During the COVID-19 pandemic I have evolved from being an academic integrity advocate to being an academic integrity activist. I have learned that being an activist does not require being an antagonist. Some activism is big, bold, and public and other kinds are quiet, discreet, and cooperative. Standing up for what matters is important no matter how you do it.

In a book chapter I am writing with Dr. Natasha Kenny for Academic Integrity in Canada (forthcoming, 2021), we discuss how academic integrity work is often invisible. It involves conversations with individuals, small groups, and big committees. These conversations can be unscheduled and informal or they can be formal and demand a ton of preparation, including reports and slide decks. All too often, these reports are internal documents that never become publicly available. I expect many schools have collections of such reports and documents that never see the light of day. These are the invisible artefacts of integrity.

In academia, the work we do must be visible in order to receive recognition in regular performance reports, and applications for promotion and tenure. But much of the work that many of us do as academic integrity leaders, researchers, and activists is entirely invisible. I am sure I am not alone when I become frustrated beyond words when administrators and colleagues demand “evidence” for aspects of this work that are in a pre-evidentiary state. When I – and others – started becoming vocal a few years ago about the ways in which contract cheating companies blackmail students, we were mocked by some colleagues as being sensationalist and dismissed by others who insisted that unless we had “evidence” that we had no business to be making such claims.

When Yorke et al. (2020) published their article on blackmailing of students by contract cheating companies, the academic integrity community finally had evidence to substantiate what we had been talking about for years. When Australia’s national quality assurance body for education, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), developed an infographic to help promote awareness about how contract cheating companies blackmail students, that further legitimized the conversation. Over time, we will gather more evidence and have more conversations about the insidious practices of contract cheating, but the underlying issue of critics shutting down conversations about important issues due to lack of “evidence” remains problematic.

During the Black Lives Matter movement, a number of academic integrity advocates began having conversations about how particular student groups are over-represented in academic misconduct reporting. This is a topic that Tracey Bretag addressed in her workshop, “Academic Integrity and Embracing Diversity” when she joined us at the Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity. There is some evidence from other countries that students from particular backgrounds get reported more often for misconduct than others, but as yet, we have not collected data on this in Canada. Let’s get one thing straight: Just because we have not yet collected data on a problem does not mean that the problem does not exist.

In 2020, I produced a discussion paper about why we need more data relating to student misconduct to better understand how and when students from particular groups might be over-represented (Eaton, 2020). Critics (particularly in my own country of Canada) emerged from the woodwork to demand “evidence” that there was injustice and implicit bias with regards to which students get reported for misconduct. I am paraphrasing, but the general gist of the comments was, “until you can prove to me that international students do not cheat more than domestic students, then I don’t believe you.” I carefully try to explain that those who get reported for misconduct may not include everyone who commits misconduct. The critics are not interested. Their myopia prevents them from entertaining the idea that a problem might exist even in circumstances where formal data are not yet available. Once again, we find ourselves in a pre-evidentiary state.

Insisting on having “evidence” for invisible work is frustrating, and at times it seems downright ludicrous. Many of us who work in academic integrity research are working as fast as we can to conduct research and gather the necessary data. As I have pointed out in an article I co-authored with a graduate student a few years ago, in Canada, very few researchers have successfully received any federal funding to study these questions (Eaton & Edino, 2018). I will keep applying for federal research grants to study these topics. Until then, I do the work anyway, because it is important and urgent.

For me, doing academic integrity research is not an ideologically agnostic endeavour. This work is not values-free.  It is entirely values-laden. When one studies ethics in educational contexts we do not do so because it is merely an intellectual endeavour. We are not dispassionate, detached, or objective. In many cases, we are passionate not only about the work, but about change that can result because of the work. For many of us, academic ethics inquiry is intertwined with advocacy. We do this work because we care deeply about our students, our colleagues, and the systems that are supposed to support us all.

