Academic Integrity during COVID 19 Pandemic: A Student Perspective
Ariel E. San Jose, PhD
Academic integrity has been put into danger amidst the Covid 19 pandemic. It has become easier for students to undermine their academic honesty, such as copying others’ outputs, using the web during the tests, and asking surrogates to attend and produce their academic tasks such as assignments.
The transition to online evaluation of students’ outputs put immense pressure on teachers with insufficient time for curriculum adjustment. Many academic institutions had hope that everything would be the same as normal but things had gone the other way. The debate of intellectual honesty changed as face-to-face invigilated assessments were either online invigilated or converted to non-invigilated evaluations. Academic developers quickly prepared online academic integrity tools for teachers while finding ground in proven evidence-based concepts of academic integrity. However, despite the efforts of academic institutions, academic dishonesty had become rampant. Hence, it was a challenge for teachers how to appropriately give marks to the outputs of the students.
All over the world, academic dishonesty is a serious issue. Academic cheating is recognized at all grade lelves as a highly common and on-going problem (Finn & Frone, 2004). It is a topic that has drawn attention and is considered a serious issue among college students (Crown & Spiller, 1998). Surprisingly, around 55% of students in the United States of America (USA) indicated that they cheated during their tertiary education (Lupton & Chapman, 2000). It was also reported by Smyth and Davis (2004) that cheating of students also happened in vocational college institutions. It revealed that 46% of the students surveyed cheated at least once in the academic lives. Davis et al., (1992) estimated that approximately 80% of dishonest students copied from notes. On the other hand, Chang (1995) mentioned that 60% of students described copying form notes as the most popular way to cheat. In a recent study by West et al., (2004), they found that 74% if students cheated on their take-home examinations. While Brown and Choong (2005) found that almost 96% and 97% of students in the private educational institutions and public universities admitted to have involved in at least one cheating activities.
What constitutes academic integrity? Gerdeman (2000) classified individual and social factors associated with academic dishonesty into four key areas: individual attributes, peer influences, teacher influences, and institutional policy. Individual factors constitute age, gender, and courses taken. Lanier (2006) found that students with low marks are more likely indulge and tempted to academic dishonesty or those students who felt that they needed to retain their scholarship grants. Notably, non-traditional learners are less likely than their younger peers to commit cheating. It was also observed that men have engaged in more academic dishonesty than women; however, the difference between men and women’s cheating seems to have decreased in recent years.
Students whose peer routinely cheat, or are considered to cheat, or whose peers consider cheating to be an acceptable activity, are often more likely to engage in academic dishonesty in terms of peer control. Not to be underestimated, in assessing cheating habits, the impact of teachers’ attitude and effectiveness are also considered to influence academic dishonesty among the students. Students are more likely to cheat if they view their teachers as less concerned or dismissive towards them and whether or not they learn the course materials. In addition, the occurrence of cheating in students’ courses is often likely to be increased by teachers who are permissive, unduly challenging, or unreasonable. Finally, organizations relying exclusively on student’s handbooks and guidance cannot adequately communicate honesty policies. Instead, institutional environments with clearly defined and stated policies on academic dishonesty and their repercussions will dramatically reduce the occurrence of cheating in the campus (Gerdeman, 2000). Kelly and Bonner (2005) indicated that they prefer to be more frank with students who felt close to their teachers. With online learning environments, however, the opportunity for faculty to establish a strong relationship with students becomes more difficult. Rowe (2004) observed that those students who felt they were “distant” from their peers and teachers are more likely to engage in dishonesty. Hence, online classes can only aggravate these feelings of distance and can also lead to academic misconduct compared to conventional classroom environments (Deranek & Parnther, 2015; Stuber-McEwen et al., 2005). Both students and teachers perceived that in virtual classrooms, cheating happens more often because online students are either considered to be more experienced in using online tools than their peers on the ground, or less likely to be detected by teachers who are unfamiliar with online detection techniques (Grijalva et al., 2003; Holden et al., 2020). Also, Burgason et al., (2019) say that the level of online cheating will also increase as the gap between a student and a physical classroom setting increases. Their observation combined with the perception that academic dishonesty in the virtual classroom in more prevalent.
One of the forms of academic dishonesty is plagiarism. In an immediate sense, plagiarism is turning into the work of someone else as your own; copying words, thoughts and concepts without giving credit; failing to place a quote in quotation marks; presenting incorrect quotation source information, and changing words but copying the phrase structure without giving credit.
Plagiarism comes from the word ‘plagiarius’ which means kidnapper. Denotatively, it the passing off of the work of another individual as if it were his own by claiming credit for something that someone else actually did. However, plagiarism is not necessarily deliberate or stealing any items form someone else; it may be accidental or unintentional and can involve self-stealing (Craig, 2003). The wider categories of plagiarism include accidental, unintentional, and intentional. Accidental plagiarism is caused by lack of knowledge of plagiarism and awareness of the quotation or referencing style practiced. Unintentional plagiarism on the other hand happens because of the vastness of information available which influences thoughts and similar ideas can appear as one’s own through written or written expressions while intentional plagiarism is the deliberate act of copying complexly or part of someone else’s work. Burke and Bristor (2017) reported that in the survey conducted by the Center of Academic Integrity, results revealed that 40% of the students acknowledged to have committed plagiarism.
