March 2020

As we transition to online or remote learning, many practitioners and faculty are worried about an increase in academic dishonesty. This concern is valid, especially considering the articles regarding a surge in cheating across the globe. One such instance has already come to light from the National University of Singapore. With resources scarce, it may be difficult to implement any mass proctoring tool, but many institutions have created resources for faculty to take advantage of during this crisis, which are available in previous blog posts or from member institutions websites. 

Before focusing solely on the challenges administrators and faculty face, it is critical to recognize that students that are struggling with the transition as well. Many are nervous about moving to remote learning, concerned with their ability to succeed and the temptation to cheat, as seen here. In an effort to mitigate these challenges, some are advocating for a full transition from traditionally graded courses to a pass/fail option as seen here or here

It is worth considering that many students are concerned about academic integrity at this time, and they wish to transition to remote learning honestly. Check out this Op-Ed by Michaela Steinback at the University of Colorado Boulder. In it, Michaela refuses to compromise her ethics and urges her peers to do the same. With an increase in time spent online for courses, students may be even more susceptible to predatory contract cheating services, including consumer reports for how to choose the best essay writing service. Sometimes, a simple tweet about writing can prompt essay mills to target students, and one can only hope that every student is as ethical as this example.


This week, K-12 and higher education institutions worldwide embarked on an experiment. Our emergency response to move to emergency remote learning is more treatment than strategy. Only time will tell what effects this shift will have. The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the way we view many things, and in this uncertain time, it forces educators to drill down to what is fundamentally important for students to learn during these crises. Think pieces abound with best-practice lists and criticisms of what solutions are available. Responses are primarily written in response to the grief and uncertainty so many are feeling.

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So what role does academic integrity play in this situation? Some see an opportunity to focus on the challenges inherent to course design and best practices to prevent cheating behaviors. Others warn of predatory companies, who offer widespread contract cheating and an easy way out. Then, some extol the virtues of proctoring software and other measures guaranteed to weed out dishonest behavior.

While the importance of continued education and the promotion of academic integrity remain at the forefront of our minds as practitioners and researchers, I offer that we take this time to expand our conversation around academic integrity. If, at our core, we espouse the values of academic integrity, then our current situation offers opportunities to think about the topic in ways we may not regularly consider.

How do we honestly relate to students in such a trying time, and how do we as educators encourage students to be honest with us? Some of these truths are difficult and mired in anxiety, fear, and worry. Collectively we are under strain and stress personally, academically, and professionally. How do we name that struggle and respond to it? How are we responding to student need that honestly provides a solution to the challenges our students are facing. Responding to this crisis requires fewer curated responses. Authenticity is a choice, and one of the few things currently left untouched.

The American Research Education Association showed one such example of honesty when canceling their plans for a virtual conference. As difficult and disappointing as the notification was (for my presentations included), there was honesty in recognition of our limited, collective ability in this challenging time, and the importance of reflection. The Association's meaningful statement on the process behind the decision felt sincere, and while this does not negate the disappointment and loss, there is room for grief, and an appreciation for honesty that is not rooted in one's ability to deny the challenges we are facing in education minute by minute.

K-12 systems have been turned upside down to create a remote environment dependent on trust. Trust demands that school systems continue to support unique student needs, and in some cases, provide the technologies needed to support online learning. More than this, we recognize that these school systems are not only foundational in the lives of children for their academic rigor.  These schools provide community and family for many. At their best, a place to feel safe and valued. Superintendents and other school leaders are working tirelessly to maintain some semblance of that trust, while also recognizing the limitations of our current intervention. For higher education, trust that administrators are acting in good faith when making difficult decisions, that faculty will adapt their coursework not to be a mirrored copy of a face to face seminar. However, something new altogether and trust that students will respond, despite adversity to this new way of communicating, is necessary.

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What is fair in this scenario? Are grades and assessments fair? Are accommodations equitable? What is fair in the uncertainty? What are supports provided to students at various stages of their education, staff in different functional areas, and all manner of faculty and teachers? As our political representative make meaning of fairness related to financial reprieve, we find ourselves seeking a definition of fairness that we can live with--an impossible task in this situation.

While fairness is in short supply, our ability to look beyond ourselves is not. I find it helps to spend time learning and gaining inspiration from those who make sacrifices in difficult situations to help others during this time. I think of research on a pedagogy of care (Noddings, 2003; Rose & Adams, 2014), a framework that centers on meeting students where they are and adapting to need. In this time, how are we respecting others in the fullness of who they are? For the student searching for work, thrust into a home environment where their place may have shifted in the family? For the staff member managing anxiety and fear while being there as a resource for their institutions, for the caretakers, who no longer have a separation of office and personal responsibilities. How do we hear the challenges of others?

