Friday, June 11, 2021

ECAIP 2021 - Day 3

 What? It's Friday already? Last day of the conference! Lots of good stuff still to hear.

Day 0 - Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3

I first took part in the panel on the "Future of software tools for academic integrity" with  Tomáš Foltýnek as moderator. Participating was: Frédéric Agnès (Compilatio), Aaron Yaversky (Turnitin), Artemy V. Nikitov (Antiplagiat), Peter Witasp (Ouriginal), Ali Tahmazov (StrikePlagiarism), and Lewis McKinnon (Studiosity), and me (HTW Berlin). We had a good discussion with a very lively chat going on in parellel! My take-home message was that a support tool for detecting plagiarism is not the end: it is the beginning of a complicated process. We need help in preparing documentation for our various boards. The companies need focus groups with real instructors, not the university buyers who have other needs and desires. On the VroniPlag Wiki site they can see documented examples of how real doctoral students have plagiarized. They need to focus more on true usability and not on fancy clicky-colorful sites. And our needs are more than text - we need image search, 3D-Model comparison, etc. etc. These are hard problems with other tools possible to use. Help us to include things we find elsewhere in the reports. And the publishers should use their ill-gotten gains to provide a programming interface so that software companies can send over a list of hash values generated by an agreed on algorithm and the publishers can return DOIs of potential sources. That way the data remains private to each company, but the knowledge of matching can be exchanged.

Off my soap-box! 

I had to run to the library, so I missed a bit of the Pecha-Kucha, but saw the last few videos, they were very interesting.

I then zoomed into Kelley A. Packalen & Kate Rowbotham (Queen's University, Canada) presenting the results of their work on "Student insight on academic integrity." We so often hear from teachers, but seldom from students on how they perceive academic integrity. They get asked what they do and why, but we don't hear what they think can be done to improve behavior. They used computer-facilitated focus groups with 44 undergraduates, and ran a companion survey on 45 % of the population (n=852). 85 % self-reported at least one questionable behavior in the past year. The focus group students were given 1.5 hours of research pool credit (gives them a grade bump). 

Their results are interesting - AI is a non-essential concept, some don't know the rules, some make the rational choice (grade boost vs. likelihood of getting caught). Some noted that if the professors don't make any effort, why should they? They understand why problems are happening, and even know what do do, but have difficulty actually doing it.

Their suggestions: make assignments policy-related, provide learning support and logistics, give good and fast evaluation. Students seem to think professors only teach their class and don't understand why the same example is used every year. Do everything possible to eliminate the temptation for students to violate academic integrity. Align expectations around workload: those that students have for faculty and those that faculty have for students. Take-away: Academic Integrity is not a student issue, but an institution issue!

The next session was to be "A Universal Approach to A Culture of Integrity: 'A Family Built on Trust'” by Camilla J. Roberts (Kansas State University), but she didn't come, so a video was played. KSU had a cheating incident in 1994 with 115 students investigated and 75 students failing. The students pushed for a policy change, as they were having trouble in job interviews. She discusses communication, for example via the syllabus. I posted a link to the PhD-Comic "It's in the syllabus" that has a slightly different take on this. She encourages every faculty member to explain for each class what unauthorized aid is in this class, and have the students promise to follow it. It needs to be communicated amongst students that it is the norm to be honest, the norm to not cheat. 

I had a nice lunch discussion with Ouriginal and Compilatio and completely forgot to take notes. Olu and I were quizzing Ouriginal in particular about their new stylometric tool.

Then I heard Thomas Lancaster & Rahul Gupta on "Contract Cheating And Unauthorised Homework Assistance Through Reddit Communities." Reddit is a rather unruly collection of message boards that is popular (not only) with computer science people. Thomas has his extensive collection of slide decks openly availablae at SlideShare - thank you Thomas! Where do students go when they feel overwhelmed? Google, family, TikTok, fellow students, random people on the internet, library, friends, .... Reddit is full of people complaining about plagiarism issues, and there is even a so-called subreddit on the topic. Rahul collected data from r/HomeworkHelp in September 2020 from 1 January 2016 to 13 August 2020. No significant difference between the number of posts on weekdays and weekends, the pattern of requests largely follows the Western teaching year. Significant increase in the number of posts after March 2020. Most posts occur in the evening US time zones. 28 % made by high school students, the rest university students. 60 % had wording suggesting they were maths requests, the other two most popular ones were Physics and Chemistry. 

