Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the look of education has changed significantly, with more coursework being completed and submitted online, academic integrity has become a larger concern for many institutions and universities. At Iowa State, the Office of Student Conduct has begun working on potential programs and initiatives to improve students’ academic integrity.
Iowa State has always worked to prevent academic misconduct and to address problems that surface relating to students’ academic integrity. The amount of academic dishonesty taking place according to the university fluctuates, but they have seen increases since the pandemic hit.
To address these issues a new collaborative effort has begun trying to figure out the best way to promote academic integrity among students. The office has no official title yet, but consists of The Assistant Director of the Office of Student Conduct, Liz Luiken, the Assistant Dean of Students for Strategic Partnerships, Operations, and Compliance & Director of Student Conduct, Sara Kellogg and a testing center supervisor, Nicholas Holmberg.
“It’s a collaboration between folks that deal with academic integrity on a regular basis and we just want to grow it to make it more part of the culture,” said Holmberg.
In order to understand how to set up programs that would teach students the importance of academic integrity, members of the trio attended a conference put on by the International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) to learn about practices and trends in academic integrity. Kellogg explained the reasoning behind attending the conference.
“It seemed like a great opportunity to go and hear about some best practices and things we can do as an institution collaboratively between our offices just as a way to get more information and address this," Kellogg said.
Iowa State is also participating in an international survey supported by the ICAI, the McCabe Survey, which will hopefully provide insight to the various beliefs and habits on campus. A sample of 5,000 students have been selected to anonymously participate in the survey, those who complete the survey will be rewarded with a chance to win an Amazon gift card.
The survey will ask students about their own behavior and academic tendencies, but also their perceptions of academic dishonesty and the culture surrounding it. Kellogg explained what the university hopes to gain from this survey.
“The best part of that will be, that we will be able to look at the data that comes back and compare it hopefully to some of our peer institutions in terms of responses and the information that’s being shared have a nationwide perspective,” said Kellogg. “But even better than that it will ask questions about how students think about academic integrity.”
The culture around academic integrity is what drives students to decide to cheat or not cheat. The McCabe be survey will allow Iowa State to better understand students’ positions on academic integrity. This information will go into the decision-making process in creating new programs and initiatives to help students develop better academic integrity.
Holmberg explained the effect a school’s culture around academic integrity influences the students’ tendencies.
“What students see, how their peers are behaving really can influence your own behaviors whether or not you’re reacting in an angry anxious way or if you kind of say ‘oh well that’s ok so I’m going to do it [cheat]’ both of those things are not desirable outcomes for education,” said Holmberg.
Depending on the success of the McCabe Survey, Iowa State will participate in more surveys in the future, directed more towards faculty and professors to assess measures taken by staff to stop academic misconduct.
Once the data from the McCabe Survey comes back, Iowa State will be able to start thinking about starting initiatives to build better academic integrity. Kellogg explained one initiative that the group had talked about previously.
“The University of California San Diego has a peer lead program supporting academic integrity where students actually have conversations with other students about this topic,” said Kellogg. “We’re hoping that we might be able to implement a similar program here to be used in a preventative and also potentially a responsive manner.”
Letting students take the lead in creating a campus culture with students who value their academic integrity as much as the money they give to Iowa State, could lead to more students taking academic integrity seriously. Luiken explained why it is important to treat academics with respect and honesty.
”Valuing the classes that You’re taking and the value of your degree and that the way you conduct yourself in the classroom, the integrity you have is truly a representation of the value of your degree,” said Luiken. “You’re devaluing your degree if you’re choosing to cheat in all your classes.”
The group hopes to have a pilot program ready this spring, in order to begin testing whether an initiative like this could be successful.
The office also wants to start more programs to educate students on academic integrity and the importance of being truthful in an academic setting as a preventative measure rather than a response to academic dishonesty. Currently, members of the office, primarily Luiken, attend introduction classes throughout the first month of a semester and gives presentations on the importance of academic integrity.
“Even with all the presentations I do I’m not even touching a fraction of the 101 classes realistically,” said Luiken. “We’re a small office there’s only three of us and I do most of our classroom presentations so there’s only so many places I can be with a caseload as well."
One option the office has considered to replace these presentations is online modules similar to the sexual harassment and alcohol abuse all Iowa State students are required to take via Canvas. The online modules would offer a short course that students could work through at any time, to get students acquainted with academic misconduct and to teach them practices that would be considered misconduct.
Overall these new programs could bring a large change to campus, rather than discouraging students from academic dishonesty with punishments, this office hopes to bring new respect for education and academic integrity to campus.
“When we say student conduct program I think we want it to be more than just a student conduct program,” said Kellogg. “Student conduct is so much associated with the adjudication process, the charges and adjudication, we want this to be more of an academic integrity promotion.”