I have had many sleepless nights mentally preparing for conversations about academic integrity and ethical issues in education, particularly during the pandemic. These conversations may happen quietly or behind closed doors, leaving no trace that they ever occurred. The impact of the conversations can change the trajectory of how individuals or organizations act. Just because work is invisible does not mean that it does not have impact. And in the world of academia where we are under constant and unrelenting pressure to show the “impact” of our work, much of this work will continue to go unrecognized by our superiors. But we do the work anyway knowing that sometimes the invisible efforts are just as effective – if not more so – at creating lasting change.

Dr. Leslie Reid, the University of Calgary’s Vice Provost Teaching and Learning, has commented to me more than once that change happens “one conversation at a time”. During this pandemic, my identity as an academic integrity activist has definitely evolved. I recognize that I must undertake the invisible work in addition to – not instead of – the visible (and quantifiable) work such as research articles, book chapters, books, conference presentations, and so on. But like so many others who engage in this work, I know that the invisible work matters.

I will be an activist on my own terms: having one conversation at a time, sometimes publicly, but also (and often) privately. But no matter how those conversations happen, they matter.

Eaton, S. E. (2021). On Becoming an Academic Integrity Activist: Reflections on the Impact of COVID-19 on Scholarly Identity. University of Calgary. http://hdl.handle.net/1880/113130


Bretag, T. (2019). Academic integrity and embracing diversity. Workshop presented at the Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity, Calgary, Canada. http://hdl.handle.net/1880/110278

Eaton, S. E. (2020). Race-Based Data in Student Conduct: A Call to Action. Retrieved from Calgary, Canada: http://hdl.handle.net/1880/112157

Eaton, S. E., & Edino, R. I. (2018). Strengthening the research agenda of educational integrity in Canada: A review of the research literature and call to action. International Journal of Educational Integrity, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40979-018-0028-7

Kenny, N., & Eaton, S. E. (2021). Academic integrity through a SoTL lens and 4M framework: An institutional self-study. In S. E. Eaton & J. Christensen Hughes (Eds.), Academic integrity in Canada: An enduring and essential challenge: Springer.

Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA). (2020). Contract cheating and blackmail. Retrieved from https://www.teqsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/contract-cheating-blackmail.pdf?v=1591659442

Yorke, J., Sefcik, L., & Veeran-Colton, T. (2020). Contract cheating and blackmail: a risky business? Studies in Higher Education, 1-14. doi:10.1080/03075079.2020.1730313

Related Reading

Eaton, S. E. (2020). Academic Integrity During COVID-19: Reflections from the University of Calgary. International Studies in Educational Administration, 48(1), 80-85. Retrieved from https://prism.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/112293

Eaton, S. E., & Turner, K. L. (2020). Exploring academic integrity and mental health during COVID-19: Rapid review. Journal of Contemporary Education Theory & Research, 4(1), 35-41. Retrieved from http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4256825

Curtis, G.J., Slade, C., Bretag, T., & McNeill, M. (2021) Developing and evaluating nationwide expert-delivered academic integrity workshops for higher education sector in Australia. Higher Education Research and Development, DOI: 10.1080 / 07294360.2021.1872057


This research accompanied the rollout of national academic integrity workshops (19 in total) funded by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) and facilitated by a small team of academic integrity researchers/practitioners, led by Professor Tracey Bretag. These workshops, held in late 2019, added to previous sector-wide academic integrity initiatives and preceded the development of a toolkit of resources, freely available on the TEQSA website.  Therefore, the workshops aimed to capitalise on existing academic integrity knowledge and practice across universities and independent higher education providers and to encourage a collaborative culture across the sector. Four hundred and fifty-two participants attended the three-hour workshops across 17 different locations. To the knowledge of the authors this is the first investigation of its kind, in assessing the impact of academic integrity workshops across a nation.

Research Approach

The goal of the research was to quantitatively measure participant learning related to the workshop content, rather than just their reactions to the workshop itself. Only one question related to participant reactions. The response rate was 75.7%.  Short pre- and post-workshop surveys were given to participants that contained eight items as outlined in Table 1.  The surveys focused on awareness of key issues discussed in the workshops, the confidence levels participants had in their institutions’ academic integrity approach, and whether there were any changes across the items pre-and-post workshop.

