By following up on suspected cases of academic misconduct, you ensure that the efforts and achievements of other students are not undermined and that MacEwan University’s reputation and the integrity of its credentials are upheld.
Academic integrity is an ethical code that focuses on achieving academic success fairly. At MacEwan University, this code, and our commitment to fostering integrity through prevention and education, is outlined in the Student Academic Integrity policy. The related Student Academic Misconduct procedure outlines the university's response to incidents of academic misconduct of students.
By reading the policy and reporting violations, you are doing your part in creating an honest and ethical campus. Several other policies are related to the Student Academic Integrity policy.
MacEwan University supports the application of restorative practices as a way to demonstrate fairness and to foster empathy, compassion and accountability. Restorative practices model and build inclusive and effective conflict resolution skills. Learn about restorative principles and consider how and when you might apply them.
Your students are less likely to violate the Academic Integrity policy if you’ve taken some time to teach them about the importance of integrity and to explain exactly what it is. Your approach in class goes a long way toward shaping student behaviour.
The Academic Integrity Office recommends these best practices for educating your students:
Discuss the importance of ethics and integrity on campus several times throughout the term. Explain how academic culture is damaged when academic integrity is violated. Try to give specific examples from your discipline or from the news.
Provide clearly written, explicit instructions for assignments. Give detailed examples of what is and is not appropriate use of source material, provide explicit directions regarding responsibilities and appropriate collaboration in group work and reinforce these points with discussion throughout the term.
Include a link to MacEwan's Academic Integrity website on course outlines and Blackboard courses.
Complete and discuss online academic integrity tutorials or quizzes in class. (Remind students, though, that other universities’ policies may differ from ours.)
Show your students some paper mills (i.e., websites that sell essays); talk about how the sites work and how easy it is for faculty to track down plagiarized essays from the sites.
Give detailed examples of the types of information that can be uploaded to note-sharing websites without violating the Academic Integrity policy.
Explain the possible consequences for violating the policy, so students have an idea of what’s at stake.
Model ethical, responsible behaviour.
Include highlights of the policy on your course outline
The Academic Integrity Office recommends the following wording:
Academic Integrity ensures that academic success is gained fairly. MacEwan’s Academic Integrity Policy promotes honesty, fairness, respect, trust and responsibility in all academic work. It “explains the university’s expectations of students, instructing faculty, and the university concerning academic integrity, so students can understand their rights and responsibilities, make informed decisions, and be accountable for those decisions in a fair manner and to a fair outcome” (2.1).
According to the policy, academic misconduct involves "[p]articipating in acts by which a person gains or attempts to gain an unfair academic advantage thereby compromising the integrity of the academic process, including, without limitation, cheating, fabrication and falsification, improper collaboration, multiple submissions, plagiarism, or helping or attempting to help another person commit an act of academic misconduct, and any other form of obtaining an unfair advantage (4.0)." Here are four common forms of academic misconduct as outlined in the policy:
Cheating: Copying the academic work of others; or the use, or attempted use, of unauthorized notes, information, materials, study aids or devices in any academic exercise or activity.
Plagiarism: The use and submission of another’s words, ideas, results, work or processes without providing appropriate credit to the individual(s) responsible for same.
Improper collaboration: Inappropriate sharing of academic work on an assignment that was intended as an individual assignment or when students work together in groups beyond the degree of permissible collaboration set out by the instructor.
Multiple submissions: Submitting the same academic work in multiple courses (or different sections of the same course) without permission of the instructors.
Penalties for academic misconduct
A more detailed description of academic misconduct can be found in the Academic Integrity Policy. Students are responsible for understanding what constitutes academic misconduct. All incidents of academic misconduct are reported to and recorded by the Office of Academic Integrity. The penalties for academic misconduct include the following:
A mark reduction up to zero on a piece of academic work
A grade reduction up to an F in the course
A requirement to withdraw (with transcript notation) from a program for a specified period of time
A requirement to complete training on Academic Integrity, whether offered online or otherwise
Expulsion from the University (with transcript notation)
Please see the Academic Integrity Policy for more details.
Some assignments lend themselves more easily to academic misconduct than others. By viewing your assignments through an academic integrity lens and adapting a few new habits, you can significantly reduce the opportunity for academic misconduct.
Plagiarism is one of the most common forms of academic misconduct. You can design assignments in a way that reduces the opportunity for plagiarism:
Create essay topics that are specific, focused and, if possible, focused on a current topic.
Change assignment topics frequently to avoid recycling of student papers.
Assign term papers in stages: ask for outlines, rough drafts, then final drafts, or ask students to submit a folder with all of this material, or ask for proposals with annotated bibliographies well in advance of the paper’s final due date.
Use in-class writing assignments and keep at least one of these until the end of the term as a sample of each student’s writing ability and style.
Ask students to use only secondary sources you have selected; you may wish to put these on reserve in the library.
Ask students to supply links to or hand in photocopies of any sources they’ve used.
Provide clear guidelines for documenting sources and point students toward available resources.
Help students understand that the Internet must be treated the same as any other source.
Design assignments that reduce opportunities for inappropriate collaboration:
Ensure students know how much, if any, collaboration is allowed.
Provide a protocol for group work specific to the assignment.
Clearly explain to students how group work will be assessed.
Make sure students know that working together when they’ve been instructed to work individually is a violation of the Academic Integrity policy.
