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The ACAI’s Fall 2021 provincial meeting

The ACAI’s Fall 2021 provincial meeting hosted by Mount Royal University (MRU) on September 8, 2021, was an opportunity for the Alberta academic integrity community to come together. Here, participants were able to learn about different student’s perspectives and experiences related to academic integrity and academic misconduct prevention. Moreover, the provincial meeting attendees received news about all three ACAI’s working groups’ purposes and activities and became engaged with the ACAI’s steering committee membership process and the plans for the upcoming Alberta Integrity Week.

With over 50 participants from different institutions across the province of Alberta, Dr. Elizabeth Evans (MRU Provost) opened the meeting and underscored the significance of ACAI’s work and its commitment to academic integrity. Moreover, Dr. Evans recognized academic integrity as a “foundational point in postsecondary education.”

After Dr. Evans’ welcome, the student panel called “What I wish I had known” provided invaluable information and deep insights. In this informal interactive discussion, five students shared their engaging and resonating university experiences of learning with integrity. Some of the top recommendations for other students were to become engaged in APA and MLA workshops early, keep a close relationship with academic advisors, interact with Faculty and peers frequently, avoid self-plagiarism, seek support to develop planning skills, include references immediately when writing papers, and practice active self-care. Drawing from their experiences, students recognized that stress could lead to academic misconduct; therefore, it was vital to identify different supports and strategies in their learning process. The students also shared a critical message aligned to Dr. Evans’s opening, which was that “the best type of learning is from failure.”

ACAI’s working groups presentations followed the student panel. Here, the working groups shared their progress during 2021. For instance, the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) group has been working on defining EDI in the context of academic integrity. This group’s members are currently seeking to find a definition that represents different institutions across Alberta. Moreover, they are currently developing an annotated bibliography as a reference resource for the community. The Contract Cheating working group has developed materials (see more on resources) and planned activities for the Alberta Academic Integrity week to advance understanding and advocacy about Contract Cheating. This group is also developing evidence-based strategies using a collaborative approach to build capacity through and across institutions. The most crucial goal of this working group is to push for legislation in Canada concerning Contract Cheating. The third working group, Educational Development, is currently creating practical strategies to build institutional academic integrity cultures. This group has also planned activities for the Alberta Academic Integrity Week this year.

Concerning the steering committee membership process, ACAI also shared information about their current state, goals and offered opportunities to become involved. Here, the steering committee members explained the particularities of ACAI and the opportunities it has opened for them to connect with others. Moreover, an essential ACAI distinction is that all steering committee members are actively involved in the working groups’ leadership.

The last section of the meeting promoted the upcoming Alberta Integrity Week (October 18-22). The Steering committee members shared their enthusiasm and invited the meeting’s participants to stay tuned for more information. Alberta Integrity week’s primary purpose is to promote awareness of academic integrity, and it will be implemented in collaboration with the European Academic Integrity Week, which will elevate this event to become a multi-country initiative (see resources).

Resources:

Contract Cheating in Alberta: Quick Facts

Quick facts about contract cheating in Alberta, Canada – 1 page downloadable resource

  • Other terms used to refer to this industry have been “term paper mills”, “essay mills”, “academic consultation services”, or “academic research services”. It is an illicit industry whose main business is providing the means for students to engage in academic misconduct by doing school work on behalf of the student. “Contract cheating” is now the preferred term worldwide.
  • Contract cheating services have been operating for decades. The first known media coverage about term paper mills in Alberta appeared in the Calgary Herald on February 24, 1972.
  • The contract cheating industry is valued at over $15 Billion USD.
  • This is a predatory industry. In 2021 the Better Business Bureau issued a scam alert about contract cheating companies that engage in extortion and blackmail of students who use their services. The industry shares some parallels with organized crime.
  • The Alberta Council on Academic Integrity estimates that over 7,000 Alberta post-secondary students are lured in by contract cheating companies every year. These companies advertise to students as homework help. Their websites look legitimate which can be both confusing and tempting for students.
  • Nearly all textbook answer keys and exam bank solutions can be found on these websites. Most instructor-created assignments and suggested solutions can be found within a week of the assignment being released.
  • Currently no data exist about the number of students in Alberta who are subjected to extortion or blackmail by contract cheating companies. We have anecdotal reports that students at many of Alberta’s post-secondary institutions have been subjected to extortion.
  • Contract cheating is not currently illegal in Canada. It is illegal in several US states, Australia, and New Zealand. It is illegal for contract cheating companies to advertise their services in Ireland. Legislation has been tabled in the UK to make contract cheating illegal there.
  • Although contract cheating companies face no consequences for providing these services, students who are caught often face severe sanctions.
  • The Alberta Council on Academic Integrity provides education and advocacy around contract cheating in our province.