Table 1: Awareness and confidence items used in the workshop surveys

Item No. Awareness of… How confident are you that your institution’s…
1 The Model Statement of Commitment to Academic Integrity Strategies will be able to mitigate academic integrity risks
2 Australian and International academic integrity research Staff can detect contract cheating
3 Your institutional policies and procedures Contract cheating responses are aligned with those recommended by the TEQSA Good Practice Guide
4 Ways to promote academic integrity Technology effectively supports academic integrity



The research found that participants’ awareness increased for Items 1,2 & 4, particularly concerning academic integrity research (Item 2). The aggregated data here suggests that participants benefit from academic development workshops, led by expert facilitators with first-hand knowledge of the topics and teaching delivery skills.  Responses for Item 3, ‘Awareness of your institutional policies and procedures’ however, indicated decreased awareness, pre-and post-workshop. Reflection by the facilitators post-workshops suggests that as participants progressed through the workshop content, they may have realised that their institutions’ policy and procedures were lacking.

Questions around confidence levels was the second area investigated. Only a small increase in confidence was seen, which was influenced by institutional demographics, such as size and type. In particular, the research found, however, that confidence levels in participants from larger institutions were higher post-workshop than those from smaller institutions, with the former participants beginning the workshop with a significantly lower average confidence level.


The findings provide empirical evidence, based on pre-and post-workshop changes in both awareness and confidence concerning the workshop content. Further, it shows the benefit of one-off workshops in which participants can respond to content stimulus by reflecting on their institutional progress in addressing academic integrity issues, and the policy or practice areas that still need improvement. This research adds to the limited evidence of the efficacy of academic integrity professional development workshops for higher education institutional staff (both professional and academic) and adds empirical support to the scholarly discourse of improved effectiveness of such workshops if they are part of an overall sequence of themed academic development activities.


This study shows the potential of one-off workshops, led by experts in the field and part of a sequence of initiatives, can make substantial advances in participant awareness and confidence of academic integrity foundations and practices.


The author thanks TEQSA for their financial support for this work, and acknowledges the expertise of her colleagues, Professor Tracey BretagDr Guy Curtis and Dr Margot McNeill in developing and facilitating the workshops and toolkit of resources and undertaking this research. The author acknowledges the loss of Tracey who passed away in 2020. Her contribution to the sector and the field of academic integrity is greatly missed.  

The recent issue of Canadian Perspectives on Academic Integrityan open-access journal you can find here, focused on perspectives and experiences during Covid-19. 

The issue will be helpful to academics and integrity practitioners for many reasons. First, it establishes how common and widespread our challenges and experiences have been during Covid. I found myself nodding in agreement at so many observations about the challenges of maintaining integrity in a heavily online environment, the concerns over proctoring technology, managing the rise of online course-helper/tutoring sites, the desire to provide meaningful integrity-focused faculty development opportunities for instructors, teaching and supporting students in a constant state of uncertainty, and many more points of interest.

However, what was refreshing about this issue are the examples of professionals innovating through those (and all of the year’s other) challenges. Some writers found ways to innovate out of a damaging adversarial dynamic (Wheatley), while others looked to approaches from other cultures to teach about plagiarism (Rovere). One major connecting theme is the degree to which institutions have benefited from increased cooperation and collaboration. It’s an encouraging takeaway in an otherwise disheartening year. 

Albany, N.Y. – The International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) has issued the third edition of “The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity,” which is designed to serve as a practical reference guide for fostering academic integrity and excellence at institutions of higher learning.

“Promoting a culture that values and champions academic integrity begins with critical conversations taking place on campus,” said Camilla Roberts, ICAI president and director of the Honor and Integrity System at Kansas State University. “The updated ‘Fundamental Values’ will provide a catalyst for these conversations, many of which will ultimately blossom into a campus culture that supports academic integrity and excellence. ”

“The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity” defines academic integrity as the commitment to six fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility and courage. These values serve to inform and improve ethical decision-making capacities and behavior. Recognizing that scholarly communities flourish when members live these fundamental values, the guide offers actionable steps institutions can follow to achieve success in establishing climates of integrity. These steps are built upon nearly three decades of processes and practices used in successful academic integrity programs.

