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Ensuring academic integrity in an online environment isn't quite as challenging as it may seem--and some simple steps can help

5 tips to build academic integrity


Ensuring academic integrity in an online environment isn't quite as challenging as it may seem--and some simple steps can help

The importance of academic integrity can’t be underestimated, especially when it comes to blended learning. And these aren’t just words. Statistics show there was a 68 percent increase in the number of integrity violations reported in 2019-2020 compared with 2018-2019.

With the rise of digital innovation, distance learning technology has become an integral part of blended learning – an approach that integrates technology and digital media with traditional instructor-led classroom activities. It also made academic integrity a significant point of concern. Students are now expected to possess an increased degree of autonomy – probably the highest in history, which might nudge them toward cheating.

Related content: 4 best practices for remote testing

Why is academic integrity important? The mission of the academic community is to promote learning through obtaining, preserving, and conveying knowledge. To achieve this, institutions must create an atmosphere of honesty. However, a lot of establishments fail in this regard, drastically impacting students, professors, and education in general.

Academic integrity violations affect teachers and lead to the underproduction of knowledge. Furthermore, it can harm an educational institution’s reputation–one of its most important assets–and sabotage the academic world as a whole. This is why every educator and academic institution needs to contribute to raising academic integrity, regardless of the learning model.

5 tips for building academic integrity

Blended learning creates a more autonomous work culture and teaches students to be flexible and responsible. However, there is a temptation to cheat when students feel that there is no one watching them. So, how do you prevent academic dishonesty in this new reality? Here are five tips for building academic integrity that work at times of blended learning.

1. Concentrate on students’ attitudes, rather than acts: Attitude can determine students’ ability and willingness to learn when they lack motivation or fail to grasp the material. What can we do to change students’ attitudes? Build up trust and acceptance between teachers and students.

In a recent interview, Zeenath Reza Khan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the University of Wollongong in Dubai, shared some insights on this issue: “I have seen that this helps tremendously because students build a rapport based on trust and respect and, with the way the subject is delivered and assessment designed, don’t often feel the need to resort to misconduct.”

2. Get students to think critically: Independent writing usually stems from independent thinking, which is at the forefront of the learning process. Independent thinking helps students draw conclusions from their personal experience and observations and to make critical decisions. It gives students the confidence to learn from their own mistakes and develop an original voice. So be sure to create more learning opportunities and foster students’ originality.

3. Build a culture of integrity: Students should know what plagiarism is to avoid committing it in the future. That’s why it is important to define academic integrity in plain and simple words, inform students about the negative consequences of cheating, and repeat the policies regularly.
When teaching students the importance of academic integrity, use social and emotional learning (SEL). This method helps acquire and effectively apply knowledge to understand and manage emotions, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

4. Approach teaching in new ways: Capturing students’ attention is quite a challenge, even for an experienced teacher. But creating an innovative, open, creative, and trustworthy space for students can help teachers with that. They should also try to incorporate a variety of innovative teaching methods, such as crossover learning, incidental learning, learning by doing, stealth assessment, and more.

5. Work on assessment design: Working on the assessment design is critical for any type of blended teaching. Teachers should try applying AI, machine learning technologies, and plagiarism detection software to tackle various types of plagiarism, text modification, and cheating with references and quotes.

Also, it’s a good idea to use remote proctoring software for online exams. It helps to see if students are switching to other browsers when taking exams and it analyzes their behavior. But be careful: proctoring software may raise additional privacy concerns.

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