References:

Better Business Bureau. (2021, April 2). BBB Scam Alert: Cheating on homework leads to extortion scam. https://www.bbb.org/article/news-releases/24032-bbb-scam-alert-students-hire-homework-help-and-end-up-in-extortion-con

Eaton, S. E. (2021, June 22). Contract Cheating in Canada: How it Started and How it’s Going. Paper presented at the Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity (CSAI) 2021 (Online), Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, BC, Canada. http://hdl.handle.net/1880/113525

Grue, D., Eaton, S. E., & Boisvert, S. (2021). Parallels Between the Contract Cheating Industry and Organized Crime. http://hdl.handle.net/1880/113323

Download this resource as a 1-page handout:ACAI Contract Cheating in Alberta- Quick Facts (2021-09)

Cite this resource as:

Eaton, S. E., & Boisvert, S. (2021, September). Contract Cheating in Alberta: Quick Facts. Alberta Council on Academic Integrity: Contract Cheating Working Group. https://albertaacademicintegrity.wordpress.com/

Re-Cap of the 2021 Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity

by Margaret Toye, Bow Valley College, ACAI Steering Committee Member

The Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity was hosted by Thompson Rivers University on July 22-23, 2021. The conference was held virtually, and there was no cost to participants. There were 8 sets of concurrent sessions, with 45 sessions overall offered by 107 presenters. Presenters were from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, and there were presenters from United Arab Emirates, United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, and the Czech Republic. The conference was attended by 745 people from those same provinces and countries as well as Ukraine.

Contract cheating was a major topic at the conference, with four presentations on the topic as well as with the closing session on Day 1 being a fascinating presentation by Sarah Elaine Eaton (University of Calgary) on  the history and development of contract cheating in Canada over the last 50 or so years, and the closing session Day 2 being a panel on contract cheating, featuring Sarah Elaine Eaton (University of Calgary), Brenda M. Stoesz (University of Manitoba), Amanda McKenzie (University of Waterloo), Sean Zwagerman (Simon Fraser University), and Dustin Grue (NorQuest College). Discussion of contract cheating throughout the conference showed that it is not just students’ use of essay mills; it includes the use of commercial contract cheating and unethical file-sharing companies that encourage students to share course material, assessment questions and instructions, and notes, often in real-time as students complete exams and other assessments (c.f. Nancy Chibry and Ebba Kurz [University of Calgary]).

Given that the COVID-19 pandemic moved education online around the world in 2020-2021, e-proctoring was a major topic at the conference as well. Discussion of e-proctoring focused on surveillance technology and related student privacy concerns, as well as the technology’s potential for causing students anxiety and for discriminatory flagging of students (c.f. Sarah Elaine Eaton [University of Calgary]) and Ceceilia Parnther [St. John’s University]).

The opening keynote presentation was by Thomas Lancaster (Imperial College London UK) on the power of academic integrity communities, and there were three presentations on cultures of academic integrity. There were 5 presentations on academic integrity policy, 4 on restorative practices, 6 on empowering learners to successfully engage in academic integrity, 3 on assessment design to support academic integrity, 3 on academic integrity in language learning contexts, and 4 that shared specific cases of academic misconduct and 2 that described trends at specific institutions. Among other interesting topics, there was one presentation on decolonizing academic integrity, and one on mental well-being in relation to academic integrity. 

Recordings of the conference presentations are available here: https://media.tru.ca/playlist/dedicated/0_0u3o63xd/0_5g0m31ax

Alberta Council for Academic Integrity Fall 2021 Provincial Meeting

Registration is open for the Alberta Council on Academic Integrity (ACAI) Fall 2021 provincial meeting.

Please join us for the Alberta Council on Academic Integrity (ACAI) Fall 2021 provincial meeting, to be hosted virtually by Mount Royal University. Anyone keen to support academic integrity in post secondary institutions in Alberta is welcome – students, staff, faculty, administrators, and any other interested party.

