The International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) Conference is one of the highlights of the year for people interested in the academic integrity field. The 2022 conference took place virtually, with a great mix of discussion going on in the background of the presentations and in the Whova app used for managing the programme.
Sometimes I write a long review about the conference. This year, I just want to share a few key takeaway messages. To me, much of the conference was about reinforcing ideas, rather than presenting the results of new research studies. In fact, I rather felt at times there were presentations holding back their research results for future publication, which is rather a shame with such a large and interested audience.
The conference was also celebrating 30 Years since the ICAI was formed (quite an achievement), as well as looking towards the future. Thoughts about the future featured heavily in the panels and in many of the presentations.
With four parallel sessions, I couldn’t attend everything, so these are some of my takeaways from the sessions I did get to attend.
Students As Academic Integrity Partners Are Key For The Future
There were several excellent examples shared during the conference about how students and staff can work together, both to promote academic integrity initiatives and to conduct research. Both staff and students reported how valuable such arrangements were. The students from Bow Valley College talked about the benefits of being part of a community and how this had helped them with motivation to reach their goals.
Prakhar Nagpal presenting with me on academic integrity research
I can relate to those benefits from my own experiences. In my presentation, I shared presenting duties with Prakhar Nagpal, one of my own students, and we talked about research we’d conducted looking at how to identify misuse of homework help sites.
Students from Maynooth SU talked about the ways in which they had been approached by companies wanting them to breach academic integrity. They found particular problems with sites designed to help students to cheat in maths and that students did not necessarily consider these as problematic in the same way that they might for services designed to create written work for them.
They also found that staff did not have a good understanding of the advertising and temptation that students are exposed to. This is something for the academic integrity community to work on in staff development sessions and which students could play a huge role to lead or support.
Academic Integrity Information Is Often Hard For Students To Find
Academic integrity policies tend to be written in a manner that is difficult for students to understand. It was very pleasing to hear about work at Maynooth SU which plans to write user friendly versions of these.
Mary Davis also stressed how academic misconduct procedures being put into place against a student could lead to them being seen as an outsider and not knowing where to go for help. This situation was made worse by having policies that were overly long, poorly structured and not written in student-friendly language. Mary encouraged institutions to review their local documentation against the Universal Design for Learning principles.
Staff working at the University of Calgary shared an interesting approach they’d used, adding answers to common academic integrity questions to a chatbot. The introduction of the chatbot was not without problems as it also identified how much information was missing, but the staff were able to get a good sense of the type of questions students were asking, which included a lot of requests for help with citing and referencing. No matter how much work takes place to help students with referencing, there are always opportunities for more support.
The Future Is Technology, But Technology Is Not Academic Integrity
The term arms race has come up a lot recently, relating to the idea that as the technology available to breach academic integrity improves, so too does the technology required to offer a defence. It’s a situation I can relate to as a computer scientist, seeing people working on technology at both sides of this problem. At one side, there is a wish to write better automated text to look more like a human. At the other side, such technology can be misused to write assignments in place of a human.
The problem is that not everyone understands technology, how to engage with it, or its limitations. This is evident when people talk about text matching software, where they often want to translate difficult time consuming investigations into a simple process. For example, they may just want a simple number which tells them if work is plagiarised or not.
But, let’s face it. Technology isn’t always the most natural thing for everyone, as seen when one delegate accidentally shared their ongoing Teams chat in place of their presentation slides.
In a panel discussion I was part of, I asked delegates to consider how they could support students to embrace changes in technology and prepare students for the future.