August 2020

With limited access to students over the summer period, and social distancing guidelines disrupting student gatherings this fall, universities need another way to develop student buy-in to their institutional honor codes. This can be done electronically. 

At the University of Georgia, students are provided with a link to “Take the Pledge” on the Academic Honesty website. This was embedded in online orientations for both undergraduate and graduate students and will be integrated into the academic integrity module set to pilot this fall. When students visit the link, they see the Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity and how to apply these values to their academic work at the University of Georgia. Students are then provided the space to create their own integrity pledge. Once a student submits their pledge, the Office of Academic Honesty provides a certificate of completion. 

So far, many of the pledges have been thoughtful and engaging:

I will be honest in all of my academic work and will trust other students to do the same. I will be fair to the University community and respect the honor code at the University of Georgia. I acknowledge that the honor code is my responsibility and will act with courage.”

“I will commit myself to complete each assignment to the best of my ability with integrity and honesty.”

“I will be honest in all of my academic work and will trust other students to do the same. I will be fair to the University community and respect the honor code at the University of Georgia. I acknowledge that the honor code is my responsibility and will act with courage.”

“I  pledge to uphold the integrity of the university in my work and actions in the classroom. I pledge to work hard and succeed through my own experiences not through the work or help of my peers. I pledge to do my best and take the responsibility to uphold the honesty policy.”

With over 500 students making the pledge since it’s release, faculty may consider using this tool as a way to engage students in the honor code. Further, the pledge can serve as a gentle reminder to students that they are responsible and courageous, even in the face of an uncertain future. 

What online tools have you used to build student buy-in? Comment below to share.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you have any additional articles, please comment below.

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

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

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

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

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