Syllabi Designed with Integrity In Mind

As colleges and universities reopen, whether in-person or online, syllabi are rapidly changing to accommodate COVID-19 requirements. Each institution requires its syllabi to have certain elements. Some examples include: learning objectives, course schedule, grade breakdown, and access to university resources. One thing all syllabi should include is a statement on academic honesty expectations. While there should be a university wide statement regarding academic honesty, course-specific guidelines are equally important. Here are some things instructors may want to consider:

  • Collusion or collaboration. With the development of hy-flex, hybrid, and online courses, students need to know what they can access to study or where they can turn to for outside help. Can they discuss assignments with peers? What about exams? Are these rules posted on each assignment?
  • Citation guidelines. Be clear about which citation style will be used. When are students expected to follow these guidelines and where can they get help to make sure their papers are not plagiarized?
  • Faculty responsibilities. If an assignment looks suspicious, what are instructors expected to do? If the policy at the institution is to report the matter, let the students know. Instructors may also want to provide examples of potential sanctions. 

It must be acknowledged that many will view this as cumbersome. Some might wonder why this is necessary, as the college, department, or university has a policy that students “should” know. Here are three reasons why specific instructions on academic honesty are beneficial to students:

  1. What is considered acceptable in one course may be considered cheating in another. Being clear on the front end helps reduce the amount of “accidental cheating” that happens in courses.
  2. Setting strong academic integrity expectations signals the importance of academic honesty. Students expect instructors to follow the syllabus, and they will understand that it is a part of any instructor’s job to follow rules outlined in syllabi.
  3. Opening conversations about integrity may reduce the likelihood of cheating in course as students and faculty develop relationships. Instructors can refer back to the syllabus for each assignment, providing students with a reference point.

There is uncertainty for many students about the start of this fall semester, but faculty can be proactive in addressing some issues now. Set guidelines. Set boundaries. Help students focus on authentic learning, no matter the delivery method.

Please comment with any syllabi language you use to address academic integrity.

About the Author
Courtney Cullen is the Program Coordinator in the Office of Academic Honesty at the University of Georgia. Cullen processes appeals for the Petitions Subcommittee and works to support the initiatives of the Office of Academic Honesty. Cullen is working towards a Ph.D. in Higher Education, and received both master’s and bachelor’s degrees in International Affairs from UGA.
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