Want to talk about cheating? Our students do. As the conversation around academic integrity shifts from the punitive to a more supportive approach, a workshop with current students provided valuable insights into how (and when) we should support students to act with integrity at UTS and beyond. 

Want to talk about cheating? 

It seems our students do! The Working Group on Academic Integrity recently organised a workshop with current students and they were clear about wanting UTS to be upfront and open in talking to them about cheating and plagiarism. Students have genuine questions about academic integrity, and we need to get better at engaging them on these issues.  

Students have genuine questions about academic integrity, and we need to get better at engaging them on these issues.

Staff may worry about overdoing the messaging, but students told us that they want information about academic integrity to be constant and not just a “one-off” at the beginning of their course. We also heard that regular reminders on social media and campus screens about where to find support and resources would help enormously, especially at peak times around exams and end of session assignments. Critically, students want to feel free to talk in class about the pressures they experience and where they can get the right kind of help when things go wrong. 

A shifting approach 

These student voices support the direction UTS is taking around academic integrity. We are moving away from a narrow focus on breaches among a minority of students to embracing integrity as a value that we all play an active role in sustaining.  For this to be realised, everyone needs to be involved in a dynamic conversation across our community here at UTS. That conversation needs to extend well beyond our policies and processes to encompass: 

  • why academic integrity matters (do we ever talk about that?) 
  • the changing world our students inhabit
  • the very real challenges (language, money) that they face.

It also means talking with our students in an open and informed manner about the rapidly evolving external threats to academic integrity and how UTS addresses them.

To ensure our academic and student-facing staff are well-prepared for these conversations, we’re developing a new program of communication around academic integrity. 

One of the first initiatives will be the launch in Autumn 2020 of a new web presence that will bring Academic Integrity and Research Integrity together, making clear the University’s values and its commitment to integrity. It is designed to provide a clear and centralised source of information on our policies and processes and on the campus resources and services available to staff and students.

It will also offer guidance for staff on topics such as designing assessment tasks for academic integrity and guidance for students on the types of study support that are appropriate and those that are not. The latter will help clarify some of the “grey areas” students identified in workshops, including when collaboration and sharing is okay and when it definitely isn’t. 

Our responsibility extends beyond UTS

We’re preparing our students to enter the professions where they need to be well-equipped to operate with integrity as they navigate complex workplace challenges. The students in our workshop recognised that failing to maintain integrity and do their own work would inevitably lead to future gaps in their knowledge and skills and that this could have a serious impact on their working lives and potentially result in harm to others. 

It’s our responsibility when talking to our students to ensure we help them appreciate that what they learn about integrity with us at UTS links directly to ethics and professionalism in the world beyond UTS. 

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