Academic integrity has been a sector wide issue for many decades. However, it has only been since the early 2000s that academics such as Tracey Bretag began driving a focus on reducing academic integrity breaches in higher education. In more recent times, as COVID-19 saw a mainstreaming of on-line assessments, the scourge of commercial contract cheating became a particularly significant issue for academic integrity.

In response, the Australian higher education regulator, TEQSA, has worked with the sector to develop a dedicated Academic Integrity Toolkit, built a database of 2333 suspected cheating websites and taken action to block illegal cheating websites. Despite the intensity of this dedicated effort, only 1 in every 100 students who cheat are caught, while recent research suggests the prevalence of commercial cheating alone is significantly higher.

why universities can’t catch the cheaters

because universities are trying to catch students after they cheat instead of teaching students how not to cheat. Specifically, universities are not allowing students to lead the charge to reduce academic integrity occurrences.

A proactive approach to reducing cheating is the best approach. Educating students on what constitutes cheating, plagiarism and other academic misconduct will help students realise the importance of why they should not cheat.

prevention is always better than a cure.

let students partner in leading the charge against cheating

In addition to preventing cheating instead of catching cheating, a student-centred approach is essential for student buy-in. The Student as Partners (SaP) framework should be used to reduce academic integrity breaches. It believes students should interact with academic and professional staff to solve problems occurring at universities. Students can work with staff to: research the reasons students cheat; develop initiatives revamping how assessments are designed, administered and marked to reduce cheating; and develop educational programmes that teach students how not to cheat on current and future assignments.

There are many good SaP examples in the sector. In 2017 at UTS, Amanda White co-created an open access Academic Integrity Board Game with students to enhance understanding about academic integrity and misconduct. In the UK, Thomas Lancaster has recently shared many examples of student-academic partnerships that support integrity approaches. We will discuss a CQUniversity approach in next week’s feature for the Needed Now CMM series.

By combining academic misconduct prevention with the SaP approach, an effective framework can be developed that involves using the knowledge and experience of our students to understand why cheating occurs and to inspire innovative approaches to reduce academic integrity breaches.

Dr Robert Vanderburg, School of Education and the Arts, CQUniversity [email protected] @Dr_Tw3nty

Associate Professor Anthony Weber, School of Business and Law, CQUniversity [email protected] @aweber73


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