I was recently in an “all school” meeting at my University, where we offer courses via a variety of modalities. Some of the what I might call “more traditional” faculty expressed concerns about online learning and maintaining academic integrity. Having been an online student for both my MSN and PhD degrees, and having taught in nursing education programs online for the last 6 years, I must admit that I was sort of internally laughing at some of the concerns presented, such as “what if the person is not really posting their discussions?. “how can me be sure there are the student’s papers”, and “how do we know it is the student taking the exam?”. I mean we have to assume a certain level of academic integrity and honesty from our students, right?
But today I took pause when Peggy Chinn sent the following link to me from The Chronicle, which frequently discusses issues that Academicians face:
The article is written by a person who purportedly writes students’ papers for them for a fee. This is of course disturbing for those of us who work in a profession such as nursing, where we expect students to maintain a certain level of honesty and ethical comportment due to the ethical situations they will face in the practice setting.
Meanwhile, we use tools such as turnitin or safeassign in the academic setting to determine if students are being unethical by copying sources from books, websites, or previously submitted papers from various schools that use these services. I also have used my intuition or basic comparison skills of a student’s capability to detect dishonesty with writing and then verified these concerns formally. However, this obviously does not address the issue of students’ not maintaining academic integrity by paying for others to complete their work, or perhaps even having a friend or significant other complete their work for them.
In the future, if my science fiction mind is right, it could be that technology addresses this issue better (ie, the student identity as they are writing or taking a quiz is maintained via a retinal or fingerprint scan). Until the technology catches up, what can we do as nurses to maintain academic honesty and integrity? I think particularly in nursing academia, we may be acting unethically if we know these issues exist, yet we don’t find ways to actively expose and problem solve them.
I still recall the student in a masters entry level into nursing ethics course who submitted a paper that was about 80% plagiarized from a 10 year old textbook. As I began to read through her work, I noticed that her “paper writing voice” seemed far more scholarly then her “discussion postings writing voice” seemed. I began to copy and past sections of her paper into google, and sure enough, this older nursing ethics textbook showed up again and again, as she had directly copied and pasted. I went through the formal academic integrity process for this school and the student’s response was simply that she had used the book for research, but what she had turned into me was the draft, not the final version she had intended to turn in to me.SO really her error was simply in turning in the wrong paper.
Ultimately, with the support of the head of the program, I issued the student a 0 grade for the assignment and she failed the course (the written assignment was worth 50% of the grade), though she appealed to retake the class or change the grade. The process was then out of my hands and the dean would decide the student’s fate. I was very concerned that this pre-licensure graduate nursing student may be allowed to continue on in the program through the appeals process, and yet I was also satisfied that I had met my personal ethical obligation to protect society by upholding academic integrity in this course.
What are your experiences with addressing the ethical issues we face in nursing academia and nursing practice?