The University has confirmed that students who begin their academic journeys in the winter and spring semesters will also need to complete the course. Image: Pexel/Stock
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A rise in academic fraud cases due to the conditions of virtual learning resulted in the implementation of the course

To combat the recent rise in academic fraud cases, the University of Ottawa now requires all incoming undergraduate students to complete mandatory academic integrity training during their first term after admission to the U of O.

The new requirement comes after nearly 18 months of virtual studies due to the pandemic, which caused almost all classes to be moved online. Since the shift, cases of academic fraud have increased due to proctoring limitations for tests and exams, and increased use of the internet for all academic activities. Access to social media (and class group chats), as well as homework help websites, such as Chegg and Course Hero, have also played a role in the increase.

The training is required under academic regulation I-14, which states that “the range of possible responses to academic fraud can be pedagogical as well as disciplinary.” These “pedagogical responses” include sanctions such as requiring “workshops on academic integrity” and a requirement of “proof of participation in the workshop” by the university.

All students in their first term should be automatically enrolled and can find the course on Brightspace. The training includes a series of modules and quizzes that must be successfully completed in order for students to fulfill the requirements. 

For students beginning their first term in Fall 2021, the training became available on July 22, and must be completed by Oct. 15. Failure to complete the training by the deadline will result in students being unable to enroll or make course selection changes for the following term. 

Britney Achu, a first-year biomedical science student at the U of O, shared her experience of completing the modules.

“A quiz/test was given after each [module] to ensure that the subject matter covered was well grasped,” said Achu. “If a minimum grade of 75 [per cent] wasn’t achieved then the next module wouldn’t open. This meant that whoever was doing the module couldn’t simply skim through the concept, but rather had to take time to make sure they had an in-depth understanding of what they’re being taught.”

Achu described her experience as positive, saying the training “didn’t take long to complete. It’s quick, simple, and easy to understand. It took me only an afternoon.” 

She even commended the format of the course, saying “whoever put the training together did a good job. The inclusion of short stories allowed quick and simple do’s and don’ts for each topic.”

U of O manager of media relations Isabelle Mailloux-Pulkinghorn told the Fulcrum that, “[the university] sees this year’s launch of the awareness and training modules as a large-scale pilot project, and every week we analyze the results to make sure that the majority of students are passing (which is the case), and identify questions that seem too difficult, to revise the content of the modules as needed during the year, etc. In addition, the goal is to avoid any student failing the course, or deciding not to take it. This is why we are closely following the progress of this large pilot [program], and the results of the training.” 

Juliann Lacasse, a first-year human kinetics student, also had a positive outlook on the new required training. “It’s super easy to get through. A lot of it is common sense. The training is necessary because [first-year students] are new to the school, so it serves as a reminder that we should always do our own work.”

When asked her opinion about the training only being required for incoming students, Lacasse said, “I don’t think the university really has to justify us taking it, because we’ve been taught our entire lives what cheating is and that claiming others’ work to be your own is bad. I think they’re doing us a favour by making it mandatory to give us another opportunity to be reminded that it’s never the way to go. I don’t think other years should have to do it.”

The university has granted an exemption for undergraduate students in the faculty of medicine — except in the Translational and Molecular Medicine program — on the grounds that these students “take different, though equivalent, training.”

The university has confirmed that the academic integrity training course will be available to students who begin their first semesters in January and May 2022 on specific dates that have yet to be announced. It remains unclear if this training will continue to be required of first-year students in other years or if any training will be required of upperclassmen.