And there are scams here - students ask tutors to complete "sample questions" to gauge their skill - then they claim to have found one, but they just look for agreement between the various tutors. They also pay less than the agreed-on rate. Tutors will offer cheaper work, then not do it. Some extort students by threatening to reveal incidents of contract cheating to their institutions. They will sometimes supply substandard work on purpose. And most shocking: University lecturers providing contract cheating services. There are even Chegg answers available. Rahul has had some success at identifying students, because they used the same account for other Reddit posts revealing their university, and the university was able to identify the student. 

Problems: More access to evidence needed, as online evidence can be deleted. And we have to somehow get CourseHero and Chegg to cooperate (but that would wreck their business model). Students need to understand what a "tutor" is, and institutions need to react to the use of "homework help" - Contract cheating is not limited to essay mills! Someone posted a link to an article "Caught in the study web". It was noted that some companies operate in countries such as Belarus, but give a UK address & telephone number. Thomas notes that these services are not illegal in the UK, but there are apparently plans to change this sometime in the future.

I was then so thrilled to attend the talk by Mary Davis (Oxford Brookes University) on "Raising awareness of inclusive practice in academic integrity". I take the booklet she wrote together with Kate Williams and Jude Carroll, "Referencing and Understanding Plagiarism" to every single talk that I give on plagiarism to pass around. It has cartoons in it, so Germans rumple up their noses, but I put the bit on "When do you need to reference" (pp. 36-7) on my slides as well. It is so concise and they really need to see that it fits on 2 slides. In the UK there is increased focus on Equality Diversity and eliminating discrimination. 

What are the problems? Various publications by many authors have identified: There is a continued over-representation of students from certain ethnic groups (incl. international students) in academic conduct investigations, many faculty think international students are the problem, non-native speakers man misinterpret Turnitin results, academic literacy instruction not available to all. There can be age or financial or disability circumstances, and cultural aspects. She wanted to see: To what extent are the guidance documents, teaching, support and processes in the UK inclusive?

She looked at guidance documents, interviewed 11 key staff and 5 students who experienced the academic conduct referral process. Academic development staff noted that having a referral in your first few months can make a student feel like an outsider. One noted that she felt pre-judged, that she was a criminal in the eyes of her children. Many students are mature, not native speakers (L1s). Lower socio-economic people, first in family to study are less likely to ask for help, as they feel they don't belong there, so they are more likely to mess up. Dyslexic students are often scared of visiting the library! Many undergraduates don't know what the library is for, feel they don't belong there. Very important: A friendly face greeting people to the library. 

Teaching staff spoke about students from different academic cultures, that seem to be in a black hole. They get rapped on the knuckles, but don't learn anything. Academic conduct officers have so much to do, they focus on ticking all the boxes. Education instead of referral would be more inclusive. Senior management felt all was in place, but did acknowledge that faculty maintain a good critical self-aware reflective space.

The student union noted that the more marginalized students are the most susceptive because they're the least familiar with the concepts. They feel referrals is more like calling the cops instead on knocking on the neighbor's door when the music is too loud. Distinguish between cheating and not understanding how things work!

The student's accounts were detailed and emotional. They felt overwhelmed, alone, anxious. She concludes that academic integrety is still not accessible, relevant and engaging to all students", as it was supposed to be. Mary notes that at her school, first-year students are given education and not a referral on academic misconduct.

Then Bob Ives (Univ. of Nevada) & Ana-Maria Cazan (Brasov, Romania) spoke on "Changes in Academic Misconduct Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic". There has been an explosion of anectodal information about how the pandemic has affected education. They conducted a study to investigate the beliefs and experiences of HE students before and after the pandemic. 414 students in 11 universities in the US, and 480 students at 5 universities in Romania over various majors/specialties. They did an anonymous online survey with 18 items on beliefs and experiences selected from previous research. 

