April 2021

Happy Finals season to all of our readers far and wide! We hope that you have enjoyed reading the Integrity Matters Blog over the last academic year. Today, I want to share with you the process for curating and developing the blog posts you read each week.

This blog is a collaborative effort. It would not survive without the hard work of the editing team. We currently have five rotating editors that review and write blogs to ensure that you receive new content each and every week. Some days, like today, one person serves as both the editor and author of the blog. Other days, we ask outside experts to share thoughts, ideas, and opinions on topics related to academic integrity. Once the editor receives a blog post, they review it. Provided the post is not a marketing or promotional post for a product, it is considered for publication. 

At this point, I wish to issue a disclaimer: the ICAI blog is a weekly publication written by guest contributors from around the world. The views expressed are the author’s own and not necessarily those of the International Center for Academic Integrity. If and when the International Center for Academic Integrity expresses a position, they will release an official statement, such as the statement on contract cheating found here

You may have a different opinion than the blog post you see in your inbox. If you do, I am glad you are still reading and would encourage you to consider submitting your own blog post for review! The opinions of all of our members and the academic community at large are valuable as this field continues to grow and expand. Do you have some research you want to share? I hope that you will write about it. Did you successfully pilot a new pedagogical technique that promotes integrity? Consider authoring an instructional post to help other faculty, practitioners, and students. Guidelines to submit a blog post can be found here.

If you would like to help with blog content, and you are an ICAI member, consider joining the Content Committee. A committee is a group of volunteers working to develop and create blog posts, webinars, and other works.

Like many institutions around the U.S. and Canada, my university has seen an unprecedented rise in the number of academic dishonesty incidents involving social messaging apps (GroupMe and WhatsApp) this year. Fortunately, our institutional leadership took this seriously and formed a task force comprised of colleagues from different vantage points at the university. Our goal was straightforward: produce recommendations for addressing (1) how to deter mass academic dishonesty incidents facilitated by social messaging apps,  (2) how to reduce the impact to a course when they occur, and (3) to use this opportunity to further promote academic integrity on our campus.

The group was comprised of representatives from:

  • Student Government Leadership
  • Faculty Council Committee on Teaching and Learning.
  • The Registrar
  • The University Testing Center
  • The Student Disability Center
  • Student Conduct Services
  • Faculty Committee on Scholastic Standards
  • The Academic Integrity Program

Over the course of four weeks, we met for intensive conversations on the subject, tried to understand the problem, listened to the viewpoints shared by the members, and crafted steps the campus could take to reduce the number of potential incidents as we plunged towards finals (which, on our campus, would be conducted after transitioning to a period of remote learning post- spring break).

In the end, we settled on two mass emails: one to students and one to faculty. The recommendations we delivered are not groundbreaking, but they do serve as a clear plan for how to best weather the next few weeks. These emails accomplish multiple things:

  1. Increase awareness of the apps and the challenge they posed to a course’s final assessment in a remote environment.
  2. Give faculty clear steps to help prevent or limit academic dishonesty.
  3. Communicate to students and faculty the value our institution places on academic integrity.

You can find a copy of our letter to the faculty here.

You can find a copy of our letter to students here.

I’m sharing here so that anyone in a position similar to the one we were in can use these emails as the starting point for their own approach. If you find something helpful in this, please feel free to use and adapt as you see fit.

A note on disseminating these letters:

  • We planned for the faculty letter to be shared via Faculty Council representatives and the leadership structures of the different colleges.
  • The student letter is intended to come from our Dean of Students, cosigned by our campus student government leadership.

Next steps:

We are following this coordinated communication with a series of ads designed and promoted by our university social media group. These will run during the last weeks of our semester and through finals.

Once the semester is over, the task force is moving to a permanent status. Our hope is to continue leveraging the different viewpoints and ideas to keep our campus ahead of the next big disruptive issue in academic integrity. The future is uncertain, but approaching it with a sense of resolve (and a little bit of hope) seems right.

New Open-Access Writing Textbook graphic

Mindful Technical Writing: An Introduction to the Fundamentals is an open textbook we co-authored specifically to support student success in co-requisite pairings of developmental writing and introduction to technical writing; however, the text’s modular design is flexible enough for use in a variety of college-level writing course applications. The book is available for no-cost download: to access it from the Open Textbook Library, follow this link. The book is housed in the OER Commons as well, and available through this link.

Attending to Academic Integrity

Montana Technological University is an institutional member of the ICAI, and on October 16, 2019, the university’s Writing Program facilitated a campus education and outreach event coincidental with the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating. Interactive activities included a board game called Defeat the Cheat and a chart-your-own-course experience in which participants ‘escape’ with their integrity (or not) based on the paths they choose through a scenario designed to test their understanding of academic integrity.

Additionally, the institution’s writing instructors invited responses from students, faculty, and staff to prompts about academic integrity. The prompts and some participant responses are excerpted below:

We were among the writing faculty who facilitated this awareness event, and we were pleased to learn that the outcomes supported our efforts to address critical concepts – like the importance of academic integrity – in our recently-published open textbook.

