Academic integrity and online learning

Upholding academic integrity requires a partnered approach. Students, academic staff, TAs and administrators all have inter-related roles and responsibilities. On this page you will find guidance about your role as an educator for upholding academic integrity.

New! University of Calgary Statement on Academic Integrity

 

Academic integrity is the foundation of the development and acquisition of knowledge and is based on values of honesty, trust, responsibility, and respect. We expect members of our community to act with integrity.

Research integrity, ethics, and principles of conduct are key to academic integrity. Members of our campus community are required to abide by our institutional code of conduct and promote academic integrity in upholding the University of Calgary’s reputation of excellence.

 

Note: This statement will go live in the 2020/21 academic calendar. It replaces the current statement on Intellectual Honesty.

Academic Integrity in Online Courses: Adapting During COVID-19

This webinar was designed for those who are engaging in rapid adaptation of courses to an online format. If you are new to teaching and learning online, this session is for you. Although there are no “silver bullets”, there are effective practices.

The webinar was hosted on March 25, 2020 by Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity.

Approaching academic integrity in the online environment


Honesty

Be honest with your learners if you find yourself in a position of having to teach online for the very first time with no preparation. Sometimes being vulnerable with your students can help them to understand that you are human, too.

Be honest with your students about your expectations.

Also, it is important to start with the assumption that most students are honest and they want to learn. They may also be scared and unsure as they engage in remote and online learning for the first time. Have conversations about what it means to adapt quickly during these times. Show kindness and compassion.

Trust

It is important to trust that your students are doing the best they can; and so are their families, friends and everyone else. Just because learning moves online, that does not mean that cheating automatically increases.

 

Now is a time to have conversations with your students about trust. One of the factors that can impact cheating rates is antagonistic relationships between students and faculty. Students do not suddenly engage in academic misconduct the moment they enter an online learning environment. It is important to start from the position that we trust our students until they give us a reason to believe otherwise.

Focus on learning

Trust that students are here to learn. Be clear on what students should know and be able to do by the end of the course. Intentionally align course activities and assessment strategies to these goals.   When possible, establish relevance by linking their learning to current events, or their future academic experiences. Communicate and have students consider questions such as, “Why is this worth learning?” and “How does what I am learning connect to what I already know?” Provide structure and opportunities for students to practice what they will be assessed on where ever possible, and clearly communicate your expectations for learning.  You may also integrate activities related to Academic Integrity in your assignments and assessments using reflective prompts such as:

  • How did you demonstrate academic integrity in this assignment?
  • When were you most challenged to demonstrate academic integrity? How did you overcome these challenges?
  • What have you learned about acting with integrity to this assignment, and how might this apply to your future academic or professional experiences?

Respect

Be patient with questions and remind students that you still expect them to conduct themselves respectfully, even if learning happens remotely.

Respect the university’s existing policy and procedures for academic misconduct.

Understand and respect that not all students have stable internet connectivity; or personal technology that is well-suited to online learning. Many may be dealing with the challenge associated with self-isolation, illness and/or caregiving for others. Some students for whom Calgary is not home are in the process of, or making plans to, return to their own families. They may be travelling or in different time zones. Please respect that it is very important to be flexible with deadlines.

There is lots of evidence to show that although young people today may be adept at using technology for entertainment and socializing, they do not have innate online learning skills. Understand that some students are experiencing extreme learning curves and stress associated with developing new strategies to support their learning.

Responsibility

As an educators, we have a responsibility to lead by example. Remind students of what their learning responsibilities are. Take the time to explain your expectations of them, even if classes are quickly moving to remote delivery in an online environment. Let them know you still expect them to be responsible for their learning, but also show compassion if they are experiencing trauma or anxiety.

Influencing factors and strategies

Strategies:

  • Provide examples of proper academic work, discuss common academic misconduct examples. 
  • Communicate expectations early and provide opportunities to discuss with students. 
  • Create a D2L FAQ discussion for students to ask questions. 
  • Provide opportunities for students to submit assignment drafts for feedback. 

Strategy: Get to know students written work through the discussion board and other frequent small stakes assessments. 

Strategy: Provide opportunities for students to learn the technology to reduce their anxiety before a test or project is due, such as a practice quiz that has no grades association. 

