Supporting academic integrity: visions for legislation, practical strategies and shared experiences. Key highlights from today's webinar:
- We should integrate students in the process, and make sure they learn from this process. We should build a culture of academic integrity and make students partners - let them have a voice. Make the incentive about maintaining credibility and think about academic integrity far beyond essay writing.
- Teaching academic integrity has to be integrated into every element of teaching. Whilst technology provides detection of cheating with additional tools, it doesn’t bring a solution on it’s own.
- We should support students by showing them they don’t need to go to essay mills: explain how they can get help, how they can develop skills. Students must understand that writing an essay does take time, but there are some helpful tools. Academic integrity should be built into sessions throughout the term, not seen as a one off.
- We need to plant into students minds that they need to look for help, the right help. Students need to learn from their feedback and grow with it - it’s all part of the learning process and they shouldn’t expect to be experts in their academic writing straight away. It’s about the joy of learning the subject.
- Students must also understand that help from essay mills is isolationist, whereas the right help is collaborative. Students should work with, and get help from others: peers, professors; academic support teams; NUS; class reps. Rather than going to an essay mill if students are desperate, they should ask for an extension.
- Legislation passed in Australia (Nov-20) targets the essay mill companies and any advertisers, but does not penalise students. On university campuses these sites cannot be accessed, but anyone trying to can be identified. Despite measures to block sites on search engines, Google is already starting to adapt. So whilst any barrier that helps remove the opportunity is a good thing, the importance is in academic integrity as opposed to the opportunity for cheating.
- New research from QAA is being published in the next couple of months offering further guidance for universities. This will address the pace of the increased usage of essay mills. The report examines what happens as a result of all these investigations? Are certain groups being disproportionately investigated?
- The focus on awareness of essay mills should be addressed to both students and staff; be as clear as you can to students, peers and academic service teams the risks in exposing yourself and your data to these exploitative less than reputable companies.
- Since October last year, 103 universities have signed up to the QAA charter to date - more are encouraged. Whilst lots of work is happening in the sector in local ways, by individuals or faculty, a holistic approach including senior leaders and governance level is needed.
A fantastically engaged audience with a constant stream of interesting comments and questions throughout, plus useful resources (see below) - all testament to our wonderful panel of experts who we thank enormously:
- Dr Thomas Lancaster: Imperial College London, Computer Science academic, researcher into academic integrity, plagiarism and contract cheating
- Sharon Perera: Academic Support Team Manager, University of Greenwich
- Dr Guy Curtis: Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Science, School of Psychological Science, The University of Western Australia
- Cecilia Danielsson: Student at Birkbeck, University of London
- Simon Bullock: Quality and Standards Specialist, QAA
- Professor Cliff Allan (host): Studiosity UK Academic Advisory Board member, Former VC at Birmingham City University
You can watch the full video recording here.
Useful links shared in the chat functionality:
- Dr Thomas Lancaster and Codrin Cotarlan: Contract cheating by STEM students through a file sharing website: a Covid-19 pandemic perspective, paper
- ‘Reading Between the Lines: Exploring the Essay Mill Industry’ a short film produced by two Journalism students at Nottingham Trent University
- Resources of interest from Dr Guy Curtis: TEQSA Academic Integrity Toolkit
- QAA charter
- Paper: Plagiarism Management: Challenges, Procedure and Workflow Automation