Highlights:

  • Panel of students answering the question, “What do you wish you had known?”
  • Reports from the EDI, Contract Cheating, and Educational Development working groups
  • Discussion of changes to Council and Steering Committee membership
  • Updates on Alberta Academic Integrity Week (Oct. 18-22, 2021) activities

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Online (The Google Meet link will be emailed to registrants closer to the date.)

Register here

If you have any questions, please direct them to Marg Olfert, Steering Committee Member, Alberta Council on Academic Integrity (ACAI): molfert@mtroyal.ca 

We look forward to connecting with you at the meeting!

Resource: Parallels Between the Contract Cheating Industry and Organized Crime

The global contract cheating industry is worth billions of dollars. It includes, but is not limited to essay mills, term paper mills, thesis-writing services, unethical tutoring, and unethical file-sharing. The industry shares characteristics with organized crime. This resource shows some of the parallels between the commercial contract cheating industry and organized crime.

Alberta Council on Academic Integrity (ACAI) logo 2021

Members of the Contract Cheating Working Group of the Alberta Council on Academic Integrity have developed a new open access resource, “Parallels Between the Contract Cheating Industry and Organized Crime”.

Abstract:

The global contract cheating industry is worth billions of dollars. It includes, but is not limited to essay mills, term paper mills, thesis-writing services, unethical tutoring, and unethical file-sharing. The industry shares characteristics with organized crime. This resource shows some of the parallels between the commercial contract cheating industry and organized crime.

This resource is available as a free downloadable resource:

Microsoft Word – ACAI Contract Cheating and Organized Crime 2021-04.docx

Authors: Dustin Grue (NorQuest College, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), Sheryl Boisvert (NorQuest College, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), & Sarah Elaine Eaton (University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada)

Cite this resource as:
Grue, D., Eaton, S. E., & Boisvert, S. (2021). Parallels Between the Contract Cheating Industry and Organized Crime. Parallels Between the Contract Cheating Industry and Organized Crime. Alberta Council on Academic Integrity: Contract Cheating Working Group. http://hdl.handle.net/1880/113323

Alberta Academic Integrity Week 2021

Mark your calendar for Alberta #AcademicIntegrity Week October 18-22, 2021.

The Alberta Council on Academic Integrity is pleased to announce

Alberta Academic Integrity Week

October 18-22, 2021

During Academic Integrity Week we encourage educational institutions across Alberta to:

  • Offer events at your school to promote academic integrity
  • Engage students in conversations about academic integrity
  • Offer skill-building workshops such as citing and referencing workshops
  • Distribute academic integrity swag to students and staff
  • Hold workshops for faculty on topics such as academic misconduct case management
  • Build awareness about the predatory contract cheating industry
  • Connect with your student leaders to plan events and raise awarness
  • Cross-promote workshops and events with other Alberta institutions
  • Join the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating on October 20, 2021

Academic Integrity Week 2021 Events

October 19, 2021: The Intersection of Academic Integrity and Mental Health: From Resources to Policies

Through discussions and activities, participants will examine academic integrity through a mental health lens. One of the topics addressed in this session include the impact of the academic misconduct process on student and faculty mental health. At a structural level, one of the topics highlighted will be bringing a mental health perspective to the development or review of academic integrity-related policies, processes and procedures. The session will conclude with Q&A, as well as resources to support student and faculty mental health and wellbeing.

This session is hosted by the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, University of Calgary. For more information, contact the session host, Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton, Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity.

Facilitator: Dr. Andrew Szeto, PhD
Date: Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Time: 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Mountain Time

Locations: Online via Zoom

Please note: Registration will close on Sunday, October 17, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. (MT) and a Zoom link for the webinar will be sent the morning of the workshop.

Register here: https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/series-and-events/integrity-week https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/series-and-events/integrity-week

October 19, 2021: The Human Face of Contract Cheating

This event is hosted by NorQuest College.

This webinar aims to bring a human face to contract cheating. Contract cheating happens — is happening right now — in our classrooms, and seriously impacts our students and faculty. These impacts will be explored in conversation with an instructor and student sharing their experiences with contract cheating. Join us for this hour and walk away with increased awareness and some tools and strategies to share with students to avoid the trappings of contract cheating.

  • Date: Tuesday, October 19, 2012
  • Time: 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Mountain Time

Streamed live in the Innovation Studio, 5th Floor of the CELT Building . (The video link will be sent out the day before the event). Join us in person or online.

