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Academic Integrity: Urgent and Emerging Topics

The Academic Integrity Series: Urgent and Emerging Topics created a space for timely and provocative discussion around issues related to academic integrity in post-secondary education. Experts from UCalgary and across the country offered insights on trending topics, like counterfeit credentials, contract cheating and equity, that will affect educators, policy makers and higher education professionals for years to come. 

Winter 2022

But prof … I don't know what other words to use!

Part of a well-rounded education is the requirement for students to communicate their knowledge in writing. But what happens when students lack the foundational skills (or willingness) to write to our standards? There are several options for them, ranging from the desirable/acceptable to the outright unethical. One choice is to use 'rephrasing software' which automatically replaces words with synonyms – whether they make sense in context or not. Sometimes, students do this 'manually' using translation apps or thesauruses. Regardless, the result is a poorly-written paper that can be borderline plagiarized.

In this session, Dr. Claudius Soodeen, EdD, and Dr. Sarah Eaton, PhD briefly chronicled their responses to one such situation, discussed how we can respond educationally, and posed some looming questions.

At the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Identify various tools that can be used to rephrase text
  • Determine appropriate and inappropriate uses of rephrasing technology
  • Consider responses to students who have used rephrasing technology or techniques

Facilitators: Dr. Claudius Soodeen, EdD, and Dr. Sarah Eaton, PhD

Plagiarism, as a topic, is well researched and widely understood in the academic community. However, this research and understanding largely focuses on plagiarism in the written word. Considerably less is known about visual plagiarism. While some scholarly literature on visual plagiarism exists, there is a dearth of literature on instructional, or best-practice resources for instructors.

In this talk, Dr. John Paul Foxe, PhD, and Dr. Sarah Eaton, PhD discussed ways to pre-emptively address visual plagiarism through the education of instructors and students. Dr. Fox and Dr. Eaton spoke to prevention with examples in four distinct disciplines, namely presentation design, illustration, digital media and architecture.

Keywords: Visual plagiarism, presentation design, illustration, digital media, architecture, Canada

At the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Define and describe visual plagiarism
  • Develop instructional practices that will help to prevent visual plagiarism in their discipline

Facilitators: Dr. John Paul Foxe, PhD, and Dr. Sarah Eaton, PhD

In higher education, a Student Ombuds is commonly available to students who find themselves at odds with their institution and in need of confidential support.  In the two years since college and university classes moved online, Ombuds offices have experienced a significant increase in the number of inquiries from students seeking assistance to respond to allegations of academic misconduct. Ombudspeople endeavour to maintain neutrality, delicately balancing their institution’s essential need to uphold academic integrity with students’ right to be treated fairly.

At the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Improve their understanding of the role of the Student Ombuds on campus
  • Learn how one Student Ombuds Office supports students through the academic misconduct process, from initial allegation through appeal tribunal
  • Enhance their perspectives on the student experience of navigating a highly stressful encounter with their institution

Facilitators: Jeff Stransky and Dr. Sarah Eaton, PhD

Fall 2021

Join us for an introductory discussion about the commercial contract cheating industry (e.g., term paper mills, homework completion services, and paid imposters who take exams on behalf of students). One question people often ask is, “Why aren’t these services illegal?” The short answer is: Academic cheating services are not currently illegal in Canada, but they are in other countries. In this session, we’ll provide an overview of which countries have successfully enacted legislation against the predatory industries that profit from academic misconduct. We will provide an overview of the legal structures in Canada that might facilitate or present barriers to such legislation being enacted in this country. We do not promise answers or solutions to the complex issue of contract cheating, but instead, provide an evidence base for deeper discussion. 

Facilitators: Alicia Adlington, Dr. Sarah Eaton, PhD

Although some values of academic integrity, such as honesty and fairness, are considered universal, the practical aspects of ethics and integrity can look different across all disciplines. Join us for an engaging panel discussion with professors and students about what ethics and integrity mean in the Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. This will be a real-world discussion about how we practice academic integrity in STEM fields, with considerations about what we are doing right and what we can continue to improve.

