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Author: Julia Lehman

Academic Integrity
The New Cheating Economy,” an article published in The Chronicle of Higher Education (2016), tells the story of two Western Carolina University professors who set up a fake online class to see what forms of cheating they could detect. Their story shows that cheating is now a service industry. Students can hire “academic writers” to complete assignments or to take classes. They can access quiz/exam question banks, publisher instructor manuals, and course materials such as lecture notes through online study sites such as CourseHero and Quizlet. The good news, according to James Lang, author of Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty (2013), is that we can design and deliver courses that discourage cheating—or even make it impossible. These same strategies also increase student learning. Here are some strategies to consider. Offer students frequent, low-stakes opportunities to earn their grades Studies show that under the right circumstances (particularly when the pressure is high) most people are willing to cheat to some degree. To reduce cheating, take advantage of the Testing Effect, which provides students with repeated opportunities (not just tests) to engage with the course content and receive feedback. For example, instead of having two high-stakes objective exams, offer a series of short quizzes that contain a variety of question types, in which students get multiple attempts to master the material. In our Economics Foundation courses, instead of weekly reading quizzes, students have notetaking assignments that include open-ended questions covering key concepts from the reading. In addition, instead of having one project due at the end of a course, assign periodic deliverables throughout the course. This reduces the likelihood that students will purchase papers and also allows you to develop a “writing fingerprint” unique to each student (McGee, 2013). Use authentic assessments that relate to students' experiences or to their original research Authentic assessments make plagiarism and purchased papers very difficult because students are doing unique work. In addition, authentic assessments foster intrinsic motivation, and students who are motivated to learn are less likely to cheat (Lang, 2013). Some examples of authentic assessments include case studies, interviews, simulations, and peer reviews. For example, students in our Statistical Analysis Foundation course have a weekly case to which they apply their knowledge of statistical analysis to solve a business problem for a fictional company. They have to determine what analyses to run, interpret the results, and make a recommendation to the company. The cases can be changed each semester by adjusting a few key details. In our Project Management course, students develop a project management plan in two deliverables, which provides the opportunity to receive and integrate peer feedback. Set clear expectations and state your academic integrity policy Your policy should have significant consequences across all assessments. This makes the benefit of cheating very low while the risk very high. Consider including in your syllabus information such as whether you will use an originality checker like Turnitin, what will happen if you suspect academic misconduct, which of your materials can be shared outside of your course (e.g., to commercial “study sites”), your required format for citing borrowed material, and acceptable types of group collaboration. In addition, provide rubrics or grading criteria for every assignment so students understand how they will be evaluated (WCET, 2009).

Get to know your students

Forming student–instructor relationships is still the best deterrent for cheating. A great way to start is through an ice-breaker activity like an introduction discussion. Reply to each student to welcome them to the course. As part of the introduction discussion, have students complete their LMS profiles and answer questions about themselves. This builds community in the course and provides you with a writing sample that you can use for comparison if you're questioning whether a student turned in his or her own original work. Engage with students through the News tool by giving feedback and actively participating in the discussions. Let them see “the real you” by sharing some personal and professional interests.

Use an originality checker (e.g., Turnitin) as a learning tool

Originality checkers don't detect plagiarism; they detect matching text. A high percentage on an originality report doesn't necessarily indicate that plagiarism has occurred because these tools detect citations, quotes, and even assignment text (if you provided a template for students to use) as matching text on the originality report. In addition, originality checkers do not detect plagiarism of ideas or purchased papers. Consider using an originality checker as a learning tool rather than as a policing device. For example, students might submit an initial assignment draft to a Turnitin-enabled drop box, evaluate their own originality report (after some initial instruction from you), and make changes. Lang (2013) gives the example of displaying an unpublished draft of your own academic writing along with the corresponding Turnitin originality report to talk about how to balance your own interpretations with borrowed material.

Take advantage of the features in your LMS that deter cheating

Use the tools available within the LMS for drawing quiz questions randomly from a pool, randomizing answer choices, providing appropriate time limits, and using groups and release conditions to make available different versions of assessments. Your LMS might also have an algorithmic feature that you can use to generate unique numerical problems for each student. Periodically search online for your quiz or exam questions to see if the correct answers can be found easily.

Use some checkpoints for identity verification If you're worried about verifying a student's identity, you might try using a synchronous meeting tool to give oral exams. You can also cross-reference a student's submissions against writing samples from earlier activities, such as the introduction assignment. In addition, if you have a student's electronic file, such as a Word document, you can check the document properties to see what name is associated with the file. What about proctoring? Many proctoring services are available, both live and virtual. Live proctoring may be a burden for online students who may not have a proctoring center available in their region and who might struggle with full-time work and childcare issues. Virtual proctoring comes with technology requirements and privacy issues. With both types of proctoring, a cost is passed on to the students. Proctoring may be the right solution in some situations, but given the information we have, it seems that the best way to address academic dishonesty is to first create the most effective learning environment possible. References: Lang, James. Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013. McGee, Patricia. Supporting Academic Honesty in the Classroom. San Antonio: The University of Texas at San Antonio, 2013. http://eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1004890.pdf.

WCET. “Best Practice Strategies to Promote Academic Integrity in Online Education.” WCET. June 2009. http://wcet.wiche.edu/sites/default/files/Best-Practices-Promote-Academic-Integrity-2009.pdf