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Building a culture of academic integrity in a remote learning environment

If you're worried about academic integrity while teaching remotely, you’re not alone. A recent survey indicates that 93% of teachers believe students are more likely to cheat if attending school online.

This concern is not unfounded; plagiarism is prevalent and accessible for students, especially now. At Kansas State University, academic integrity violations jumped from 97 cases in the 2019 fall semester to 238 cases in the online-only 2020 spring semester. At University in Florida, compared to the 2019 spring semester, academic integrity violations increased by 65%  in the 2020 semester.

Using a strategic approach to upholding academic integrity is how you solve this problem. What we've learned working with institutions for over two decades is that plagiarism isn't just an issue of cheating. It's a symptom of other challenges and reveals a fundamental skills gap with consequences for students' future and institutions' reputation.

Whether you’re a remote instruction beginner, a seasoned expert, a college professor, or a secondary education teacher, it’s critical that your students not only understand what plagiarism is, but also have the tools to build critical thinking skills to produce original work in a remote learning environment.

You need more than plagiarism detection to maintain academic integrity

As an educator, you're already encouraging your students to complete honest, original work. But it's important to understand that academic integrity isn't just avoiding plagiarism. The International Center for Academic Integrity defines academic integrity as a commitment to the following values, plus the courage to act on them: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility.

Aligning these values with your classroom standards or school standards is a huge step toward achieving academic integrity. It's a process that requires participation from everyone, including educators, administrators, and students. This is how a culture of academic integrity develops: an alignment of community values and buy-in from all stakeholders. Research shows that an active commitment to teaching academic integrity reduces plagiarism and academic dishonesty.

It’s more than just a general “don’t cheat” message. Academic integrity is something to strive for. If you invoke the five values of academic integrity and work to create a class or campus-wide honor code — that students help create — the academic dishonesty and plagiarism rates will be far lower.

Strategies to uphold academic integrity remotely

There are several obstacles to upholding academic integrity in remote classes: the inability to see what students are doing, the difficulty in guiding them through the research process, and the lack of personal interaction that builds trust and positive class culture. However,  educators have many solutions can do to overcome these hurdles:

  • Teaching the key values of integrity and referring to them throughout the year, especially during/around the assessment period
  • Teaching students proper citation rules
  • Providing students with strategies and tools to help them avoid unintentional plagiarism
  • Teaching strategies for thinking critically about the credibility of online sources
  • Clearly communicating assignment expectations
  • Designing formative assessments that are fair, varied, and rigorous
  • Providing actionable, formative feedback throughout the assignment writing process

Read more: How to minimize cheating in online assessments

Accomplishing these things is challenging, considering how hard it can be to deliver remote assessments with integrity. Moreover, it's also difficult to keep up to date with new types of plagiarism. This is where e-learning and edtech solutions come in.

Bolstering academic integrity with e-learning solutions

The mission of e-learning solutions is to make the teaching/learning process easier for everyone. Remote education doesn’t have to be a stumbling block as e-learning technology enhances the virtual learning experience. With the help of these tools, instructors can easily streamline the assessment-feedback cycle, share resources, provide accommodations and modifications, and deliver secure assessments.

A solution available to NEO LMS users is the Turnitin Feedback Studio, which incorporates similarity checking, feedback, and grading to safeguard institutional reputation and deter plagiarism. A vast database of internet, academic, and student paper content ensures reliable results when checking student work for similarity with other academic materials. Time-saving formative feedback and grading tools help students cultivate writing excellence, build critical thinking skills for university and career readiness. Teachers can also easily check assignments to identify plagiarism. This tool helps build a culture of academic integrity in the remote classroom by educating students to submit authentic work.

NEO LMS and Turnitin Feedback Studio: the specifics

Educators can simply enable Turnitin Feedback Studio in NEO and start using it. Feedback Studio has many features that work seamlessly in the LMS, so it won't feel as if you are managing two platforms at once.

  • Draft Coach is a new feature that helps foster writing and research skills by giving students instant feedback to guide editing and revision in Google Docs
  • QuickMarks is a drag-and-drop comment feature for fast and practical feedback
  • The Feedback Studio grading rubrics help you clearly communicate expectations to students. You can post rubrics with corresponding point values and then evaluate student work using the rubrics. It makes the turnaround cycle for graded work faster and less stressful for both teachers and students
  • Feedback Studio also compares the similarity of student work to a vast collection of previously published internet, academic, and student paper content

NEO LMS and Turnitin Feedback Studio: the specifics

If educators want to go beyond the comprehensive plagiarism detection tools offered by the Turnitin Feedback Studio, they should try Turnitin Originality, a supplement to the Turnitin plagiarism detection feature. Originality flags potential text manipulations, code similarity, and contract cheating, which are increasingly common. In fact, one in six students admit to having engaged in contract cheating.

The state of things for remote educators

The coronavirus pandemic put immense, sudden pressure on remote learning. Although it is still a challenge to ensure academic integrity in online classrooms, the future of remote learning is hopeful. In this chaotic period in education, e-learning and edtech solutions are going to be very helpful.

But e-learning isn’t the be-all and end-all of online instruction. E-learning tools are meant to help educators, not replace them. Teachers should support students by teaching them how to use e-learning technology and using learning platforms that integrate formative assessments. Teachers are the leaders of the learning process. Student success begins with them and the classroom culture they create.

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