interests because they are less likely to cheat on the things they want to do for themselves.

Kiata, Joe, and I have conducted further studies examining students’ reasons for cheating and not, and the psychological profiles that influence these reasons. We hope to submit these studies for peer review soon so that we can share some more of our interesting findings with the academic integrity community. As the TV host Rachel Maddow says, “watch this space”.