For me, I have observed that plagiarism has become rampant not only in the academe but also in many other areas such as in business and medical professions. One of the reasons why cases of plagiarism are continuously rising because many individuals are not aware or understand that plagiarism is a serious problem. In many academic institutions, students plagiarise because they are neither sanctioned nor punished. Despite the efforts of teaching the students to be honest and have academic integrity, still students remain unmindful.
Personally, I also committed plagiarism in my tasks due to the following reasons: lack of time to do the tasks, and the lack of knowledge of the topic given by the teachers. Due to the many things that I needed to accomplish and the demands of the teachers in the college, I sometimes resort to plagiarism. I have no other way to accomplish the tasks but copy some works of others. Making the tasks which take long hours of preparation then submitting them without feedback from the teachers are frustrating and demotivating; thus, it leads me to copying other works. On the other hand, the lack of knowledge of the subject matter being taught by our mentors also leads me to plagiarise. Although teachers explained the lesson thoroughly, still there were some concepts which were difficult to comprehend. As a result, I looked for works in the web, and copy paste them. I believed many students do plagiarism as I do because they have the reasons to do it.
According to Waltzer and Dahl (2020) evidence has indicated that certain types of plagiarism was a result from insufficient knowledge of students, received no care and feedback from the teachers. Also Ehrich (2016) mentioned that research shows that the attitudes of students towards plagiarism are usually more permissive and lenient that the policies of the tertiary institutions, possible exacerbating the situation of plagiarism. Several authors identified various factors why plagiarism is committed by students. Bokosmaty et al., (2019) sees that students’ cultural context as a significant factor in plagiarism affecting the learners. However, Tran (2018) finds cultural influences to be one of the issues, but not a single plagiarism problem. He further claims that in Asian universities, plagiarism is not tolerated, but also considered as major problem. Liu (2005) also states that in Chinese culture students are not allowed to copy and claimed the outputs of others as their own. Contrary to western misconception, cultural factor has minimal influence in students’ act of plagiarism. Yakovchuk (2007) believed that language and material issues face by students are the most obvious factors in plagiarism. Nathan (2007) argues that students plagiarise because they do not fully understand the role that citations and sources play within the academic argument system and lack the linguistic mechanics to incorporate sources into the academic writing appropriately. Furthermore, Bhattaria (2013) showed that plagiarism concerns are compounded with other issues such as the lack of motivation, desire to better product, desire for higher marks, and others. In addition, various reasons for the thriving industry of plagiarism: most of lazy people who are willing to move forward by unfair means; the absence of appropriate and strict copyright laws; the delay and hassle in enforcing such regulations; and the lacklustre attitude of authorities.
There are many useful strategies found in the literatures which are found valuable to at least minimize plagiarism. There are many universities which are using these measures. First is the alignment of curriculum design and learning goals with the evaluation tasks. The curriculum of today is outcomes-based; hence, not all students’ outputs should be written task but requires the students to be creative and innovative. The second one is the acquisition of electronic database detection service which could detect plagiarism. Understandably, teachers’ expressed reluctance. Their responses; however, fails to consider the potential as a learning and teaching method of electronic database detection and the fact that it can be used to encourage good practice. Moreover, teachers should always be in contact with the students. This way students will be diligently comply with the tasks given to them honesty. It’s like mother and child relationship, the closer the child to the mother, the child will never tell lies instead honesty and sincerity.
Academic integrity is essential in any academic pursuit. As incidents of plagiarism in the tertiary education is increasing, academic honesty continues to be the main concern of education. In order to positively influence students’ attitudes and activities, the code of honors should be preserved.
Both conventional and online education should uphold intellectual integrity and consider academic dishonesty equally a challenge. While it is difficult to eliminate student academic dishonesty entirely, if both faculty and administration work together, it can be at least reduced. The teachers should be responsible for making students aware and understand at the beginning of each course that dishonesty in general and plagiarism in particular will not be tolerated and will be dealt with accordingly. The academic council on the other hand should formulate sanctions to those students who committed dishonesty. As a deterrent, it might be worthwhile to let students know that by doing reverse searches, the internet can and will be used as a method to prevent plagiarism. The college administration should make it clear its stand on academic dishonesty clearly, through catalogue, student handbook, and during students’ orientation. It should be reiterated that plagiarism is unethical and serious repercussions await those students who wish to test and challenge the policy up to and including expulsion and strip of degree.
Academic integrity is an interdisciplinary principle that provides the basis for all facets of education and for all levels of education. In teachers, scholars, and students, the word evokes intense feelings, not least because it is typically related to negative behaviors. The conversation appears to revolve around theft, plagiarism, dishonesty, fraud, and other academic malpractice when discussing academic credibility and how best to avoid these activities. A more constructive approach includes an emphasis on fostering the positive values of honesty, confidence, justice, respect, accountability, and bravery as the intrinsically driven drivers of ethical academic practice. Academic integrity is far more than a student problem and needs dedication from all academic community members, including undergraduate and postgraduate, professors, existing academics, and administrators. Academic integrity should be everybody’s business.