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Encouraging academic integrity in your courses

Posted at 8:44 a.m. April 7, 2020, by in Online


The sudden pivot to remote teaching has left many faculty wondering what they can do to continue to promote academic integrity in their courses. Thomas Tobin put it well in his Inside Higher Ed article, “Student Agency in Uncertain Times:”

“Put plainly, students are most tempted to act dishonestly when they feel anxiety and pressure. Most don’t act on those temptations regularly, but we all have our tipping points. The current shift to remote instruction can create both anxiety and pressure.”

What can we do to reduce anxiety and pressure in courses? 

Both faculty and students are experiencing a lot of uncertainty in moving to remote teaching. Here are some suggestions that could help lessen student anxiety in the transition:

  • Scaffold high-stakes assignments into smaller, low-stakes chunks. For instance, if the students are working on a final paper, instead of solely submitting their final draft, checkpoints could be created in the form of smaller assignments. Students could first turn in an outline, then an annotated bibliography, and then a draft before submitting their final work. These smaller chunks could be worth points toward their final grade, or even just scored as pass/fail with feedback to guide their progress.
    • How does this encourage academic integrity? Scaffolding assignments not only reduces student anxiety by making assignments more low-stakes, it encourages academic integrity by forcing students to start assignments early and not give into cheating due to the pressure of a looming deadline. 
  • Offer timely and frequent feedback to students. Scaffolded assignments give you the opportunity to provide feedback to students, which has a number of benefits. It’s important to provide feedback in a timely fashion (for example, if students turn in an outline for their final paper- you should give them feedback so they have enough time to incorporate it into the paper’s next stage) and make it specific and constructive. Can the students take your feedback and use it to improve their work? Feedback can help reduce anxiety about an assignment by giving students an idea regarding how well they’re doing. It offers them an opportunity to improve with your guidance.
    • This Chronicle article details how to give better feedback using technology, but also discusses what makes good feedback in the first place!

Academic integrity and papers: Learn more

Both Canvas and Sakai offer the ability to automatically run student assignment submissions through TurnItIn. TurnItIn is a plagiarism detection service that can also help deter plagiarism, according to its website. If used correctly, TurnItIn can help your students learn how to avoid accidental plagiarism and can also help you detect instances of plagiarism more easily. Learn more.

Academic integrity and online exams: Learn more

Moving exams online drastically changes the environment in which they will be taken by students. It’s nearly impossible to ensure a proctored environment. There are steps you can take to reduce potential cheating during online exams. Learn more.

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