Ontario Tech University
It has become increasingly easier for students to gain access to information through digital means. The modern student has so much information at their fingertips through mobile devices and technology that can be used to help them write assignments and curate research. Alongside this newfound access to information is the potential for taking the easy road and cheating. Educators are tasked with emphasizing integrity in the academic sense. This ease of access can lead to unintentional circumstances, and it is easy for students to get mired in the amount of information available to them. Because of this access to information, educators must guide students to be responsible 21st century digital citizens.
academic honesty, academic integrity, digital citizen, plagiarism
It has become increasingly easier for students to gain access to information through digital means. The internet has become a fundamental aspect of life and education in the 21st century. There are many positive benefits to this development. The modern student has so much information at their fingertips through mobile devices and technology that can be used to help them write assignments and curate research. Those of previous generations can only dream of the access to information that we have in the modern context. But like one famous web-slinging comic book character has oft repeated in the comics, ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’ Alongside this newfound access to information is the potential for taking the easy road and cheating. Educators are tasked with emphasizing integrity in the academic sense. Students may have the idea that the information found online is also owned by them. This notion, however, has to be dispelled and challenged. This ease of access can lead to unintentional circumstances, and it is easy for students to get mired in the amount of information available to them. One aspect that can exacerbate this issue is poor note-taking, in that students may forget to cite the work that they have found through online sources. Because of this access to information, educators must guide students to be responsible 21st century digital citizens. They must equip students with the skills necessary to navigate the potentially muddy waters of the digital world. With this in mind, there are a variety of tools and steps available to the make the digital learning environment a more honest and safer one.
Track Data Across the Student’s Curriculum
Data tracking and handling is an important skillset for teachers and students alike. Teachers keep track of grades, attendance, performance and other factors. Academic honesty is another aspect that can be tracked as well. You may ask why is it important to track such information? The answer is that tracking such information will help to pick out a pattern of behaviour over time and across the curriculum. Academic dishonesty is rarely a one-off incident and is usually indicative of a repeated pattern of behaviour. The reasons for such dishonesty include a lack of understanding of the subject matter, stress, time and life circumstances.
There is software available that can help educators to track such patterns, such as Turnitin and others that discover academic dishonesty. Recording such incidents through the LMS is one way of tracking this behaviour across a student’s academic career.
Analysis of the Data
Now that the data has been collected, an analysis can occur to determine where problem areas lie. It may be the case that students are cheating because they did not learn how to cite correctly. Or they may be cheating because of stress related to workload and juggling other courses. Data collection can help the educator get to the heart of the issue on a student-by-student basis. You may find that the majority of students cheat unintentionally due to a lack of knowledge. With this in mind, it is better to have a response that is geared more towards guidance rather than punitive action that leads to severe consequences. Extracurricular resources can be created to assist students with the appropriate citing techniques. Awareness of academic honesty and making these resources readily available are ways in which to combat the problem of dishonesty.
Many students have a good grasp of the digital landscape and technological tools available to them. The majority of students are well acquainted with digital and mobile devices for both education and personal use. That is why it is important for teachers to help guide students through the digital environment. Many of the issues surrounding academic honesty stem from how students manage the online experience. In this regard, educators need to take on the role of guide to assist students in understanding what academic honesty is all about and how to be a responsible digital citizen. Therefore, some recommended strategies for challenging academic dishonesty usually begin with educating students about what academic dishonesty is and the ways in which to avoid it (Fischer & Zigmond, 2011).
Notes and Managing Online Environments
Many students have not been effectively taught to take good notes when conducting research through digital means. This means that student sources are often missing, or improperly recorded. Oft times students may keep multiple tabs open, take information through digital sources and forget or neglect to record those specific resources. Guiding students towards these practices will help them to navigate the pitfalls of academic dishonesty. Software like Mendeley (2022) and Zotero (Corporation for Digital Scholarship, n.d.) are excellent resources to get students familiar with. These programs are great, particularly for the graduate and post graduate level.
Sources: What is Good Information and Bad Information?