Students in developmental writing and college-level technical writing courses likely benefit from focused lessons intended to build skills that lead to academic success. In support of faculty and programs that value combining study skills work with discipline-specific instruction and a linked curriculum, our book provides ample opportunities for learners to discuss and demonstrate the ICAI’s fundamental values of “honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage” (ICAI, 2021, pg. 4). This new textbook offers multiple chapters that integrate the principles of academic integrity throughout the examples and exercises. For example, consider the following excerpt from page 270 of our “Managing Time” chapter:

Supporting Academic Success

In a co-requisite pairing, students who place into a remedial class can enroll simultaneously in a college-level and accompanying developmental course. The developmental segment of the co-requisite arrangement supports students’ success in the college-level class by combining study skills work with discipline-specific instruction and a linked curriculum.

This book’s repeated focus on academic integrity is encouraging since students in the co-requisite pairing of developmental writing and introduction to technical writing will need to hone their ethical source integration skills to be successful in their studies and can look to the textbook chapters for explicit instructional guidance in what academic integrity means and implicit guidance on how it is demonstrated in a writing product.

Mindful Technical Writing: An Introduction to the Fundamentals employs a modular design to maximize flexibility of use. By interlacing new material with reviews of key topics, such as academic integrity, and combining practical guidance with interactive exercises and thoughtfully designed writing opportunities, it also offers ample coverage of topics and genres. The textbook’s Creative Commons license means instructors can adopt it as is or customize it for their own co-requisite or other writing courses.


The authors gratefully acknowledge funding and support from Montana Technological University’s Faculty Seed Grant Program and the TRAILS (Treasure State Academic Information and Library Services) Open Educational Resources Program through the Office of the Commissioner for Higher Education, which helped to make the textbook a reality.

Co-Author: Stacey Corbitt

Stacey Corbitt is a faculty member of the Writing Program at Montana Technological University. She teaches developmental and college-level courses in co-requisite pairings, as well as stand-alone introductory and advanced writing courses. She earned an M.S. degree in Technical Communication from Montana Tech of the University of Montana (now Montana Technological University). Prior to becoming a full-time writing instructor, she worked as a professional technical writer for private sector businesses and publicly-traded companies in environmental remediation, energy marketing, and public utility service contracting. Her research interests include textbook and course materials development. She values opportunities to mentor students in all disciplines, recognizing that strong writing skills serve professionals well at every career level.


ICAI. (2021). The Fundamental values of academic integrity (3rd ed.). License: CC-BY-NC-SA-4.0. Retrieved from https://www.academicintegrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/20019_ICAI-Fundamental-Values_R12.pdf

Laptop photo

If we have attended school at some level, we all have taken exams.  Most of my experience with testing had me focusing on the content and the outcome and not the environment.  So what is all of this “hype” about proctoring and academic integrity anyway?  As a director of a university testing center, my focus has shifted from an exam taker to an exam protector.  What are the most critical functions of proctoring and what are the challenges of proctoring either in person or when using an online platform?

There are five things that I feel every student, faculty member, and administrator should know when it comes to proctoring and academic integrity.

  • Don’t “hate” on the proctor! Try to put yourself into the shoes of the person that has been highly trained to perform the duty of making sure the exam is taken according to prescribed instructions.
  • Realize what role the proctor performs. Remember that all exams and exam environments were created to be equal.  The proctor’s job isn’t to catch students cheating, but to create an equal testing environment that all test-takers would be experiencing during the exam.  Proctors exist to be the testers’ advocates!
  • Why is academic integrity such a hot topic? Students may not realize that if the content of exams cannot be protected, the entire program might suffer in the eyes of future employers.  If students continue to cheat, then grades become meaningless, content is not learned/mastered, and the program credibility is compromised.
  • The online proctoring platforms need to have certain requirements in place in order to help protect the student and faculty member. With the onslaught of using a variety of group chats, posting exam content to testing “cheat sites” and other less than desirable methods of taking exams, the online proctoring platform serves as a balance between the acceptable (what you would experience in a classroom testing setting) and the unacceptable. The platform isn’t there to spy on you but to ensure that the exam environment is equal and level for all students.
  • Why you are testing in a proctored environment? One day, you will receive a diploma – one you have worked tirelessly to earn.  It is in your best interest to do your part to protect exam content (do not be tempted to share with friends/classmates), abide by the proctor’s or proctoring platform’s guidelines, and focus on learning. When you “cheat” you cheat yourself out of possible job opportunities, scholarships, and awards. Don’t enable someone else to benefit from your hard work.

As you prepare to take an exam, give an exam, evaluate a program, or mediate an academic misconduct hearing, please bear in mind the intended outcome of each process.  The goal is for students to thrive and achieve, faculty to teach, and administrators to oversee programs and staff.  As the Testing Center Director, I want all of our customers to feel like they have received quality, professional service; making it less stressful for all.