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What Educators Are Saying About Academic Integrity

“I think we need to be clear with our students what is cheating. Some students do not even know that they are cheating in certain situations.” – Associate Professor, West Coast University

“Academic dishonesty should be clearly defined in the Students’ code of conduct. This should be shared with all students. For example, some students are genuinely shocked that ‘recycling a term paper’ from one course/semester to another is a form of dishonesty.” – Assistant Professor, Community College of Philadelphia

Cheating is understandably a hotly contested topic in higher education. 

Especially in a digital world, questions of authorship, ownership, originality, and collaboration pose challenges to traditional ideas of academic integrity, and cause confusion for students.

At Course Hero’s event, “Rising Together: Effective Assessment for Students and Teachers,” educators from around the world joined in on a conversation about cheating, why it happens—and how to address it.

The conversation was enlightening, offering a variety of perspectives on academic dishonesty and how to navigate it collaboratively with students.

What is cheating, and when does it occur?

Knowing what constitutes cheating may seem easy to teachers who have been in the classroom a long time. But students who don’t have years of academic research experience will often learn by making mistakes. 

For example, students are told that “recycling” a term paper is considered dishonest—when they clearly see teachers recycling syllabi and lectures. It can be puzzling, and may even seem inconsistent. 

“One complaint I’ve heard from students is instructors who use other people’s videos, assignments, resources, etc. and are frustrated that they are expected to do all their own work when instructors don’t follow the same guidelines.” – Writing Mentor, Arizona State University

Along these same lines, students often share resources and study materials with one another. This can happen online, or it can happen in a good old-fashioned study group. 

But when does studying together and sharing resources cross the line of academic integrity? 

“What is cheating? Is sharing quiz questions and answers cheating?” – Instructional Developer, Bellarmine University

Assessments and quizzes are especially sensitive topics when it comes to academic integrity. But some faculty find that offering alternative approaches to assessment is not only a good practice, but incredibly helpful for students.

“Since one way students learn is through repetition, quizzes or tests that allow them multiple tries is a way they can be exposed to the content. Some instructors think it is cheating, but students may remember the material more than studying for a test, and forgetting it after they walk away.” – Assistant Professor, Edward Waters University

How do we talk about academic integrity with students?

“In past classes I’ve set up space for students to talk with one another about academic integrity and their expectations for each other. I give them some questions as prompts and leave the room so they can converse openly. My hope is that they will feel more accountable to one another instead of assuming that no one else is impacted.” – Director of Academic Assessment, University of the Pacific

Academic integrity can be more than a policy, it can become a pedagogical tool. In many cases, educators find that really relating to students, trying to understand their perspectives and backgrounds, is vital. 

“Because of the prevalence of academic dishonesty, we explored the idea of ‘restorative justice/practices’ rather than punitive justice, which tries to use the dishonesty as a learning experience—primarily for first, NOT repeat offenders.” – Assistant Professor, Community College of Philadelphia

Because the difference between original work and referenced sources can be hard to understand for some students, it’s important to think carefully about when cheating might be accidental.

“How much of cheating is intentional? I am thinking about essays in which plagiarism takes place. How much of this is not having the ability to write academically sound papers and given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes?” – E-Learning Technologist, North-West University

Learning from our mistakes is human, but it’s rarely included in classroom policy. Finding ways to connect with students—even if it just means spending more time discussing your academic policy in the syllabus—could mean the difference between success and failure.

Interested in joining conversations like these? Learn from other educators like you through Course Hero’s events, meetups, and more. Reach out to [email protected] for more information.

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