Community of Academic Integrity
A great way to be proactive about academic integrity is to create a "community of integrity," in which more direct effort is taken to involve students in course policy decisions, procedures, and education in their online courses. Doing so invites students to take increased ownership of their actions and develop a stronger understanding of what is expected of them and their work. While some academic integrity strategies that rely heavily on warnings and penalties can seem invasive or make online students feel that their instructor does not trust them, working to create a community of learners instead fosters respect between an instructor and their students. The strategies that follow can all be used to help build a community of integrity within an online course.
While academic integrity standards may hold constant across the University, online students often find that specific policies and procedures differ in each online course they take. To avoid confusion, make sure to provide them with clear guidelines for all course assessments and assignments. If the course will require research, for example, be abundantly clear about the citation style that's expected or any specific formatting or citation rules the course may have. If part of your online course utilizes group work, make clear when collaboration on course work is acceptable and when it's not, especially when only certain elements of the course utilize groups. We also strongly recommend the use of detailed rubrics for assignments so that assessment standards and expectations are well-known in the course. Any and all of these preparations can help avoid academic integrity violations in your online courses.
Using a community approach to preventing academic integrity violations necessitates shared work and responsibility among online instructors and students. Rather than giving students a pre-made honor code or set of course policies, instructors can work with students to help shape and create guidelines for their course; it's a good idea to use Loyola’s Academic Integrity Statement as an example to start with.
Collaborating with students in this manner has several advantages. First, creating a set of academic integrity principles and rules with students necessitates having a conversation about what is expected of students, what constitutes a violation, and even what academic and professional honestly looks like in a specific field of work. Second, students are more likely to feel a sense of responsibility toward an academic integrity code in which they had input, and less likely to feel alienated by its enforcement. Third, creating a code of conduct for each course taught allows instructors to adapt their policies to the specific work of the course they're in, often an advantage for upper-level online courses that delve into very detailed professional work.
Even when created in a community, instructors should have students go through the step of acknowledging or “accepting” the terms of any academic integrity code in their online courses. Including questions on policy in a syllabus quiz is also an effective way to have students become more familiar with the academic integrity rules of the course.
Students come to online courses from a variety of educational backgrounds, making it difficult to assume what they do and don't already know about academic integrity and what constitutes a violation. It's always good, then, to review academic integrity concepts with students and educate them on policies, violations, and possible penalties.
This is perhaps especially true in the case of plagiarism, a form of academic dishonesty that students may commit without even realizing it. Students may not be familiar with all citations styles coming into college, even some of the more common ones like APA. In addition, they may not have been previously educated on all forms of plagiarism, including improper paraphrasing, using parts of other media (like audio and images), etc. Instructors - especially those in lower-level courses - would do well to survey students at the beginning of an online course to determine their familiarity with these concepts, then deliver focused tutorials or guides to students that still need guidance.
Online instructors will benefit from spending some time reviewing plagiarism and proper citation, especially if a course uses a less common citation system (i.e., not MLA or APA). In addition, instructors can send online students to several University resources, such as the University Libraries’ What is Plagiarism? page and their Avoiding Plagiarism Quiz.
Giving students an opportunity to practice any new skill or concept before a scored, high-stakes performance is sound pedagogical advice in general, but is particularly apt when it comes to helping prevent academic integrity violations. Especially in the case of writing and citation, allowing students in online courses the opportunity to practice that citation - whether through a draft of a paper or an annotated bibliography that's composed before any writing begins - can help clarify any confusion that might get students into trouble. It's important to keep in mind that instructors should give students feedback on their practice of citation or other skills to reinforce proper work.