In 2012, Western will be participating in a Canada-wide online survey that is being conducted through the Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University. This anonymous survey of undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty members is designed to help university communities understand the incidence of, means of, and reasons for cheating as well as how we can all support a culture of academic integrity at our institutions. The survey is being called The Academic Integrity Survey 2012: The 10 Year Canadian Update and, as this titles suggests, it is an update of a large-scale survey done in 2002/2003 at 15 universities in Canada, including Western.
The update is very timely in light of recent research suggesting that academic dishonesty is on the rise. For example, in a recent survey from the Pew Research Centre, the majority of the presidents of 2- and 4-year private, public, and for-profit colleges and universities in the United States indicated that plagiarism on papers has increased in the last decade (55%; Parker, Lenhart, & Moore, 2011). Eightynine percent of the presidents who report an increase attributed this trend in large part to the increased use of computers and the Internet. The 10 year update will allow us to determine if, in fact, cheating has increased at Western in the last decade and, to some extent, the role of the Internet in that cheating. Among the questions on the Academic Integrity Survey (AIS), students are asked to report on the frequency they have engaged in 20 cheating behaviours in the last year. Three of these questions specifically refer to cheating using the Internet (i.e., "Turning in a paper obtained in large part from a free term paper ‘mill’ or website," "Turning in a paper obtained in large part from a paper ‘mill’/website that charged for this information," "Copying a few sentences from an Internet source without footnoting them in a paper"). It will be interesting to see if the trends reported by the majority of university and college presidents in the U.S. are evident at Western.
Personally, I will be very interested to see if the 2012 survey can tease out a relationship between the use of cell phones, texting, social networking web sites, and other means of technically-aided social connection and academic misconduct. In particular, I am interested in the relationship, if any exists, between the use of these technologies and unpermitted student collaboration. From the AIS in 2002/2003, 34% of undergraduate student respondents reported engaging in at least one incident of unpermitted collaboration in the previous year (i.e., "Working on an assignment with others when the instructor asked for individual work"). This was the most commonly cited form of academic misconduct and, perhaps not surprisingly, the least serious form according to the students (79% indicated that it was trivial cheating or not cheating at all). I wonder if, with the increased availability and popularity of these technologies, there will also be an increase in unpermitted collaboration or even increased use of these technologies to engage in this form of academic misconduct (i.e., instead of in-person collaboration).
Hopefully, the 2012 AIS will allow us to answer questions such as these and provide insight into new ways that we, as individuals and as an academic community, can continue to foster a culture of academic integrity and deter academic misconduct at Western. More information about The Academic Integrity Survey 2012: The 10 Year Canadian Update will be coming soon.
Parker, K., Lenhart, A., & Moore, K. (2011). The digital revolution and higher education: College presidents, public differ on value of online learning. Retrieved from http://pewsocialtrends.org/files/2011/08/online-learning.pdf