Make it clear, on assignment instructions, how group work is graded and who is responsible if misconduct occurs. (It may be unreasonable to penalize all group members for the academic misconduct of one group member. However, each group member should be responsible for knowing who completed which part of the assignment.)
We encourage you to register for a Centre for Academic and Faculty Excellence workshop that focuses on coursework design.
Students who have not prepared fully for their exams or who are feeling end-of-term pressure may mistakenly see cheating as a way of improving their exam performance.
Design exams that make cheating difficult
Use long-answer or essay-format questions.
Change your exams frequently so that they aren’t shared between students from year to year.
Make online exams and quizzes open-book assignments.
Consider classroom set-up. For example, if a multiple-choice exam is taking place in a room with sloped seating, use multiple versions of the test, and/or multiple colours of paper.
Control the exam environment
Ask students to place bags, coats and books on the floor away from their desks, at the front or side of the room.
Require students with baseball caps to turn the brim to the back. (The brim is a common hiding place for cheat notes.)
Be aware of technologies that could allow cheating, such as calculators, cell phones, smart watches, earbuds, etc. Inspect calculators for cheat sheets (that is, turn them over). You may wish to ask students to leave their phones in their bags.
Be aware of students who seem to be reading questions aloud to themselves. They may be accessing a virtual assistant, such as SIRI.
Try to leave an empty chair/space between students.
Record the seating arrangements. You can pass around a seating plan for students to fill out during the exam.
Monitor exam writing carefully
Move about the room throughout the entire exam.
Do not allow late students to write the exam if another student has already left the exam room.
Arrange for someone to relieve you briefly in the middle of an exam in case you need to get something or use the washroom.
Have students write tests in pen so that answers cannot be changed later and resubmitted for marks.
For exams that take place in computer labs
Be aware of the possibility of students communicating with each other through email or text messaging.
Track student computer usage if possible. For example, in Blackboard, you can see if a student leaves a quiz page, views a course content page, and returns to the quiz. Blackboard can also tell you how much time a student spends on any given quiz or page.
While prevention is the first priority in addressing academic integrity, faculty are also responsible for being on the alert for possible violations.
The most common type of plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of phrases, sentences or paragraphs from websites. Be alert to the following characteristics of a student’s writing:
Abrupt shifts in tone, style or diction
Unusual or inconsistent formatting or font type
A style of writing that does not seem to match the student’s in-class writing or comments
References to material beyond the scope of the assignment
If you notice any of these problems, search a suspected phrase or passage from the assignment on the Internet. Often it will only take a brief search to find a corresponding online document.
Detecting exam misconduct
There are many different ways of cheating during an exam, both mundane and creative. Follow these guidelines when you detect academic misconduct during an exam.
If you observe cheating in an exam, allow the student to finish writing the exam, but document what you see. If at all possible, try to get another invigilator to witness and document the cheating behavior as well.
Do not confiscate unauthorized materials (cheat sheets, electronic devices) unless you can do so without disrupting the exam environment. If the information is contained on a device (such as a programmable calculator or cell phone), confiscate the item, in the presence of a colleague, and only for the time it takes to record the information (for example, by taking a picture with your cell phone), before returning it to the student.
If you encounter a student with writing on his or her body or clothes, take a picture of what is written with your cell phone (or copy out what is written) before it can be rubbed or washed off.
For students who ignore time limits, make a note on the exam and inform them that nothing further will be marked.
If you observe two students working together, discretely separate them and clearly mark on their exams (in ink) the point at which they were moved. (This is for later comparison.) In addition, note the seating arrangement around the suspected student, and after the exam is finished, set the suspect exam aside with any exams you suspect were being copied.
When you are marking exams, watch for identical (or close to identical) responses to long-answer questions, or for strings of identical choices in multiple-choice exams, especially when students have the same incorrect answer(s) or unusual formulations or mistakes.
When marking exams, draw a line through any blank space following an answer so a student cannot add material later and claim it was not marked.
In all cases, contact the Academic Integrity Coordinator immediately following the exam for advice on how to proceed.
Along with educating your students on academic integrity and making assignment expectations clear, reporting suspected violations is the most important thing you can do to promote academic integrity at MacEwan University.
It is not enough to “take care of the situation” yourself. When misconduct is reported, students learn the importance of integrity and are discouraged from further misconduct. Importantly, they are also made aware of their rights and the deadline to appeal the decision, an important part of procedural fairness. Unless you (and the Academic Integrity Office) consider the violation “severe,” a first incident of academic misconduct will never appear on a student’s academic record. Also, you do not have to worry about the suspected case affecting grade submission deadlines. As long as you invite the student to meet with you and submit an incident report, you can submit a tentative final grade and notify the student in your decision email that you will submit a grade change request, should a meeting with them change the outcome.
If you are hesitant about reporting your suspicions, please contact the Academic Integrity Office with your concerns.
All members of the University community have the right to work and study in an environment of academic integrity and a responsibility to protect academic integrity by being aware of the policy.
In the case of a student appeal, all involved in the appeal have the right to be heard, the right to an unbiased decision, the right to see all evidence related to the case and the right to bring a support person to hearings.
Let them finish the exam
If you observe cheating during an exam, allow the student to finish writing the exam, but document what you see (for example, by taking a picture with your cell phone). If at all possible, try to get another invigilator to witness and document the cheating behavior as well.