Lesson 6: Academic Integrity in Online Assessments

Background on academic integrity

In the 1990s, a conceptual shift occurred in higher education from academic misconduct to academic integrity. Integrity is rooted in values, whereas misconduct is focused on behaviour. When learning is centered on integrity, we transform our dialogue with students from how to avoid committing academic misconduct towards how to make ethical decisions — an essential skill students need throughout their professional, academic and personal lives.

Below is the 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.

6 Fundamental values of integrity

6 Fundamental values of integrity

It is a myth that students cheat more in online courses than in traditional face-to-face courses. There are almost 20 years of research to refute this myth (Harris et al., 2019; Hurst et al., 2013; Kellogg, 2002; Scanlon, 2002). Cheating may happen differently in online courses, but that does not mean it increases. Differences include:

  • More use of unauthorized materials (eg. cheat sheets, sharing or downloading answers)
  • More use of unauthorized third parties (eg. homework completion sites, hiring someone to do your assessments or take exams).

Influencing factors and strategies

Some factors cause influence students to intentionally or unintentionally commit academic misconduct in online learning, including less opportunity to form in-class relationships with instructors. Below are some influencing factors that might cause students to make poor decisions and some strategies to mitigate them through clear expectations, communication and well-designed assessment.

 

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.

Lesson checklist

  • Gain strategies to mitigate the occurrence of academic misconduct in online courses

  • Use functions in D2L to minimize opportunities for cheating — especially during online quizzes

References 

International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI). (2014). The fundamental values of academic integrity (2nd ed.). Retrieved from https://academicintegrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Fundamental-Values-2014.pdf


Harris, L., Harrison, D., McNally, D., & Ford, C. (2019). Academic integrity in an online culture: Do McCabe’s findings hold true for online, adult learners? Journal of Academic Ethics. doi:10.1007/s10805-019-09335-3


Hurst, D., Cleveland-Innes, M., Hawranik, P., & Gauvreau, S. (2013). Online graduate student identity and professional skills development. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 43(3), 36-55. Retrieved from http://journals.sfu.ca/cjhe/index.php/cjhe/article/view/184674


Kellogg, A. (2002). Students plagiarize online less than many think, a new study finds. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 48(23), A.44.


Scanlon, P. M., & Neumann, D. R. (2002). Internet plagiarism among college students. Journal of College Student Development, 43(3), 374-385

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