The new edition of “The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity” will be highlighted during a workshop session for attendees at the ICAI Virtual Conference set for March 1 through 4. The annual event draws faculty, administrators, students and staff together for four days of education and networking on topics such as technology, research, policy and student experiences related to academic integrity.

“We, at ICAI, believe that it is a critical time for educational institutions to focus on these issues as they continue to remotely deliver a majority of their courses,” said Roberts. “The workshop provides the perfect setting to energize faculty, administrators, students and staff as they work to advance their commitment to academic integrity on their campuses.”

The International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) cultivates integrity in academic communities throughout the world to promote ethical institutions and societies. It was founded to combat cheating, plagiarism, and academic dishonesty in higher education. Its mission has since expanded to include the cultivation of cultures of integrity in academic communities throughout the world. ICAI offers assessment services, resources, and consultations to its member institutions, and facilitates conversations on academic integrity topics each year at its annual conference. For more information, visit https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.academicintegrity.org&source=gmail&ust=1613058146799000&usg=AFQjCNFQ5ShAZu5EpIwuM-hoQiBPfkPcgg">www.academicintegrity.org.

For more information, contact:

Camilla Roberts
ICAI President

Phone: 785-313-8477


Having taught college-level writing for the better part of two decades, I have come to believe that the two most important things that writing teachers can encourage in students are agency and ownership. While there is no magic bullet to ensure academic honesty, insisting on these two ideas helps students see writing not as a product, but as a process. This shift to a growth mindset allows students low-risk chances to take intellectual risks, as well, something they’re often hesitant to do, particularly in lower-level courses.

I teach at a small college and serve a number of first-generation college students, many arriving with the sense that academia is not for them. As a first-generation college student myself, I understand their struggle to fit in. Most students are not intentional cheaters. They don’t come into my classroom with the intent to deceive. However, when they hear terms like “drafting,” “revision,” “global concerns” and other writing-focused phraseology, they’re necessarily kept at a distance. As such, I scaffold writing assignments in order to emphasize the process.

To encourage agency and ownership, the following suggestions can help any writing assignment in any class, from development courses to senior-level capstones.

Proposals: Requiring students to submit proposals for writing assignments encourages accountability and ownership from the initial moment students receive an assignment. If a final product is radically different from a student’s proposal, then the professor has grounds to question the student. Proposals needn’t be overly formal. I often have students email me a short paragraph explaining their topic and their approach. As we work through the assignment together, I refer back to the proposal often, reminding students of their initial vision.

Scaffolding: Break the assignment into distinct parts. Require a proposal, a first draft, and a revision. I also require a cover letter with every assignment. Scaffolding the assignment encourages agency by shifting the locus of content control to the student. As a professor, you’re not telling them what to write. Instead, you’re providing a framework for that assignment.

In-Class Writing: While this strategy may be impossible for all professors in every discipline, devoting in-class time to writing encourages ownership in student writing. Talking about brainstorming or cluster diagramming is one thing; leading students through a guided in-class exercise is quite different (and much more effective). In low-level writing courses, I have drafting days that require students to compose in class. I encourage them to bring their earbuds to class and given them the hour to work. This way, they’re writing original content under my guidance, providing a safe space for them to stop and ask questions should they get lost in the process.

Reimagine Peer Review: Again, this strategy may not be possible in every class, but in my experience, students find peer review not only helpful but also liberating because they see that their peers often struggle with similar problems. I encourage my students to talk during peer review. Making them sit silently while their peers struggle to say helpful things doesn’t provide opportunities for ownership. When students talk about their writing, it becomes just that—their writing.

In the end, every professor has to find what works in their classrooms. Nonetheless, focusing on agency and ownership has helped me to give my students control over their writing. As plagiarism often stems from a lack of understanding, these strategies have helped my students immensely.

A few years ago, I had a once-in-a-career opportunity that I hope to never have again—a consolidation. I was working as an administrator at a small state college when our state announced that we would consolidate with an even smaller state school. Despite our different missions, institutional styles, and the fact that we were two hours away, we set out to make it work. However, one of the primary challenges was that combined, both schools were lightly staffed and many administrators were taking jobs elsewhere—this came to ahead when the person in charge of the consolidation took a job months before everything was due—which sent the process into overdrive.

