Report outlines rise in academic dishonesty at U of M
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This article was published 04/02/2021 (844 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Academic misconduct spiked at the University of Manitoba when the campus went virtual in the springtime, with a new report indicating allegations of cheating rose by seven-fold in 2019-20.
University senate members discussed the latest annual disciplinary report, which details academic and non-academic misconduct, with author Brenda Hann during a meeting Wednesday afternoon.
The report outlines academic misconduct including fraud, cheating, duplicate submission, inappropriate collaboration, personation, plagiarism and other categories.
Between Sept. 1, 2019 and Aug. 31, 2020, there were 1,137 such allegations levelled against 943 students — up from 706 incidents involving 644 students during the same period one year prior.
“This undoubtedly has a relationship to the remote delivery of courses that began in the last third of the winter term of 2020,” said Hann, chairwoman of the discipline committee, during the video conference call.
While the virtual campus model has seemingly resulted in a drop in non-academic incidents, of which there were 166 last year, there has been a significant spike in cheating, with plagiarism up slightly in comparison to 2018-19 figures.
Some students were accused of cheating after taking online tests from the same IP address as others, signifying collaboration. Others reportedly communicated during exams or accessed unauthorized material.
In a remote learning environment, there has been “an arms race” between students finding ways to cheat and instructors finding prevention methods, Hann said, adding the result has been an “enormous workload” for faculties to record the information.
A total of 101 misconduct incidents are pending at present.
“Each one is a story about a student who made a bad decision and probably didn’t understand the consequences if they were to be caught. It’s heartbreaking, in many ways,” said Michael Shaw, president of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association.
“Each one is a story about a student who made a bad decision and probably didn’t understand the consequences if they were to be caught. It’s heartbreaking, in many ways.”–Michael Shaw
Shaw, a biology senior instructor, witnessed firsthand an increase in academic dishonesty in the spring. He has since started talking to his students openly about misconduct and added fewer multiple choice options to online exams while requiring more written responses.
His students are also required to do an academic integrity quiz before unlocking an exam.
Making absolutely clear the terms and conditions of an online exam is key, Shaw said, adding instructors likely didn’t do enough to provide such expectations during the initial COVID-19 disruptions last year.
“The more education moves online, I think the blurrier the lines are between ordinary internet use and cheating,” said R.J. Leland, an assistant professor of moral philosophy.
Some instructors are using proctoring tools, which may require students to turn on their laptop cameras to be observed, but both Leland and Shaw discourage their use, citing concerns about privacy and false positives.
Instead, Leland said educators can give collaborative finals where group work is built-in to defeat the incentive of peer consultation, and so students can keep an eye on one another.
Jelynn Dela Cruz, president of the U of M students’ union, said peer pressure in online class group chats is one factor that could be making cheating more tempting this year.
Between mental health concerns, ever-changing COVID-19 circumstances and increasing student fees, students are under a lot of additional pressure this year, Dela Cruz said. “It’s really up to the student body and individual students, whether you’re in a class group chat or not, to really make independent decisions to hold your integrity,” she added.
UMSU launched a social media campaign about proper conduct during remote finals last semester to deter misconduct and plans to launch a similar one in the spring.
During the Wednesday senate meeting, Hann said it’s important to note both students and staff have a role to play in upholding academic integrity.
“Instructors have been working valiantly — to improve their assessment methods, to improve their abilities to keep a level playing field, just as students are,” she said.
The discipline committee chair added that while the percentage of the student body engaged in misconduct has risen, it remains relatively low, at 4.3 per cent. The five-year average is 2.9 per cent.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.
Updated on Thursday, February 4, 2021 1:45 PM CST: Corrects Michael Shaw's title.