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Preventing academic misconduct

From the first class, faculty members need to set the stage – clearly communicate the expectations about academic integrity while explaining course assignments and activities. The course is a journey that students and the instructor take together. It is built on relationships. If students perceive that the instructor doesn't care about the course – for example, s/he is constantly late for class, is not available for meetings, has unclear or unfair grading systems, returns work late with little or no feedback, has not made an effort to get to know students' names – students can feel that the faculty member doesn't care about their success or progress. Research shows that academic misconduct is higher in classes where the students feel they are anonymous.

Many opportunities for misconduct can be reduced by the instructor. Are you providing opportunities for students to cheat? Don't make cheating in your course easy. Here are a few tips:

  • Try to learn students' names. Getting to know your students helps reduce misconduct.
  • Inform students that you are going to be checking for academic misconduct. Use the Turnitin.com paragraph in your syllabus. Make a point of using some type of detection service at least once, even if only on 10 randomly selected assignments. Tell the students what you have done and what you have found. Even the threat of checking work will reduce the misconduct.
  • Even better than random checks, use Turnitin.com to allow students to see their Originality scores BEFORE they hand in their assignments. That way they will learn about acceptable paraphrasing. You will need to teach students how to understand the report (i.e., if they have used quotation marks and provided a citation, that is an acceptable match; if they have only changed a few words here and there, they need to properly paraphrase the passage and provide a citation, etc.).
  • Be clear about grading systems. Use a rubric. Students need to know what the expectations are for the work they are doing. Blackboard has a rubric tool to assist students and faculty in communicating those expectations.
  • In group work, develop a portion of the mark for individual contributions. Working collaboratively in groups is an essential skill, but students rebel when they feel their contribution is being unfairly awarded to those in the group who do not contribute. 

In Assignments

  • Try to change assignments every semester.
  • Assign narrow and specific research topics.
  • Use scaffolded assignments, such as: 
    • Requiring that outlines be submitted three to four weeks prior to the deadline
    • Having students submitted an annotated bibliography prior to the final paper
  • Provide assignments that contribute to the learning outcomes of the course. Students prefer assignments are meaningful and interesting. Avoid busy work or trivial assignments.
  • Provide the resources that students are to work with, particularly if the research component is not included in the overall evaluation. This prevents the opportunity to buy papers.
  • Don't allow last-minute changes of topic.
  • Drafts can be posted on the course site. Using Blackboard's peer review tool, students can comment on each other's drafts.
  • Clearly explain you're the requirements and the grading scheme. A rubric can assist in this process.
  • Require detailed citations, including page numbers.
  • Encourage students to come to you or your TA if they are confused about citation and referencing practices. The Learners' Support Centre also offers seminars in APA and MLA.
  • In testing, randomize questions and answers as much as possible.

In tests and exams

  • During a test with laptops, don't allow students to sit in the back row. Have a proctor or you sit in the back row.
  • If you can't have an empty seat between each student, use colour-coded versions of the test or exam so students sitting beside each other do not have the same test.

For more detailed information, please download and read the article below:

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