Supporting professors for their online teaching practice
I work at the Center for Innovation in Education (CIE, for its initials in Spanish), at Universidad Panamericana in Mexico. The CIE is a space where we support professors to develop their creative ideas, launch projects and promote their teaching talent. We also hold different workshops for that purpose.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, our work team thought about creating a series of online workshops that would support our professors in their teaching practice during these contingency months. Among these, we decided to develop one on academic integrity that could help them to overcome some of the current challenges.
I had the opportunity to give this one on academic integrity last week and I want to share with you that the experience was very enriching and challenging. I started by explaining what academic integrity is, for all those professors new to the subject. In Mexico, this topic is not well known yet, so I thought it would be an excellent space to start the dialogue. The important thing was to emphasize that academic integrity is not only following rules, but knowing how to do what is right. Next, I explained some of the “more traditional” actions that involve academic dishonesty like copying on exams, plagiarism, fabrication or falsification of information, and inappropriate collaboration.
The next section of the workshop dealt with the subject of academic integrity in the online format as well of the contract cheating problem. Since many teachers do not know the term, in addition to the fact that the subject is not regulated in Mexico; I explained about it and gave some examples of sites that engage contract cheating and some ideas of how to avoid this academic misconduct. In recent years, talks have started on this matter in my country.
It was also important to tell them about new technologies that are undermining the commitment and effort of university students. An example of this are the task outsourcing companies that use algorithms to write essays using bots, based on keywords that the user / student writes. This new form of dishonesty is worrisome, as these programs offer immediacy when generating the tasks, as well as originality to pass the “detection test” of the text similarity identification tools. These advances in technology confirm how this represents a double-edged sword.
Finally, I had a discussion with the professors, where I asked them about some of the challenges of academic integrity that they have faced in this pandemic. Some of them commented that one of the most common problems has been in taking exams. Students find many ways to pass the answers and have books and resources next to their computers that they review at the time of the evaluation. Other students talk on the phone during the exam or leave the microphone open for listening. A professor expressed his concern about some flaws that have text similarity detection software, because many times the identification of similarity is not 100% accurate and also does not identify intelligent plagiarism.
Based on these concerns, I shared with them a list of support resources. However, I think that what is important, beyond sharing and leaning on didactic paraphernalia, is understanding how, from our teaching experience, we can leave a mark on students. How to engage them so they want to learn. Following this line, I leave this reflection by Rafael Alvira and Kurt Spang on writing in the souls of people:
To write in the soul is to awaken the love of the truth, so that it takes root in the most intimate part of man, and becomes the beginning of his movements. It requires knowing the person, loving him, and helping him acquire study and reflection habits. The sum of all these elements can enable us to write — not without trembling — in souls. (2006, p. 21)
Alvira, R. & Spang. K. (2006). Humanidades para el siglo XXI. Eunsa.