Creating A Platform for Integrity Standards in Online Education

Online education is the latest craze in education. Fueled by advances in technology, cutbacks in government funding and a massive increase in students wanting access, online education is heralded as both the possible disruptor and savior for a failed education system. Even stalwart education systems like the University of California are jumping to get into the online education world.

The irony is that offering education from a distance is nothing new. What is new is the technology at our disposal. Technology makes distance education more sophisticated and interesting, and allows for enriched interaction between the learners and teachers, and between learners and course content.

Unfortunately, technology also alters educational integrity by making it easier to cheat and plagiarize than ever before. Take a look at the figure (Source: Common Sense Media) for example. 53% of high school students admit to exam cheating with cell phones and 35% admit to using cheating with the internet even while admitting this is wrong to do! Plagiarism is as “easy as a click of a button”. It is so tempting, like putting a bone right in front of a dog’s nose and expecting him to resist it.

Cheating Goes Hi-Tech_Blog

So, that’s the bad news. The good news is that there is something that can be done about it. There are best integrity practices that will reduce cheating and enhance integrity in teaching and learning, helping to ensure the integrity of the certifications that are rewarded.

Much has already been written about such practices and we encourage readers to seek out those resources. However, now there is a way for online instructors (and programs) to certify that they are employing best integrity practices in their courses. The Trusted Seal program (a result of a partnership between the International Center for Academic Integrity and Software Secure) evaluates online courses and programs on three core standards: 1) inform and educate about academic integrity; (2) prevent cheating and protect academic integrity; and at the program level, 3) practice and support academic integrity. If certified, instructors or programs are issued a virtual Seal which, once displayed, will demonstrate that academic integrity is a core component of their classes.

The frenzied dive into online education has proceeded without honest consideration of integrity. This should be distressing to educators and employers who desire college graduates with ethics and integrity. Trusted Seal cannot guarantee such graduates, but it can help create the environments that support and nurture them.

Tricia Bertram Gallant, Ph.D., Advisory Council, The International Center for Academic Integrity
April Cognato, Ph.D., Senior Academic Officer, Software Secure, Inc.


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