Strategy: Time management for students in online courses is challenging. Communicate expectations early, set due dates and provide opportunities for feedback. 

Strategies: 

  • Create activities that have students engage with each other and you to build a sense of a supportive community 
  • Encourage students to talk about academic integrity through the discussion board. 

Strategies: 

  • Use diverse assessment types to provide a variety of opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning. 
  • Use frequent short low-stakes assignments and provide timely feedback. 

Guidance for assessment design

Keep the focus on promoting learning and not on avoiding cheating

There is ample research to support that there is not necessarily more cheating in online courses. However, the nature of the cheating can change. There might be more use of unauthorized materials or unauthorized third parties. As educators, our role includes assessing in ways that are appropriate and fair for the learning environment.

What to avoid:

Multiple-choice exams designed from face-to-face proctored environments are not recommended. Alterative assessment options are available at: https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/teaching-continuity/student-assessment-ideas

Avoid trying to use synchronous tools like Zoom or Skype to invigilate exams. Not all students have cameras and some of them may not be financially able to buy one. We cannot require students to buy a video camera and students cannot be penalized if they do not have one.

Understand that connectivity, necessary travel, different time zones, access to technology, and personal circumstances may make it impossible for students to do online tests with a minimal window of time. We recommend giving students a minimum of 24-48 hours to complete any assessment.

Now is the time to be compassionate with deadlines, within reason.

Finally, be aware that there are predatory third parties (contract cheating companies, term paper mills, unethical tutoring companies, etc.) that have escalated their operations recently. Some services are employing aggressive marketing tactics directed specifically to students experiencing high levels of stress. Have conversations with your students about the importance of protecting themselves against predatory pay-to-pass companies. Emphasize that you are here for them and will help them in whatever way you can.

Now is the time to communicate to our students that we are all part of the University of Calgary family and we are here to support each other.


Academic integrity and D2L

D2L Quizzes

D2L has multiple features to help mitigate academic misconduct. Yet, for courses that are put online last-minute some additional considerations need to be reflected in how you set up online quizzes. 

Randomize questions

Randomize questions for each student using the question library. For example, 20 questions for each student can be randomly selected from a library of 50 questions, giving each student a different set of questions. 

Randomize answer order

Use the randomize answer order for each question. Even though the answers options will be the same for all students, the order will be different.

One question at a time

Showing one question at a time is a good option to help students focus. Preventing backtracking is a D2L option but can also be a source of student anxiety as students are prevented from revisiting questions. 

Time limits

Set a realistic yet tight time limit which will require students to focus and work through the quiz relatively quickly, but not to create anxiety by rushing students through the quiz. 

Availability

Make tests available for a 24-hour time period to accommodate different time zones, student schedules and technical difficulties. For example, a quiz that takes 60 minutes to complete can be open for 24 hours. 

Submission view options

Hide all submission view options, so students do not see the questions and their responses. You can always release the quiz, student results, and correct answers at a later date. 

Timer

Show the clock to help keep students on time. 

Copying

Only allow one attempt per student and disable right click to prevent quick copy/paste. 

More tips for online quizzes

  • Create a practice quiz with the same settings as the actual quiz to provide an opportunity for students to experience the technology and process. This will help reduce their anxiety about seeing the technology for the first time as a graded test. 
  • Have a back-up plan as some students might experience technology or internet troubles. Back-up plans include having students write a paper or complete another project. You can also release the quiz again or a different quiz to select students using the Special Access option.
  • Use frequent low-stakes quizzes.
  • When creating a new quiz, preview the test to identify any errors
  • Explicitly state academic integrity expectations, such as graded tests must be done individually.
  • When students submit the quiz limit the information provided back to them (eg. Do not show submitted questions and answers)

 

D2L Class Progress 

In your D2L course, under the My Tools menu, you will find Class Progress. Class Progress is a feature that shows you student activity in the D2L course such as content viewed, discussion posts, assignment submission and D2L login history. 


Additional Resources 

If you have questions about how to support academic integrity as you provide teaching continuity to our students, support and individual consultations are available:

Sarah Elaine Eaton, Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity – seaton@ucalgary.ca