One of my tasks was overseeing a new student handbook. We put together a great team with representation from both institutions. We quickly began pulling together the best of both policies, writing them up, and sending them to the executive cabinet. While this was a nesting doll task, where one problem led to another, it also led to opportunities, including improving our academic integrity policies.

Years ago, when I was a faculty member, I once overheard a history professor complaining about a student plagiarism case, when an English faculty member on the hall mentioned the same student had plagiarized in their class years before. Anecdotally, I knew that plagiarism was an issue, and this was our opportunity to strengthen the policy. Collaboratively, we worked through a process to identify and track these issues, while still allowing for due process for students. However, a few days before the handbook was due, I knew something was missing.

My alma mater had an honor code, and many institutions that I greatly respected had honor codes, and I realized this was my opportunity to help create an honor code. I wish I could say that we had time to create a committee to jointly compose an honor code, but time wasn’t on our side. So I did what any academic does—I relied on expertise. Previously, I had worked with a colleague who was the Director of an Academic Integrity Office. He walked me through the scenarios, and pointed me to several resources, and that afternoon, I wrote a few drafts, sent them to my friend for feedback, and submitted the honor code to our student handbook committee with the same fervor that my students have when they submit a last minute essay. Soon, it was approved by the executive cabinet, and with the help of our Dean of Students, a few months later, I was addressing a new class of students during our first-ever consolidated convocation.

They say that you should never let a good crisis go to waste, but this was truly an opportunity to strengthen academic integrity at our consolidated institution.

For academic integrity practitioners across the globe, incidents of reported academic misconduct were likely higher in the previous semester. If you thought you were alone, a quick Google News alert will send you multiple emails a week detailing other institutions’ struggles with academic misconduct rates. For faculty, students, and practitioners this was a frustrating semester. While no stakeholder is to blame–this was an unprecedented pandemic–it can be argued that stakeholders failed to work together to get through this time of crisis. Looking forward, what steps can be taken in the new year to increase collaboration and cooperation with our campus partners?

  1. Review faculty strategies: You may have seen which approaches worked and which were less successful. If there were specific strategies that made a positive impact on student behavior, make sure you share them. Faculty across departments don’t always interact, but you may know some tips and tricks that cross departmental lines and can assist faculty campus-wide.
  2. Manage student interventions: If you have any interventions for students in the coming months, review their implementation in a remote environment. If they prove unhelpful, maybe the intervention should be shelved pending a return to in-person coursework. Evaluate the content programming you are providing and make adjustments as needed.
  3. Communicate clearly: Send out expectations, tips, tricks, and reminders at key points throughout the term. See if you can tag on to an existing newsletter or campus publication to help students uphold their integrity without inundating their inboxes.
  4. Adjust your expectations: You may be busy closing cases that occurred during final exams, but faculty and students are eager to start the new term and move forward. Embrace this term. You may continue to have an increased caseload this semester, but you can make it through this one too!

While there may be a few more hiccups as we navigate remote, distance, and hybrid learning models, there is also hope that the return to “normal” is fast approaching. 

Happy New Year and welcome back to the first 2021 semester! 2020 was a hard year, and many institutions had to adapt and respond to altered classrooms and additional integrity concerns. 2021 brings hope for the return to in-person learning and more experience in digital delivery. There are some exciting opportunities with the ICAI heading your way:

  1. ICAI Virtual Book Club
    The Content Committee will be hosting a book club from January – April. We are going to be reading Phillip Dawson’s new book: Defending Assessment Security in a Digital World. If you are interested in joining our virtual book club, please register at Register Now Registered members will receive a question guide written by the author to enhance your reading experience, and the opportunity to meet with him in April 2021 to discuss the book. We look forward to reading with you!
  2. Virtual Conference 2021
    The ICAI is going digital for its annual conference! Looking to submit a presentation? The deadline for submission is this Friday. Don’t forget to register and join your fellow academic integrity community. More information on presentation submission and conference registration can be found at Annual Conference.
  3. McCabe Survey
    Find out how your students feel about academic integrity on your campus. Join the international McCabe survey. If you want to get involved, fill out the form found here or email .
  4. Timely Webinars
    Join us for a live webinar on timely topics related to academic integrity. Webinars lists upcoming topics and lets you register for these insightful conversations.

