Academic Integrity

Questions? Contact Mr. Joel Symonds

Context and Challenge

Realities of Cheating

For years, the academic research has indicated that cheating at the post-secondary level is on the rise, especially given the easy-to-access resources (both material and human) via the Internet. The literature on this is very extensive and could easily fill a full literature review.

Anecdotal evidence (much peer-reviewed evidence is still undergoing the peer-review process) suggests pandemic-induced remote learning has significantly exacerbated this tendency, with remote-learning cheating extending into even such explicitly honour-based institutions as military academies. See the following general posts for an outline of expressed concerns:

Reasons for Cheating

Teaching with compassion requires, among many other things, an understanding of why students cheat, not simply a summary judgment and punishment of the deed.

The Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Education Innovation has an excellent, interactive site called Solve a Teaching Problem; one of the teaching challenges specified under the “Grading & Assessment” category is  Students cheat on assignments and exams.

Here, the site lays out ten common reasons university students cheat AND suggests specific strategies in response to each reason. Some of the reasons given include a lack of understanding regarding what comprises plagiarism, poor study skills & time management, high-stakes assessment, competition for grades, perceptions of a lack of consequence for cheating, and feeling as though they are anonymous in class.

(New) Resources for Cheating

With the rise of the euphemistically named “homework helper sites” such as Chegg, Quizlet, Course Hero, etc., cheating has never been easier or more enticing – not just for getting personal help with one’s own tests and assignments but for posting instructors’ notes, test questions, and other content both to “help” other students and to earn some money while doing so.

While these sites are not inherently nefarious and can, in fact, be helpful resources for useful teaching tools, sadly some students have used them for cheating, posting instructors’ notes, etc.

For instructors, then, the “cheating challenge” presented by the pandemic and such sites is, in effect, twofold: one, how to prevent students from cheating on tests and assignments; two, how to stop students from selling one’s course material for profit and corrupt purposes.

How to Prevent Students from Cheating

Besides identifying the specific reason(s) one’s students might cheat and implementing the relevant strategies as recommended in the Eberly resource (Students cheat on assignments and exams), instructors can also do the following to “head off cheating”:

  1. Speak about and explain academic integrity to your classes, show your students Lakehead’s policy statements and discuss the consequences, and address on your syllabus policies and consequences of cheating as well as resources to find help with writing and integrity issues.
  2. Create “less cheatable” tests, assignments, and assessment strategies. An extensive list of assignment types is available from the Teaching Commons, Online Strategies for Final Assessment.
  3. For each assignment, have students complete and submit an icon assignment similar to the template exercise from Waterloo: adapt it as appropriate to your courses and students. Such an exercise requires students to explicitly declare allowable resources, indicating that they have understood the assignment parameters – and also provides a declaration of awareness that could be used in any subsequent violation investigation.
  4. Have students read, sign, and attach the Copyright Compliance and/or Exam/Assignment Integrity statements. As well, introduce them to and have them acknowledge the clear guidance on the mycourselink Terms and Conditions page relating to copyright.  All of these statements are available on the Teaching Commons site - Sample Policy and Resource Statements

What To Do If You Find Your Students Have Used Chegg or Another “Homework Help” Website

Different “homework helpers” have different policies, but Chegg’s Terms of Use - Honor Code Policy provides one example from a popular site.

It includes a button to “Open an Investigation/Submit Request for Data” and a button to “Submit a DMCA Takedown” request for if “if you are a copyright owner and have a good faith belief that your copyrighted material has been uploaded to [their] website.”

For this, they specify the following: “To initiate an honor code investigation and request our assistance in identifying the nature of misuse or any information about users, you must be working with the office of the dean or the body in charge of handling matters of academic integrity at your university or institution. You will need to submit a signed copy of your request on official institution letterhead. This step cannot be waived or circumvented, as it is part of Chegg’s commitment to student privacy.”

Chegg also has a tool for faculty, called the Honour Shield, which supports their Honor Code and is designed to support the integrity of online exams. It works like this: “You [the instructor] upload your exam, we block students from accessing content during the exam. Honor code honored.” This, however, requires instructors to make their exams available to Chegg.

Generally, Chegg provides the following guidance to “professors and instructors” (direct quote):

Our services are designed to support learning, not replace it. Our tutors and subject matter experts work hard to supplement your instruction with a number of different tools. We offer step by step explanations, real time tutoring, and interactive feedback.

Please be as clear as possible with your students about what resources are appropriate for them to use on any given assignment. If you believe your students are using our services inappropriately, we encourage you to first have an open and honest discussion with your students.

If you cannot resolve your concerns directly with your students, please use the appropriate form below so that we can help address your concerns. While misuse of our platform represents an extremely small portion of the activity on our services, we understand how frustrating it can be in the context of the work you put into your classes. We also know how disappointing it is to confront academic dishonesty. We are constantly working to improve our abilities to detect and respond to issues around both copyright and academic integrity. We take both of these situations very seriously, and we will respond as quickly as possible.