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Thursday, May 13, 2021

New practices adopted by WWU to ensure academic integrity

Western is turning to Honorlock system for upholding academic integrity as classes are conducted online. // Illustration by Mathew Roland

Western Faculty and Staff search for solutions during remote online learning

By Alison Poppe

Students cheating on an exam may seem inevitable to faculty and staff when all instruction is conducted online at Western. 

A campus advisory email was sent to students on March 19 informing students that all classes and instruction would be offered outside of the classroom. In its place, a mixture of asynchronous and synchronous instruction would allow students to remotely attend classes.

This change had Western’s faculty and staff concerned over their student’s ability to follow the academic honesty policy, said Melinda Assink, assistant to the provost and secretary to the Academic Honesty Board. 

The concern of academic integrity is greater now that more assessments are being delivered online, said Justina Brown, an instructional designer for Western’s Center for Instructional Innovation and Assessment. 

In posts created on March 10 and April 11 on the r/WWU community board on Reddit, members voiced their methods for possible ways to work around the monitoring technology used by instructors for online assessments. The posts include information on platforms used by Western, such as Canvas and Zoom, and how instructors are able to monitor their behavior.

Canvas has the optional feature to allow professors to view a student’s quiz log. Statuses detailing a student’s actions, such as clicking away from the site, are monitored, according to Canvas’ Instructor Guide.

A Western student and Reddit user said that he was not aware that Canvas was able to see when he would open a new browser tab while taking tests.

“I don’t think that will stop me,” he said. “I’m sure there’s an easy way around that.” 

Tanner Tygret, a second-year Western student, said he knows how easy it is to cheat because other people have told him they’ve done it.

“Some people wonder why I haven’t done it. It’s not about the fear of getting caught or anything like that. It’s more of a characterization of how I view a letter grade,” Tygret said.

Tygert said he sees a grade as a sense of progress and clarity of where he is with the material. 

Honorlock, a program familiar to Western students is set to make a reappearance this quarter. There are a few classes piloting the program which  has previously been used on the ALEKS Math Placement Assessment and is made to dissuade students from cheating, Assink said.

Honorlock is an online proctoring system that monitors students, using video and audio recording, while taking an exam. Students are given a set of guidelines that inform them of what actions could cause an alert and a flag for possible violations. 

Alerts are not seen by students but certified Honorlock test proctors review the exam session and then notify the Western Testing Center of any guideline violations, said Karen Bade, the Western  Testing Center manager. If the violation meets the criteria as an academic integrity violation, the faculty will then be alerted. 

“We have some classes signed up to use Honorlock for their midterm and final exams,” Bade said. “I believe other classes may elect to use it as time progresses.” 

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