Reinforcing Academic Integrity in Physical and Virtual Classrooms

The new school year has started under drastically different circumstances than we have known in our lifetimes.

Blended learning is being deployed as a solution to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across Southeast Asia. We have seen educators quickly adapting to new ways of delivering lessons and feedback, as well as grading students’ work in distance learning and virtual environments. 

Naturally, there is also some concern about maintaining academic integrity when courses are being conducted with fewer opportunities for face-to-face interactions. The reduction of physical classroom interactions does not mean that academic integrity has to suffer.

New technologies enable teachers to detect academic integrity issues early so that they have the opportunity to teach students to convey their original thinking and properly attribute ideas. Students can also use these tools to check their work before submitting it to reinforce a culture of integrity in blended classrooms.

A ‘Culture of Integrity’ Across All Classrooms

Despite the sudden changes in how education is being deployed system-wide, academic integrity is still a key concept to discuss and establish with all students. Starting with the syllabus, educators can address academic integrity by defining it and stating the consequences of submitting plagiarized work, then continue to teach tangible lessons around it throughout the class. Without this critical foundation to empower and encourage learning, students pick up dishonest habits, such as plagiarism and contract cheating, which can be difficult to break beyond the classroom. 

In addition to building a community around academic integrity with clearly defined expectations for students, educational institutions and teachers need to weave it into all aspects of the course from class assignments to assessments.

Technology supports these efforts and addresses emerging trends in academic integrity, allowing educators to detect unoriginal work quickly and turn it into a student learning experience. Tools for digital assessment and feedback also empower educators to improve interaction and engagement with students who are adjusting to virtual classrooms as the norm.

For students, plagiarism can begin innocently with an improper citation of a source or not having the habit of citing sources from the first draft of a writing assignment. This incomplete understanding of academic integrity can lead to unethical behavior, if not caught and corrected early.

Remote learning can make students feel more anonymous than in a face-to-face setting and might increase the temptation to take shortcuts when referencing ideas, or participate in collusion, whereby students get help from family, friends or other contacts to write their work.

Stressed students can also be more susceptible to the opportunities to engage in cheating online, and this current learning environment is undoubtedly contributing to their stress. The ability to convey original thought and properly attribute the ideas of others is a core part of student learning.

Academic integrity is key to instilling this ability and teaches foundational, life-long skills that students carry with them long after school, in society, and in the workplace.

As students settle into a new school year filled with unpredictable challenges, educational institutions should use this opportunity to reinforce academic integrity as part of their values.

Even before reaching university, students can learn to express original ideas and undertake proper citations.

Education systems and institutions also need to work collectively to identify the right solutions to enhance outcomes for their students in blended learning environments. Online learning and virtual classrooms will be a key education module long after the pandemic, and upholding academic integrity is just as important in virtual classrooms as in-person learning environments.

These steps ensure that institutions maintain positive reputations and that students continue to receive a high-quality education in these unforeseen times.

Cover Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Editor’s note: This is a contributed article from Turnitin.

About the Author

Jack Brazel is the Head of Business Partnerships of Turnitin in South East Asia. He has been responsible for the growth of Turnitin in Southeast Asia since December 2015, focusing on the higher educaon sectors in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

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