We look forward to a year of new content and more opportunities to work with you!

As the academic integrity administrator on your campus, you get a call from an upset parent who states that their student has been accused of cheating in one of his courses, and that the instructor has threatened to fail him. Without a report, and only what the parent is sharing with you, you work to try and explain the process of adjudicating academic dishonesty on your campus. The parent states that the instructor does not intend on filing a report and goes on to outline other issues that their student has experienced in this class. You explain that without a report, there is not much that you are able to do and suggest that their student contact the instructor. The parent shares that they have tried calling the instructor and the department, but this is the only office that has returned their call. The parent and student both feel that they are being treated unfairly, and they want to know what other options they have, and if anyone can help them to discuss the issue with the instructor. 

For many academic integrity administrators, this parent situation may be too familiar. Administrators can find themselves spending a lot of time managing multiple parties (parents, students, instructors, chairs) and attempting to facilitate dialogue. At Michigan State University, our All-University Integrity of Scholarship and Grades policy requires that if a faculty member implements a penalty grade in response to academic dishonesty, they must also submit an Academic Dishonesty Report (ADR). With a report, the student would be able to understand the allegation and contest the finding through an Academic Grievance Hearing Board. Additionally, the ADR creates a way for the university to identify subsequent allegations and potential trends. 

However, even though our policies and procedures spell out how things should go, we find ourselves educating stakeholders of our policies and procedures until we’re blue in the face. With a steady increase of academic dishonesty reporting, it is easy to feel inundated with balancing both process and holistically supporting student success. Our institution has a unique history of collaboration with the Ombudsperson’s office, which has helped support students and our academic grievance process immensely. The Ombudsperson’s Office can provide confidential and informal guidance to assist  students, faculty members, and administrators to identify ways to engage with these issues outside of formal hearing processes.  As we all know, students who feel heard and supported are more likely to engage and learn from the adjudication process. 

What is an ombuds?

You likely have an ombuds on your campus. An organizational ombuds serves as a designated neutral within an organization and can help individuals or groups to resolve conflicts or explore options to address concerns. They can be found on college and university campuses, as well as corporations and nonprofit organizations. Ombuds listen, provide advice and referrals, and some can help to resolve disputes through mediation or shuttle diplomacy. Additionally, ombuds operate by the International Ombudsman Association’s standards of confidentiality, neutrality, independence, and informality. Additional information on the ombuds role can be found here: https://www.ombudsassociation.org/what-is-an-organizational-ombuds.

 Each ombuds will work a little bit differently, and while some are able to serve the entire campus community, others may be limited to specific constituencies. For example, some ombuds will only work with student concerns, some work only with faculty or staff. You may have one ombuds or multiple on your campus. Partnering with a student facing ombuds, however, can be helpful as you navigate concerns. 

The Ombudsperson’s office on our campus is often the first point of contact for students who have been accused of academic misconduct. It serves as a place where they can discuss their concerns, explore the process, and decide how they would like to engage. The Ombudsperson can assist students in preparing to speak with their instructor regarding the issue, how to most appropriately reach out to the Department Chair or point them to resources in order to prepare for a formal hearing. It is important to note that the Ombudsperson does not engage in formal processes, nor does the ombuds serve as an advocate for any involved parties. 

Approaches to academic integrity should be collaborative and include partners from across campus. The unique nature of academic misconduct provides an opportunity to engage with your ombuds if you have not already done so. Academic integrity processes often bridge the gap between academics and formal adjudication processes, leaving room for misunderstanding and frustration. Collaborating with your campus ombuds creates a strong partnership that supports academic success.  



Jake Kasper works in the Office of the Dean of Students at Michigan State University.

Ryan Smith serves as the Assistant University Ombudsperson at Michigan State University.