How do students determine what is a good source of information and what is bad information? It has become increasingly difficult for students to decipher, which is why teachers need to be the guide in this situation. There are many good online tools for students to use when it comes to deciphering good information from the bad. After all, a student most likely does not want to source information from a disreputable source intentionally. Due to the immensity of the internet, it is quite easy for students to take information from others and feel that they are not responsible for citing those sources. There is also the issue of how academic honesty is handled in various parts of the world, as some jurisdictions do not place the same amount of emphasis on integrity and honesty as others. As an example, many students, particularly international students, may not have learned about plagiarism and may not be aware they have been dishonest in how they source other people’s work or believe that material on the internet is free to use (Ma, McCabe, & Liu, 2013; Xueqin, 2002; Scanlon & Neumann, 2002).
An ample amount of time needs to be spent by the educator to teach students the importance of academic integrity and honesty and the ramifications of misconduct. It is imperative that students are taught that cheating will ultimately not benefit them or help them achieve long term success. However, the focus still needs to be on guidance and proper sourcing techniques rather than punishment for misconduct. Park (2003) recommends that higher education develop the necessary frameworks for handling academic dishonesty based on prevention and supported by robust detection technologies and transparent rules about misconduct.
Students must be given a reason and purpose in maintaining academic honesty. Advanced and sophisticated technologies are playing a prominent role in helping to detect academic dishonesty and deter misconduct (Vilic & Cini, 2006). Although teachers have access to plagiarism checking software, cheating has become a much easier process for students. It needs to be instilled in students that they are the ones who are ultimately hurt by dishonesty in the long term. Instilling these principles in students will help mitigate the amount of academic dishonesty happening the classroom. In the modern digital learning environment, the analysis of data and the offering of tools and opportunities for learning about integrity and honesty can help to solve issues of dishonesty and cheating. Setting these standards at the educational level will help prepare students to become effective and discerning digital citizens.
Conclusions and Future Recommendations
During the pandemic, many institutions had to make the switch to online learning. Because of this, many educators found it difficult to monitor cheating and plagiarism. It certainly has become a prominent issue in the modern educational landscape. Perhaps it is the case that teachers can not be entirely sure if students are cheating, even with all the software and programs available to educators, such as turnitin and others. That being said, there are actions to take that can mitigate this risky behaviour. One way to do this is make testing and assessment as clear as possible. Make sure it is clear that work needs to be completed as an individual task or in groups. For younger students, it would be beneficial to let them and parents know how much adult assistance they can have on an assignment. These steps can help to reduce unintentional dishonesty. A great way to avoid academic dishonesty is to create customized quizzes, tests and assessments. This has also become easier to do in an online environment, as test answer banks and other forms of online assessment can be customized accordingly through LMS systems. Assessments can also be personalized for the students as well. Perhaps letting students submit work in a variety of formats can help to personalize the experience for the students and avoid some of the pitfalls of plagiarizing other people’s work. Vilic and Cini (2006) state that clearly developed instruction and assessments are strong deterrents to academic integrity violations.
Corporation for Digital Scholarship (n.d.). Zotero: Your personal research assistant. [Web page]. https://www.zotero.org/
Fischer, B.A., & Zigmond, M.J. (2011). Educational approaches for discouraging plagiarism. Urologic Oncology: Seminars and Original Investigations, 29(1), 100-103.
Ma, Y., McCabe, D., & Liu, R. (2013). Students’ academic cheating in Chinese universities: Prevalence, influencing factors, and proposed action. Journal of Academic Ethics, 11(3), 169-184.
Mendeley Ltd, (2022). Mendeley. [Web page]. https://www.mendeley.com/
Park, C. (2003). In other (people’s) words: Plagiarism by university students––literature and lessons. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 28(5), 471-488.
Scanlon, P.M., & Neumann, D.R. (2002). Internet plagiarism among college students. Journal of College Student Development, 43(3), 374-385.
Vilic, B., & Cini, M.A. (2006). User authentication and academic integrity in online assessment. In M. Hricko & S. Howell (Eds.) Online assessment and measurement: Foundations and challenges (pp. 341-358). Hershey, PA: Information Science.
Xueqin, J. (2002, May 17). Chinese academics consider a “culture of copying.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, A45-A46.