Threats to Academic Integrity
Threats to academic integrity can occur regardless of how the instruction is being delivered, but an online course presents a unique set of circumstances that may make it a little more challenging depending on the instructional material to be delivered.
Exam integrity is always the first thing that people think about in an online course. How do we know who is taking the test? How do we know what they’re doing when they take the test? Both are important questions, and fortunately technology has advanced rapidly so these questions are much less of a concern than in previous years.
Before we talk about exams, let’s talk about other forms of assessment. If you are teaching an entry-level seminar with many students, then exams are probably going to be your only realistic method of evaluation. If you are teaching a more advanced course or a course with a smaller enrollment, project-based learning is a good alternative that encourages student engagement with the course material to develop a summative project that demonstrates their understanding or mastery of the course objectives. These can be iterative with an extended time frame that culminates with a student presentation. This could be a live presentation during a Collaborate or Zoom session or it could be a presentation that a student (or group of students) records and shares with you and the class. There are a lot of creative ways to measure learning with smaller groups, and your instructional designer can work with you to brainstorm ideas that would work for your context.
Exams are a fact of life in most undergraduate courses, and giving tests to people separated by time and space can seem like a big leap of faith. However, technological advances have made test taking more secure than ever.
Realtime proctoring tools record your students while they complete their exams and even flag video when the system detects certain student behaviors such as looking away from the computer screen or interacting with others in the room.
Many students would never cheat on an exam or even set out to commit violations of the academic integrity policy but still do so through poorly written and sourced work. Blackboard has an anti-plagiarism checker built in to allow you to check student work against a database of publications as well as an institutional database of student work previously submitted. In most cases, the report will indicate that the student didn’t cite quoted material or other sloppy undergraduate mistakes. This is why the plagiarism tool, SafeAssign, can also be a valuable teaching tool. You can allow the students to see the reports too. This helps them to understand what they are doing wrong before it becomes a problem. Many instructors find the institutional database check to be helpful. Because every paper that goes through a check enters the database, you will be able to identify papers that have been presented by other students in earlier semesters.
Now that you have considered academic integrity from an online perspective, let’s move on to the next topic.