As part of my academic work with the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency I delivered a short webinar presentation looking at technology and assessment in light of Covid-19 and the move to online teaching.
The slides considered why academic integrity is still important, the threats posed to academic integrity in the current situation and the associated technological tools available to support education and quality assurance.
The webinar was well-received and led into an interesting panel discussion. One of the areas that attracted interest was my point that technology is a tool, not a solution. Software designed to identify similarity and detect plagiarism can be useful for helping students to improve their writing and ensuring academic integrity, but the use of such a tool does not mean that documents are all free of plagiarism. There are similar analogies to consider for software designed to ensure the integrity of online exams.
I do think the sector has done well to adapt to supporting students using teaching and assessment modalities that are new to everyone in a very short time period, but this does not mean that we should be complacent. We can use this as an opportunity to innovate and improve the standard of education for all students, whilst still preserving academic integrity.
I’m currently a member of the QAA expert group that is creating guidance on academic integrity for the UK higher education sector. The QAA has been doing much excellent work in this area stemming from their previous work on contract cheating.
In order to help to develop and share good practice, they have recently launched a pilot project on academic integrity as part of their enhancing partnerships work. For this project, teams from different UK universities will meet regularly over the course of a year to develop their academic integrity practice.
I presented the keynote at their first meeting, bringing together many of the latest findings and open questions in this field.
Academic integrity will continue to offer challenges. During the presentation, I tried to remove the idea that many seem to have that academic integrity just relates to a “battle” where we try to stop students from cheating. The metaphor does not work for me and there are so many more aspects that we have to think about.
I promoted the idea that universities should use their students as part of their academic integrity working group. They, after all, have a vested interest in the results of assessment. I will be following the remaining of the pilot project with interest to see if many of the universities taking part adopted that approach.
Here is a short video introduction to why contract cheating is a problem (it only last 1 minute and 39 seconds).
The video uses some of the recommendations from the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) report on contract cheating, released in October 2017. I was part of the team steering the report and have been speaking about it in media interviews. It’s great to see the national push asking universities to address this form of academic misconduct.
What I don’t do in the video is define contract cheating or go into a lot of detail about it. I deliberately wanted to keep this one short and shareable.
The video looks at why contract cheating is an issue, some recent numbers about the extent of contract cheating (the source in the video says that 7% of students have contract cheated at least once) and to look at solutions, particularly regarding the movement to work with students and promote academic integrity.