The COVID-19 pandemic changed how today’s students experience higher education in many ways—perhaps most profoundly in the way that students are tested. Pandemic stress and online testing methods have brought a lot of attention to the potential for dishonesty and highlight the importance of clearly communicating what academic integrity means to students.
In the move away from in-person learning, online testing was implemented en masse. Many remote proctoring platforms include provisions to reduce the likelihood of cheating. Some require students’ cameras to be on so they can be monitored for suspicious behavior, some disallow additional internet windows to be open during a test by locking down their browsers, and others randomize test questions so that they are presented to each student in a different order.
Higher education institutions have also implemented plagiarism checkers to ensure that reports and assignments received from each student are sufficiently unique, often by comparing submitted documents to what has been published on the internet as well as previously submitted school work.
Although testing technologies have changed profoundly in the past few years, the way in which academic integrity standards are communicated to students has not.
Why it’s time to consider a new approach to promoting academic integrity
Colleges have historically promoted standards for academic integrity by sharing links to policies, mandating workshops, and taking on disciplinary actions to enforce them when necessary. These methods work to a degree; however, new technologies open the door to considering new ways of communicating and enforcing academic honesty.
While online proctored testing platforms certainly can be beneficial, they are not without issues. Schools have a role to play in addressing some of the privacy and equity concerns of these software packages. For example, some platforms require students with darker skin to have a strong light shining on them so they can be effectively monitored by artificial intelligence programs. Some students with disabilities struggle when their “self-stimulatory” behavior is flagged as being suspicious. Other students may rightfully object to the expectation that they must show a scan of their room or living quarters before being allowed to sit for a test. Many students report increased anxiety when they are being proctored by an online program, which can result in lower academic achievement while raising more potential issues for students and schools.
In addition to the negative reinforcement of testing platforms, plagiarism checks, and disciplinary actions, schools can be proactive in positively reinforcing the importance of academic honesty. One way to do this is to change how academic integrity is being communicated. It’s possible to keep this top of mind throughout the year via regular reminders in a student-friendly online platform.
Another way for colleges to promote academic honesty is by recognizing and addressing some of the deep-seated reasons why many students cheat. Studies show that stress and anxiety can contribute to increases in academic dishonesty if students resort to cheating as a coping strategy. By proactively addressing these stresses and prioritizing the well-being of students, the need for coping may be reduced.
How CampusWell can help you foster a culture of positive reinforcement of academic integrity
CampusWell provides a student-centric online platform so that you can stay in touch with your students 24/7 wherever they are. You can use this for effective campus outreach to periodically remind students of school policies and resources, as well as invite them to events. A multi-departmental subscription can be used by any of your student affairs departments to regularly communicate important messaging (even beyond academic integrity) to your students.
In addition to publishing your own content, a CampusWell subscription comes with weekly science-backed articles covering all eight dimensions of wellness. Academic integrity is one aspect of intellectual wellness while stress management is part of emotional wellness.
CampusWell provides student-friendly content in multiple formats including articles, videos, infographics, and social media campaigns. When it comes to academic integrity, you can expect regularly published content on topics including study strategies, time management, and stress reduction to help students feel more confident in their test-taking abilities. Examples of recent articles include:
- The differences between paraphrasing and plagiarism
- How students can stay motivated to study
- Different study methods and how to know what works best for each student
- Avoiding temptations to cheat on exams
- Mindfulness techniques for dealing with exam stress.
CampusWell is a versatile platform that helps make a multi-departmental wellness initiative simple, sustainable, and engaging. Using technology, high quality, research-based content, and proven marketing strategies, together with your existing assets, we deliver a campus-wide wellness platform that will positively impact your students and institution.
CampusWell. (2018, April 1). How to encourage students not to cheat. https://default.campuswell.com/student-advocate-encourage-students-not-to-cheat/
Flaherty, C. (2020, May 11). Big proctor. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/05/11/online-proctoring-surging-during-covid-19
Hsu J. L. (2021). Promoting academic integrity and student learning in online biology courses. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education, 22(1), 22.1.17. https://doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v22i1.2291
Kisamore, J. L., Stone, T. H., & Jawahar, I. M. (2007). Academic integrity: The relationship between individual and situational factors on misconduct contemplations. Journal of Business Ethics, 75, 381–394. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-006-9260-9
Rowan, L. & Murray, F. (2021, June 22). Online learning has changed the way students work — we need to change definitions of ‘cheating’ too. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/online-learning-has-changed-the-way-students-work-we-need-to-change-definitions-of-cheating-too-163001
Stewart, B. (2020, December 3). Online exam monitoring can invade privacy and erode trust at universities. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/online-exam-monitoring-can-invade-privacy-and-erode-trust-at-universities-149335