PRINTED CIRCUIT: Upholding academic integrity in online classrooms

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    by Jack Brazel
    Head of Business Partnerships, South-East Asia of Turnitin 
                                                                                

    Online education has made a quick transition to the mainstream across the world in recent months as educational institutions adopt this model in response to the pandemic. This time has brought to light disparities in access to online education at all levels, and the need for adequate infrastructure and platforms in countries, as well as preparedness from educators and students. This time is also showing the potential for hybrid education models to become the norm in the future.

    However, what has remained a hallmark of education, regardless of the model, is upholding academic integrity. Many institutions are finding that transitioning to online learning environments generate new obstacles that need to be addressed to ensure that the same standards in the physical classroom are upheld online. As online learning continues to be a more prominent feature of education across the Asia Pacific region, how can educational institutions in the Philippines ensure that the same academic standards for physical classrooms are maintained online?

    Education’s “new normal”

    The Philippines Department of Education (DepEd) quickly devised and implemented online curriculum and programs in March, such as the DepEd Commons learning delivery platform, to avoid suspending classes. Additionally, The University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) is continuing its free classes to help educators improve their online teaching skills.

    However, educational institutions in the country still face the challenge of how to fairly and accurately assess students’ work online. While some things, such as essay-based assignments, will remain the same in online learning environments, other things, like in-class efforts to prevent contract cheating, will need to adapt to online models. It may also be more difficult to build strong teacher-student relationships that ensure academic integrity in the current, fully online environment. Implementing technologies across educational institutions that check for plagiarism can be a first step in helping educators ensure that students are submitting their original work. As educational institutions press forward with online learning in the country, there are three ways they can maintain academic integrity in these online learning environments.

    1. Encourage educators to build classroom communities committed to academic integrity. This means that each teacher should establish a common understanding among students of what academic integrity means, and why it is important. Developing positive relationships with students through regular communication can also help educators strengthen their students’ attachment to honor codes and learning objectives.
    2. Integrate academic integrity into the fiber of the curriculum and student assessments. Educational institutions and educators should create opportunities in their online curriculum to assess their students’ conceptual understanding of the principles being taught. This can be accomplished through activities such as open-book assessments, pre-approval of thesis paper topics and frequent, low-stakes quizzes. Along with using multiple assessment methods, educators should ensure that students understand how they will be graded and create assessments designed to make cheating more difficult. After an assessment, students can be encouraged to discuss their approach to the assignment, share cited references or summarize what they have learned.
    3. Utilize technology tools to support the institution’s efforts. There are a variety of tools available to help educators and institutions uphold academic integrity in online programs, including software for plagiarism detection and digital assessment and feedback, and students should be aware that these tools are being used. Video conferencing apps can also serve as a virtual proctor during exams.

    The transition to online education will only become more ingrained in societies throughout the world going forward. As educational institutions in the Philippines adopt more permanent online learning capabilities, and educators become more skilled in teaching online classes, deploying technology tools can help support online curricula and classroom communities in upholding academic integrity.

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