I've been thinking a great deal about the issues of student integrity in the online environment (and everywhere) lately. It all started back in the fall of 2013, I gave a keynote presentation about the state of online learning in California.
Before the presentation, I was sipping coffee with some of the teachers in the room and we were talking about our students and how they have changed over these past few years. I originally had a whole presentation prepared about innovation and the like, but as I faced the teachers assembled waiting for my presentation, I changed my mind.
Instead of starting with my planned presentation, I started with a question. I asked those teachers how many had policies covering cheating and plagiarism on their course syllabi. Almost all raised their hands. I then asked how many had definitions as part of those policies and many hands went down. My last question was how many had a discussion forum set up that gave students insight into why integrity was important to them, both to the student and the teacher. Not a single hand remained in the air.
We so often jump to codify the infractions of cheating and plagiarism along with the strict consequences in our course policies. We assume, even though we know that we are not correct, that our students understand what cheating, plagiarism, and financial aid fraud actually are. Moreover, we assume that they both know when they are out of integrity with their work and know that it’s wrong to do!
How many times have you received email from students asking you to not drop them for failing, because they will loose their financial aid? This is a teachable moment! Let them know they are committing fraud. Obviously, they don’t know! Are we having conversations with students about how important integrity is to us and why it should be to them? Let’s work on that.
I think it is critically important that the teacher have that conversation with the student about not only defining what the problem is, but also having a conversation that lets students know why it should be important to them and IS important to us that they be original in their work and their lives.
The consequences of degrees that don't matter are huge for all of us, but the consequences for the student of being unprepared for life and work, is much more important to address.
Visit the wonderful blog post by Michelle Warn at WCET for some good information about strategies to cope with the problems of integrity in online environments.