Students in both countries reported higher rates of misconduct for all three types of cheating after the move to online. Romanian students, however, reported less cheating on assignments. Students from both countries reported less plagiarism. Overall, the US students reported less misconduct than the Romanian ones did. Theory: The move to online provided more possibilities to cheat on exams, but nothing changed for plagiarism. They now have more students and are starting in more countries.  However, the Times Higher Education has noted that German students are saying that they cheat twice as much as pre-Covid. [He says that the word is supposed to be pronounced coovid now ;)]

And oh, my, we are down to the last talk, the keynote by Sarah Elaine Eaton (University of Calgary) on "Communities of Integrity: Engaging Ethically Online for Teaching, Learning, and Research." She starts with having us reflect on who the original inhabitants were of the grounds on which we stand. And then she quotes Sonja from the dinner last night: Coming to this conference is rather like coming home. Home to people who understand where you are at, as opposed to you being generally the lone warrior in your day jobs. 

She notes the difference between emergency remote teaching/learning and online learning. It is not about the technology, but also the didaktics. Those who have previously, voluntarily worked online, saw that as a safe space. They were told what to expect. Those who have only experienced online during the pandemic have a completely different view on this. Before the pandemic there was an immense body of literature about the factors affecting academic misconduct. But this was all on face-to-face instruction. The research in inconclusive or contradictory about online environments!

Prior to the pandemic she did a study about academic integrity online. It turned out that all of the resources were only available on campus - academic integrity online had been completely ignored! They then developed a tutorial and had their online students invited to participate. Only 21 did, but they obtained good insights. Many students wanted to talk with someone and ask questions, not just experience a one-way, transmission model of academic integrity education. Students noted that instructors are often inconsistent. Students craved interactivity! They wanted to practice their skills of citing and referencing. Thus, a "set it and forget it" (one-and-done) model for academic integrity education does not work. 

Sharing is normal online! Why is this misconduct when we teach online? There has also been an increase of businesses offering online services. Now people are talking about hybried or high-flex learning that might continue in some form. Creating excellent onlne teaching and learning experiences requires resources, time, and effort! We need to combat the myth that online learning causes violations of academic integrity. 

Academic Integrity work is transdisciplinary work! And that means that it is uncomfortable, as you are working together with people from other fields. We have to disrupt the notion that academic integrity only affects students. Research integrity, ethics, anti-corruption efforts are all part of this endeavor. 

Her calls to action:

  • Engage: Work with colleagues in other disciplines in transdisciplinary ways;
  • Extend: Focus on emerging issues;
  • Empower: Create opportunities for others.


And now the closing session, chaired by Tomáš Foltýnek.

The ENAI Awards 2021 are

  • Exemplary Research Award: Zeenath Reza Khan 
  • Outstanding Member Award: Sonja Bjelobaba
  • Special Award for Pandemic Response: UOWD Conference organizing committee 
  • Exemplary Activism Award: Debora Weber-Wulff
  • Outstanding Student Award: Veronika Králiková 
  • Tracey Bretag ENAI Memorial Award: Teddi Fishman

Thank you so very, very much!

Student Photo Contest Award: The winner is Amy Tucker with a picture that you can find on Facebook.

Best Presentation Award (keynotes excluded): Irene Glendinning with her talk on "Comparison of institutional strategies for academic integrity in Europe and Eurasia". Since Irene already had the book, it was given to Pegi Pavletić for chairing the student panel.

Dinner awards: Tomáš for the best dish, Olumide for the best dress (with his charming baby), best hat I still didn't get. 

Sonja spoke about the European Academic Integrity Week that is to be the week of October 18-22. 

The next conference will be at the University of Porto, Portugal, at the Medical School in April 2022 (probably the last week) over 3 full days. Laura Ribeiro is chair of the conference.

I'm exhausted, and still have so many videos from parallel sessions to watch! Thank you to everyone who participated - you are, indeed, family!


  1. Thank you so much for these blog posts. I have read them all and appreciate the level of detail you include. Your posts are valuable digital artefacts from the conference.

  2. Chegg cooperates with all official academic integrity investigations from Universities. Chegg believes academic integrity is a fundamental part of learning and continuously works to prevent misuse of Chegg's products and services. Read more about our approach to upholding academic integrity and Honor Code Policy at


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