Moderator: Dr. Sarah Eaton, PhD
Panelists: Dr. Bronwen Wheatley, PhD, Dr. Nicole Sandblom, PhD, Sean Elliot, Sam Johnson 

Academic misconduct is as old as the hills. While it is discouraging to see this behaviour, we really should not be too surprised when we discover cases in our classrooms. A lot of research has explored why students cheat, and what instructors can do to reduce instances of misconduct. There has been little discussion, however, on how schools manage academic integrity within their programs and institutions. This webinar will cover academic integrity and misconduct from the lens of an administrator. Institutions have policies and procedures in place to investigate allegations of misconduct, and they also have initiatives to promote integrity among students. Results from a recent survey of engineering schools and engineering regulators will be reviewed, highlighting best practices and areas for improvement.

Facilitators: Dr. David deMontigny, PhD, Dr. Sarah Eaton, PhD

Winter 2021

This session will bring to fore (OR highlight) the oft-neglected discord between equity and integrity in high-stakes standardized language tests. The equity issues surrounding these so-called standardized language tests can potentially precipitate and predispose academic dishonesty. This presentation will discuss the ramifications of inherent inequities in high stakes language proficiency tests for academic integrity, and will call for a more critical consideration of commercialized high stakes language tests. Redressing equity issues in language assessment can serve to promote academic integrity and reduce academic dishonesty.

Facilitators: Drs. Soroush Sabbaghan, PhD and Ismaeil Fazel, PhD

In this session, we will discuss several quality assurance tools used in Canadian universities and colleges and explore opportunities to leverage them to support academic integrity. Opportunities within cyclical program review, curriculum mapping and educational development, among others, are discussed to highlight opportunities for academic integrity specialists, quality assurance staff, faculty and policy makers to raise academic integrity awareness and weave best practices across an institution. 

Facilitators: Amanda McKenzie and Emma J. Thacker

Natural language processing (NLP) has advanced rapidly in recent years, to the point where algorithms can now generate focused texts that are increasingly indistinguishable from human writing. OpenAI’s Generative Pre-Trained Transformer (GPT-3) has been at the forefront of these developments, with major implications for language-based assessment from K to postgraduate levels. With this technology becoming publically available in January 2021, educators will have to readily confront some difficult realities regarding the assessment and evaluation of critical writing and the nature of both plagiarism and authourship. Beyond GPT-3, there are other text and research generating technologies on the horizon which embolden the impetus for educators and researchers to reconsider the definition of academic integrity.

In this webinar, attendees will explore a short history of text generators, examples of GPT-3 generated texts, and possible ideas and approaches to addressing these technologies practice.

Facilitators: Ryan Morrison and Dr. Michael Mindzak, PhD

Fall 2020

Join Dr. Brenda Stoesz (University of Manitoba) and Josh Seeland (Assiniboine Community College) for an interactive session on academic file-sharing among students. Learn what some of the issues are, and how to address them from an academic integrity perspective.

Understanding the Landscape of Counterfeit Credentials and University Admissions Fraud

Join Jamie Carmichael and Sarah Elaine Eaton for a provocative session about counterfeit credentials such as fake degrees and tampered transcripts. Admissions fraud remains an understudied area of academic integrity and educational ethics. Learn about some of the telltale signs of admissions fraud in higher education.

This session will be of particular interest to those who handle admissions files for post-secondary institutions, including: academic leaders, registrarial staff, administrative staff, and academics who sit on admissions committees. Although this session is framed within the context of Canadian higher education, many of the concepts and tips will likely apply to those in other jurisdictions, as admissions fraud is a global concern.

Best Practices for Teaching and Learning

This session will review inequitable practices related to academic integrity. These practices threaten to undermine the vital work of celebrating and affirming a diverse academic community. This presentation will consider the ramifications for students, teachers, and researchers, and offer research-based solutions to refine current approaches to teaching and upholding academic integrity. 

Facilitator: Dr. Ceceilia Parnther, PhD

Indigenous peoples are diverse distinct nations who carry the knowledge of millennia. As Indigenous peoples we know that knowledge must be authentic, validated, and shared through principled action. Join us as we discuss the paradigms and principles of academic integrity based on the values of our Communities. Providing the philosophical and the practical, this webinar is designed to explore Indigenous approaches to knowledge for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of the post-secondary community.

Facilitator: Keeta Gladue

Join Dr. Joel Reardon for insights into the role cryptocurrency plays in the outsourcing of academic work, also known as contract cheating, which is s serious breach of academic integrity. Learn what cryptocurrency is, how it works and how it can be used to purchase assignments, theses and other academic work.