Colby, E. (2022) Concern about Academic Integrity in Online Courses Decreased Among College Instructors After Experience with Remote Instruction Higher Ed Dive 26 January
Wiley (2020) Academic Integrity in the Age of Online Learning Wiley
Wiley (2022) New Insights into Academic Integrity Wiley
What is the study about?
The press release in Higher Education Dive provides a comparison between two surveys on academic integrity carried out by Wiley at the beginning of the pandemic and more recently. The first study also included a guide of 10 ways to discourage academic misconduct.
There is little information about the sample other than 789 instructors were interviewed in May 2020, two or three months into the pandemic. The results are provided as a set of infographics. In addition, an expert on academic integrity, Dr. Julia Phelan of UCLA, suggests 10 ways to discourage academic misconduct.
No information is given on how many students were interviewed.
For this survey, an email survey was sent to 133,589 instructors from the USA and Canada. Of these 2,868 (2%) responded, of whom 23% were WileyPlus users, and 5% were Canada-based. 60% of the instructors were in STEM-based subjects.
An email survey was also sent to 1,764 students from the USA and Canada. Of these 682 (39%) responded, of whom 64% were WileyPlus users, and 31% were Canada-based. There is a detailed breakdown of instructor and student demographics. The results are provided as a set of infographics.
- 93% of responders feel students are more likely to cheat online than in-person
- instructors believe that students are 62% more likely to cheat online than in-person
- 95% of responding students believe cheating happens both online and in-person
- 34% of instructors personally proctor/monitor tests
- 16% use webcams
- 15% incorporate lockdown browser
- 4% use plagiarism software
- 77% of responders feel students are more likely to cheat online than in-person
- 59% of responding students said it was easier to cheat online than in-person
- instructors introduced changes in assessment to reduce cheating:
- more open-ended questions (36%)
- question pools (34%)
- more project-based assignments (28%)
- assigned more essays (15%)
In addition there are questions on why students cheated and what would reduce cheating.
Wiley’s Vice-President of Digital Education argues that concerns about academic integrity in online courses have eased significantly among college instructors since 2020, when the transition to remote instruction was still ramping up. Many college instructors worried about problems with academic integrity when courses shifted to online instruction early in the pandemic… Our findings, however, suggest those concerns were greatly allayed as instructors gained more experience with remote coursework. Maybe. Nevertheless a large majority (77%) still think it’s easier to cheat online.
Wiley has an interest in these results because it ‘builds solutions to discourage cheating into its digital educational products and services.’
Although these results are interesting, I would suggest caution in interpreting them. The sampling is pretty dodgy, and self-reporting by students on such a topic is not likely to be reliable.
Nevertheless, this is an important topic. The advice on how to reduce cheating in the 2020 study is very useful. We need more research, but I would prefer better controlled and more in-depth scrutiny of cheating, both in-person and online, based on actual behaviour rather than on instructor opinions and student self-reporting. Cheating is not a phenomenon unique to online learning. It needs to be managed and discouraged in either environment.
More importantly, instructors need to be aware that it is insufficient just to look at online assessment without considering changing teaching methods for online learning. Examples would include more use of continuous, integrated assessment during the teaching and use of alternative assessment strategies such as e-portfolios and synchronous online oral examinations that lend themselves better to an online learning environment.
At the end of the day, instructors’ concerns about cheating in online learning often hide a general antipathy towards online learning in general. Get over it, it’s not going away. Just learn how to do it well, including online assessment.
The discourse in these studies and from vendors is, perhaps unintentionally, revealing.
Phrases like “reduce cheating” and “discourage academic misconduct” appear often. It may seem that there is no other way to discuss the topic. But, imagine the shift in thinking that occurs when we use phrases like “encourage academic honesty” instead. Imagine shifting from “tools for plagiarism detection” to, “tools to help students avoid plagiarizing”. This is a lot more than an exercise in feel-good semantics. The changes that instructors introduced in how they assess discussed in one of the surveys are much more to the point as Tony observes.
Notice also that the “catch the cheater” approach locates the source of the problem (and thus the ‘solution’) within the individual student, while the “promote academic integrity” approach gives the teacher and the learning environment much more agency and responsibility. Is it one or the other? No, it’s both.
Sadly, it’s much easier to stoke teacher & administrator fears and make a buck on a new suite of plagiarism detection tools than it is to patiently develop, research and share the assessment methods which mitigate the problem in the first place.
Want to sell your new invasive lockdown browser or plagiarism detector and make millions? Make sure teachers have neither the time nor the tools to plan and develop a mix of ongoing summative and project-based learning forms of assessment. Instead, make it as easy as flipping a switch to turn on the plagiarism detection tool as the final step in setting an assignment. I trust the irony here is obvious.