Register here.

If you have any questions about this webinar please email Sheryl Boisvert at sheryl.boisvert@norquest.ca or Dustin Grue at dustin.grue@norquest.ca

October 19, 2021: Communicating Copyright to Your Students

There is often anxiety around copyright matters. Educators may worry about copyright “policing,” procedures around sharing works, what is acceptable under their user rights, how students understand copyright, and more. There is a lot to evaluate, and it can be overwhelming. While these anxieties are understandable, there are ways to ease the stress and bring copyright confidence into the classroom. 

The session will propose ways for educators to positively communicate copyright to students. It will touch on the recording of lectures, use of student work, copyright considerations when creating student assignments, and how to approach students as fellow creators and establish an environment of respect and trust.

This session aligns with Alberta Academic Integrity Week (October 18-22, 2021) and is hosted by Mount Royal University.

  • Tuesday, October 19, 2021
  • 3:00-4:00 p.m. Mountain Time
  • Online (The Google Meet link will be emailed to registrants the day before the session.)
  • Register here 

If you have any questions, please direct them to Silvia Rossi, Writing and Learning Strategist, Mount Royal University: srossi (at) mtroyal.ca 

October 20, 2021: Contract Cheating in Alberta and Beyond

Join us for an eye-opening webinar about contract cheating in Alberta. We will talk about essay mills, homework completion services, unethical tutoring services, and thesis consultation services that all cross the line into academic misconduct. Learn about the size and scope of this predatory industry and how it preys on our students, including engaging in blackmail and extortion. 

By the end of this session engaged participants will be able to: 

  • Describe what contract cheating is.
  • Analyze how contract cheating impacts students. 
  • Discover practical tips and strategies to promote academic integrity. 

This session is hosted by the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, University of Calgary. For more information, contact the session host, Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton, Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity.

Facilitator: Dr. Sarah Eaton, PhD and Sheryl Boisvert 
Date: Wednesday, October 20, 2021 
Time: 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. Mountain time
Locations: Online via Zoom  

Please note: Registration will close on Monday, October 18, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. (MT) and a Zoom link for the webinar will be sent the morning of the workshop.

Register here: https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/series-and-events/integrity-week https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/series-and-events/integrity-week

October 21, 2021: Rethinking the Promotion of (Academic) Integrity – The Case for Restorative Practices

The Educational Development Working Group of the Alberta Council for Academic Integrity (ACAI) is pleased to present Dr Paul Sopcak of MacEwan University, on the topic of restorative practices.

Integrity is often referred to as doing the right thing when no one is looking. The rapid move to remote, uninvigilated assessments due to the pandemic, and the stark spike in academic misconduct that followed and continues to follow, proved to be a grim benchmark of how successful efforts to promote (academic) integrity, rather than mere rule-compliance, have been. The well-documented, historical reluctance of faculty members to deal with suspected academic misconduct according to institutional policy and procedure has further increased, due to the significant strain on emotional and material resources that pandemic measures and the spike in incidents have imposed. Likewise, the pandemic has added emotional and mental health pressures on students, leading to less vigilance and resilience related to ethical decision-making. Students with strong ethical sensibilities related to their academic work have been frustrated by the perceived prevalence of cheating and lower GPAs for those who refuse to do so as a result. 

In this session, I will present MacEwan University’s application of Restorative Practices (RP) principles and procedures in response to misconduct and to the building of a culture of integrity. Specifically, I will speak to the potential of RP processes as social-emotional learning opportunities that help prevent misconduct, increase faculty and student engagement as well as satisfaction, and provide meaningful connection at a time of increased isolation and emotional stress. I will also address frequent misunderstandings about hesitancy toward RP. Ample time will be allocated to Q&A and the discussion of issues such as the integration of RP into policy and the generation of buy-in, training of facilitators, and necessary resources.

This session aligns with the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating, the Alberta Academic Integrity Week, as well as the declarations of many additional provincial organizations that October 18-22 is Academic Integrity Week in Canada.

The session is open to anyone working at a higher education institution and will be held on:

  • Thursday, October 21
  • 1:30 p.m.  – 3:00 p.m. Mountain Time
  • Online (The Google Meet link will be emailed to registrants closer to the date.)
  • Register here 

If you have any questions, please direct them to Marg Olfert, ACAI Steering Committee Member, and Lead for the ACAI Educational Development Working Group: molfert@mtroyal.ca 

October 22, 2021: FOIP Training for Academic Integrity

Learn how the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) applies when there are suspected or actual breaches of academic integrity. Learn what information can be shared, with whom and why. 

