In March 2020, COVID-19 forced OU students and faculty to leave campus, move classes online, and completely change their normal habits. As the community adapted to virtual learning, the OU found itself in the same situation as many universities across the country.
With classes moving online, cases of academic misconduct began to increase.
Will Spain is the Deputy Director of the Office of Academic Integrity Programs at OU and has worked in this office since 2012. Prior to working in the Office of Academic Integrity, he worked in the Office of the Legal Counsel and in Sports Compliance. .
From the 2018-2019 academic year to the 2019-2020 academic year, the OU recorded a 57.6% increase in academic misconduct cases, from 565 cases to 891. The following year, the Office of Academic Integrity received 886 cases of academic misconduct, following the same trend as the previous year. Spain said the increase in cases is largely due to students taking classes at home.
Spain also said that those most affected by the change were students who were accustomed and preferring to have their teacher in person, have their tests supervised and not have access to other devices during exams. Many students he encountered regarding academic integrity issues had no intention of cheating, but factors such as mental health, access to technology, and the lack of real oversight affected student decisions. , said Spain.
Another resource that students use more frequently to help them cheat is Chegg, a platform where students can rent textbooks, receive private lessons and also find answers to questions about homework and exams.
Aaron Turner, Director of Political Science and Humanities, is currently the President of Integrity council, a student-led group that educates students about academic integrity and guides them through the process of academic misconduct “to protect the value of the OU degree.”
Turner said there is a time and place for Chegg, but not a review environment.
“In many ways, this looks a lot like a less reliable version of our math center here on campus. You take a problem in Chegg and someone responds to it and tells you how they got that response, ”Turner said. “Where we run into a problem is when people ask Chegg test questions or big homework problems and don’t do their own original work. … Therefore, this is an academic fault.
Spain said the problem with Chegg is that students get immediate answers rather than going through the steps and learning the processes, as they would with tutoring in action. Additionally, Spain said many students fail to understand that using Chegg for responses is in fact plagiarism, the most common form of academic misconduct the OU sees.
“(Plagiarism) has always been our livelihood in terms of academic misconduct,” Spain said. “I actually haven’t calculated the exact numbers on this, and part of that is because of the difficulty of quantifying exactly what we should call some of these new types of academic misconduct. If I am using Chegg, is this a collaboration? Or is it plagiarism? There may be some distinction there.
One of the main goals of the Integrity Board is to educate students about academic integrity at the OU for prevent academic misconduct. The idea is that if students understand what academic misconduct looks like and what process a report follows, they will be less likely to engage in it.
If a student is reported to the Academic Integrity Office, the report is sent to the Spain office, where he then processes the information and meets the students if the situation calls for more only a warning.At these meetings, Spain explains why the student was reported, what what the process of academic misconduct looks like and what are their rights as a student. It also goes recommend a sanction and give the student the opportunity to investigate.
If the student wants conduct an investigation, the Integrity Board and other faculty members will oversee the process, which will lead to a hearing led by Spain. From there, a panel reaches a resolution and assigns a sanction.
Throughout the process, students are allowed to have an advisor present. Advisors can be relatives, friends, external lawyers or an advisor from the student government association General Counsel. These advisers are paid by the university, can intervene if a student does not have someone to play this role and can serve as a neutral adviser to the student.
Second-year OU law student Nick Hazelrigg currently serves in this advisory role.
“I saw this opportunity, and I thought to myself, ‘It would be a good way to do public service and make money at the same time and hone my legal skills a bit,” “Hazelrigg said.
Hazelrigg said her role with students accused of academic misconduct is to guide them through the process, answer any questions and accompany them to any meeting or hearings. He said the two most beneficial aspects of having an LMS counselor are that they can make the process less frightening for the students and help define the best way to present their matter at their hearing.
Ultimately, the goals of the misconduct process are to teach students the value of integrity and how this can impact a student’s learning and to protect the value of the OU degree.
“At the end of the day when we go to OU we all want to get a degree from OU which is valuable. on the job market, ”said Hazelrigg. “We can’t do this if OU has a reputation as a school where people are allowed to get away with cheating and academic misconduct. It is therefore important, of course, to prosecute cases of academic misconduct.
Turner also highlighted the value of the OU degree and how cheating in the classroom can affect a future career of the student.
“The things you learn here can have real-world applications,” Turner said. “If you slept for Engineering 3030, which is how to make a bridge stand, and then all of a sudden you are asked to make a bridge, you would like to know, and you would like someone who didn’t cheat.
Spain, Turner and Hazelrigg each highlighted the importance and effectiveness of on-campus training tutoring resources and to reach out to their teachers when they are having difficulty in a course. However, they also explained that professors can take certain steps to prevent academic misconduct in their classes.
Turner believes that effective communication with students is one of the best ways to acquire respect for students and avoid cheating in a course.
“I think teachers who are open and honest about their standards and willing to talk to people are good enough at preventing academic misconduct, ”Turner said. “But I also understand that no each teacher can be in a class with only 20 people, and so sometimes there is a question of workload management for them. But I think frankness and the willingness to communicate do a lot of steps to avoid mistakes.
Hazelrigg believes mental health plays a major role in the likelihood that a student will cheat.
“I think (COVID-19) has affected the mental health of a lot of people. So I personally think it’s part too. School has changed in COVID, but also we have changed as result of COVID, and we’re not all doing as well as we might have otherwise, ”Hazelrigg said.
Hazelrigg said that if professors were more aware and understanding of the mental state of their students health, more students can look for other resources instead of cheating.
“I think a good teacher would know that you cannot grow as a student if you are going through a untreated mental health crisis, ”Hazelrigg said. “So I think my advice for professors is to only worry about the mental health of your students. You can decide how much you care and what it looks like in your classroom, but you should care and it should be a thought you have.
As the OU remains in its current hybrid model and continues to evolve into a fully in-person system experience, Spain expects the number of academic misconduct to begin to fall back to the range of 500 to 600 cases. Turner and Hazelrigg also expect this and hope to see OU life return to what most students and faculty consider “normal.”
“I hope people will be less stressed. I hope people will generally be more excited about the lessons and less inclined to pretend and make academic mistakes. Really, I’m just hopeful, ”Turner said. “I think being back in the real world will be good for a lot of people’s sanity. It’s definitely good for mine.