ICAI just held its 27th annual conference. This was the 14th conference I’ve attended and one of the best I’ve attended in recent years. The diversity of attendees in terms of geography (participants from 6 continents!), institution type (For-Profits, NGOs, like-minded associations, Secondary Schools to Higher Education), and positions (students and professionals) enriched our thinking. The diversity in sessions enhanced our knowledge and understanding. And the proactive, collaborative and activist tone emboldened our belief that we can make a difference - with our collected efforts, we can make cheating the exception and integrity the norm.

For those who couldn’t attend, I wanted to share my key take-away lessons from the conference. Over the next few weeks, I aim to publish posts by others who attended/presented so Blog readers can benefit from their knowledge and ideas as well.

Lesson #1 - We Need More.

We need more attention.
We need more time.
We need more resources.
We need more urgency.

ICAI was created in 1992 in response to the cheating problem identified in Don McCabe’s work (in the event you are unfamiliar, you can see a good summary of Don's work in Cheating in College). And while the problem has metastasized over this time and there is greater awareness around the world about the problem, there is still a small fraction of the global system of educational institutions and government entities who acknowledge the problem of cheating and the importance of integrity.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here again - our leaders need to attend to this now before it reaches an unacceptable level of corruption. They can attend to this with their words, with their attention, and with their resources.

Lesson #2 - We Are United in Our Struggles.

No matter where we are geographically located, those of us who work and study in schools, colleges and universities around the world struggle with cheating, and we struggle to get leaders to contribute resources to academic integrity, to keep our policies up-to-date, to educate our students about integrity, and to convince our faculty that their approach to teaching impacts our students' approaches to learning and integrity.

We must not only be united in our struggles, but we must be united in our confrontation and resolution of those struggles. And, the ICAI - with its mission of cultivating integrity in academic communities around the world in order to promote ethical institutions and societies - is tooling up to be the hub of that united front.

Lesson #3 - We Must Act Against Contract Cheating.

Perhaps our biggest shared struggle right now are the threats posed by the industry of contract cheating, We already knew that contract cheating undermines student learning and the integrity of our educational institutions, but presentations by Cath Ellis, David House & Kane Murdoch (of University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia), Thomas Lancaster (of Imperial College London), and Douglas Harrison (of UMUC) reminded us that it also endangers our students. Students are being tricked and seduced into the contract cheating world, where they not only have their education and identities stolen but where they also face threats of extortion. To respond to this threat, we need the appropriate tools, policies and procedures to identify and respond to contract cheating, as well as a rethink of our approach to teaching and learning and a reconsideration for what measures should be used as the bases for admissions and graduation decisions. Our international day of action against contract cheating (the third Wednesday of October each year) is a good start for responding to the threat - as Evangeline Mourelatos of Deree, American College of Greece and I argued in our conference presentation - and we encourage more institutions to join us on the 4th day of action on October 16th 2019.*

Contract cheating presents us with a problem, to be sure, but it also presents us with an opportunity - a reason - to rethink the way in which we do education in the 21st century.

Lesson #4 - We Are Doing Good Work.

The jewel of the conference is seeing the absolutely fantastic and diverse work being done by professionals and students around the world to make cheating the exception and integrity the norm.

We learned from those who are working to proactively educate our students about academic integrity, whether through integrity tutorials like those at Ryerson University and Sheridan College (both in Canada), honesty awareness weeks like that at Aldelphi University (in the USA), or new academic integrity courses like those being implemented in Ukrainian Secondary Schools.

Many people spoke to us about their work on integrity culture creation like that being done by Azalea Hulbert (West Virginia University, USA), the Emory Integrity Project (Emory University, USA), and the University of Monterrey (Mexico). We learned about how we can improve our responses to integrity violations from the folks at MacEwan University (Canada) who talked about implementing restorative practices in academic integrity processes, the team at the College of William & Mary (USA) who shared their new mentoring program to enhance student success and retention after suspension, and the research being conducted by Adriana Barberena (University of Monterrey, Mexico) on what students learn through the process.

I was inspired by curricular changes intended to motivate students to engage in mastery and integrity, rather than performance and cheating. There is the unique “designing with light and meaning” project within an engineering course, presented by Nathalia Franco at EAFIT (Columbia), and the very creative and engaging “dirt poor” writing course created by Karen Gardiner at the University of Alabama (USA).

I could say more. But I’ll end here with a hope that many of the presenters - including those mentioned above - will choose to share their wonderful research, practice and ideas with you through their own blog posts.

Yes, we need more and we share the same struggles, but we are doing good work.

Personally, I think I will try to bask in the "good work" light for a bit and revel in the goodness we are engendering before I dive back into the struggles. After all, the struggles will still be there tomorrow.



* sentence added after original posting