This session is hosted by the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, University of Calgary. For more information, contact the session host, Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton, Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity.

Facilitator: Katharine Kinnear (FOIP Coordinator, Legal Services) and Jennifer Sinclair (FOIP Advisor, Legal Services)
Date: Friday, October 22, 2021
Time: 12 – 1 p.m.
Location: Online via Zoom

Please note: Registration will close on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. (MT) and a Zoom link for the webinar will be sent the morning of the workshop.

Register here: https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/series-and-events/integrity-week https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/series-and-events/integrity-week

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Alberta Council for Academic Integrity Winter 2021 Provincial Meeting

The Alberta Council for Academic Integrity  (ACAI) Steering committee and Lethbridge College are pleased to host the ACAI Winter 2021 Provincial Council Meeting:

Friday, January 15, 2021

09:00-12:00 MST 

Platform: Zoom 

Join us to catch up on what is happening around the province related to academic integrity topics. This meeting is open to educators, students, student affairs professionals, educational leaders and administrators, librarians and others whose work involves academic integrity. Those from both the K-12 systems and post-secondary institutions are welcome to attend. We would like to extend a special invitation to members of Student Unions and Associations at our various post-secondary institutions.

The meeting will include updates from various Alberta post-secondary institutions related to institutional academic integrity initiatives and conversations regarding academic integrity in pandemic times. 

The ACAI Steering Committee will also introduce the creation of three new provincial working groups related to academic integrity:

If you would like more information or have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Melanie Hamilton, ACAI Steering Committee member: melanie.hamilton@lethbridgecollege.ca

contract cheating

equity, diversity and inclusion

professional (educational) development

Registration is required and space is limited, so please register early!

Register here:

Webinar re-cap: Proctoring online exams – Experiences in Alberta

Here’s a re-cap of our webinar on proctoring of online exams.

On 22 July 2020 we hosted “Proctoring online exams – Experiences in Alberta”. The webinar was hosted by Margaret Toye (Bow Valley College), Steering Committee Member for the Alberta Council on Academic Integrity.

Panelists included:

  • Kimberley Hogarth (Bow Valley College)
  • Sarah Elaine Eaton (University of Calgary)
  • Paul Sopcak (MacEwan University)

You can access a recording of the webinar here:

Stay tuned for our next webinar, coming in August.

Academic Integrity: Combating Systemic Racism

One-page resource to help educate people about systemic racism and academic integrity.

After releasing the Alberta Council on Academic Integrity’s Statement Against Racism, we have received requests for educational materials and resources. We offer , “Academic Integrity – Combating Racism” as an introductory one-page resource.

Statement Against Racism

Academic integrity cannot co-exist with injustice. The Alberta Council on Academic Integrity denounces racism in all forms. See our statement against racism.

Alberta Council on Academic Integrity

Statement Against Racism on Matters Relating to Academic Integrity

Statement release date: June 4, 2020

Academic integrity cannot co-exist with injustice. The Alberta Council on Academic Integrity denounces racism in all forms. This includes:

  • Negative stereotyping of students from particular countries or cultures.
  • Racially biased reporting of academic misconduct that either implicitly or explicitly targets students of colour, students for whom English is not a first language and other racialized minorities.
  • Excessively harsh sanctioning of academic misconduct among racialized minorities.

We call upon all educators, administrators, and institutions to:

  • Acknowledge that particular groups of students are over-represented in academic misconduct reporting.
  • Speak out against racial stereotypes that persist against Black, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latinx, and Indigenous students with regards to academic misconduct.
  • Ensure that reporting of academic integrity violations is consistent across the student body and breaches are addressed in fair and equitable ways.
  • Collect institutional academic misconduct data on racialized minorities in order to identify, prevent, and pro-actively address racial bias in reporting and sanctioning of students who are not white or for whom English is not their first language.

The Alberta Council on Academic Integrity was established in 2019 to promote and advocate for academic integrity across Alberta. Questions about this statement can be directed to members of the Steering Committee.

Download a .pdf version of this statement:

Alberta Council on Academic Integrity – Statement Against Racism 2020-06-04

Main page – Alberta Council on Academic Integrity 2020.