There are many questions, perhaps too many in this post. While there are a few answers, I know that we have a responsibility as participants in a system of education at this time.  Our institutions, for many reasons, have chosen to course forward and not shut down. How do we define rigor and expectation? How are we holding others accountable? How are you responsible for the content and learning outcomes, and how do we create an expectation of responsibility.  Revised courses and learning outcomes represent a new agreement to our students, but we must take the time to show them what the new expectations are.

I hope we dare to learn from the remote learning intervention and realize that while nothing will ever be the same, our growing pains present an opportunity to sit with our failures and successes, moving forward with greater integrity. We may not recognize it as such, but progress continues even in triage.

Keep safe, and take good care.


The response to COVID-19 is unlike anything we have seen in education. Leaders and policymakers are scrambling to keep up with changes worldwide as we focus on remote education. We at the Integrity Matters blog offer our best wishes as all work diligently to support students and faculty navigating this new normal.

Research indicates that threats to academic integrity increase in times of stress and uncertainty. To that end Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton, researcher, educator, and ICAI contributor, offers important considerations including talking to students about academic integrity, safeguarding academic work, and being consistent with the policies and practices that are in place at the institution.

 How do we share this information quickly? The UC San Diego Academic Integrity office, led by Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant offers an excellent example. and today's spotlight.

Moving to Remote Assessments with Integrity is an excellent sample of sharing best practices with faculty, students,  and staff in an easily understood way. Creating informative and easily applicable resources to ensure institutions maintain academic integrity is necessary to promote high academic standards in a rapidly changing environment.

Infographics, informative links, and relevant examples set this resource apart from the barrage of well-meaning emails offering checklists of best practices. Consider using this as a template for your communications with your institution. Contract cheating providers will use this opportunity to gain a stronger foothold in the academic market. Providing and disseminating informational tools like the resource created by UC San Diego is our best defense.

*****Another exciting conference for ICAI is in the books! #ICAI2020 proved to be full of innovation, education, and community as scholars and practitioners from around the world gathered together in Portland, Oregon US for the annual conference.

Organizers and volunteers work tirelessly to provide a high-quality event, as was seen over the past few days, and we submit our sincere gratitude. While the nuance of how each comes to the work is different, one thing is for sure. Integrity matters!

Stay tuned next week for a conference overview with material sourced from members all over the world on social media. Attendees: If you have a comment, memory, or fun picture you have from the event, please email us. We would love to include it in our next post!*****   


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Integrity, or fear?

As responses to COVID-19 increase globally, we enter a tenuous stage of being. Panic buying has lead to shortages of supplies for those most in need, and predatory sellers have taken advantage. Interactions are different now. Underlying bias and racism rear their ugly heads as fear turns to accusations. Difficult decisions are being made that will affect the trajectory of our lives for years to come. Education is no exception.

We have seen an uptick in educational institutions that are taking their classes online to prevent community spread of the contagion. For many educators, the health crisis represents gaps in available education opportunities for those whose circumstances prevent or limit public assembly. For others, the shift is indicative of an opportunity for innovation as many scramble to assess resources and provide options that align with educational goals.

Students are also conflicted. While many welcome the opportunity to begin online coursework, we must remember the limitations presented for those students who may not have dependable access to the internet.

I am reminded that in times like these it is personal integrity that is so important, as we trust:

    • Institutions to have our best interests at heart as they make the difficult decisions to alter instruction, limit travel, and manage disruption


    • Faculty to make the best decisions for their students recognizes opportunities and limitations in the online environment, and the time it takes to place quality measures in place to ensure learning


    • Students to navigate the changes with integrity, advocating for themselves as necessary, and engaging with the material in meaningful ways


    • Industry to provide student and faculty centered solutions that can be easily accessed and understood.

Because in times like these we recognize that fear threatens integrity, and can lead to:

    • Institutions who fail to respond to the diverse needs of their stakeholders


    • Faculty who in frustration cancel classes or put up content that is more harmful than useful


    • Students, who when presented with relative anonymity who seek the easy way out and choose not to accept the opportunity to learn


    • Industry taking advantage of increased student uncertainty in the online environment

I encourage you not to give in to fear. Integrity reminds us that we are all learners, even in a time when it is more challenging to be so. We must trust in ourselves and each other to choose the right, equitable, and accessible decisions that make education the great equalizer.