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Building Academic and Real-world Integrity in Manitoba

The Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity 2023 was an in-person, two-day conference held at the University of Manitoba on June 1 and 2. The bi-annual conference brings together local and international experts to create cultures of academic integrity and to discuss opportunities and insights to leverage the learnings within their home institutions.

Campus Manitoba was one of the sponsors of the event and assisted a couple of attendees so they could participate in the discussions and presentations. “This event was so well organized,” shared Carley McDougall, acting executive director at Campus Manitoba. “It was impressive to watch Andrew Phung weave personal integrity into the narrative, and his fireside chat, hosted by Marjorie Dowhos, was hilarious. We are very grateful that the symposium was held locally, showcasing the brilliant educators, researchers, and faculty we have across the province.”

Banner for the Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity 2023

Promoting Integrity

The event brought nearly 130 people interested in academic integrity together to discuss various concerns, challenges, concepts, and creative solutions to promote honesty, trust, responsibility, fairness, respect, and courage in the post-secondary environment. University and college administrators from across the province attended, as did librarians, support staff, student and faculty support representatives, and faculty members from around the world. There were visitors from the east coast, west coast, and throughout the country, as well as presenters from the United Kingdom and Australia.

The University of Manitoba’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning hosted the event. Dr. Brenda Stoesz, chair of the organizing committee and senior faculty specialist at University of Manitoba, shared, “We had a great staff who came together to make it all happen, with volunteers, including students, helping to support the event as wayfinders and general assistants to help everyone feel welcome.”

Integrity in Community

“Academic integrity is a key part of education,” explained Lisa Vogt, communications instructor at Red River College Polytechnic. “It’s something all members of the community need to take part in. As instructors, sometimes we get caught focusing on the student side of things, but we can’t invite students into an organization without displaying our own integrity and sharing clear expectations for everyone. As a community, we all need to share common values and educate for what those values might be, then align those things with what the students will do in the future. So when students come to us, they are building that part of themselves to participate and contribute to their future workplaces. That’s the starting place, and then from those commonly shared values, you might drill down and start talking specifically about different skill sets or academic behaviours that help students display those values.”

The Challenges of Generative AI

Speakers and presenters submitted their abstracts months before the event, so when something as earth-shaking as generative artificial intelligence makes the news, the organizers must roll with it and find ways to include it in the program since everyone is already talking about it.

“There was not only a want, but a need to address generative artificial intelligence in the small context of academic integrity,” explained Josh Seeland, manager, Library Services at the Assiniboine Community College. “It’s a large issue. One of the best takeaways, for me, came from one presenter talking about it being a bridge. They said, ‘We’re brave enough to take a step onto the bridge, looking at this generative artificial intelligence. We don’t know where it’s going to go, but it’s better that we take a step onto it and get ahold of this to control the narrative rather than not step on that bridge at all.

“We’ve been discussing the role of assessment and curriculum design for quite a while now,” continued Josh. “It’s not just because of generative AI, but this is another reason to discuss it and keep in that cycle of continuous improvement as other things change. Phil Dawson shared a great quote about AI, ‘We need to prepare students for their futures, not our past.’ Just because we’ve been doing something for a while doesn’t mean it’s something students will need in the next three years. We need to ask ourselves, ‘What do your students need to know to work effectively,’ then we can start building towards that.”

Systems Thinking and Academic Integrity

Catching students making bad decisions around academic integrity isn’t difficult, but setting them up for success requires agile thinking and a willingness to change our practices, such as data collection.

“My presentation focused on data collection regarding academic misconduct,” shared Lisa. “Institutions often collect data on students, such as when and where they have participated in some form of academic misconduct, and they record that data. It’s typically meant as a deterrent because it would end up on the student’s record. There are good reasons for recording misconduct. But that data actually has a lot of information. For example, suppose I have data on all the academic misconduct incidents over the past year. In that case, I can review the data to learn what time of year, which courses, which departments, and what kind of assignments are more apt to lead to academic misconduct. The collected data can help isolate the pinch points and problem areas for faculty and students. And you can further analyze the data to identify assessments that are causing the issue, leading to conversations on ways to build better assessments or support departments that are seeing an increased level of reports.

“When we collect data, we have a duty to use it to support students. By doing this, we can identify where these issues are happening and then create pathways so the same issues don’t recur repeatedly.”

Only in Canada

Geographically, holding the event in Manitoba may have been a surprising move, but academically, intellectually, and emotionally, this might have been the absolute best place to bring it to the rest of the world.

“A lot of academic conferences don’t have that same vibe,” explained Josh. “The way the colleges and universities in Canada, and particularly in Manitoba, work together on academic integrity is fairly rare. We got to see and chat with faculty, administrators, and support staff: it’s a topic where a lot of people in various roles at different institutions can be involved and show off what they’re doing. That’s usually not the case, especially for small colleges like ours. We often can’t participate in the same conferences as the bigger universities, whether it’s library conferences or something to do with curriculum, whatever it might be, but these two days were just fun. The vibe was good, and people were open to sharing ideas.”

“Because it was a little less formal,” shared Brenda, “Some might question the validity and quality of the event, but our international visitors talked about the high quality of the presentations and presenters. Abstracts were submitted to be peer-reviewed by at least two reviewers for each submission. We couldn’t fit all of them into the program — there were just so many good submissions — but the highest-ranked ones ended up in the final program. This came through in the comments people made about the conference: it was high quality, yet still positive and enjoyable.”

The Roadmap for Academic Integrity in Canada

Brenda finished with, “The Manitoba Academic Integrity network has two primary activities: we’ll be planning our 2023-2024 Speaker Series, which is a virtual speaker series open to all post-secondary staff and students in Manitoba and has been opened up to those across Canada. Academic Integrity Inter-Institutional Meeting (AIIIM) will be hosted next year by a soon-to-be-appointed institution. The Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity is normally a bi-annual event, but Martine Peters of the University of Quebec will be hosting it next year because it coincides with another event that she was planning. It’ll be great to bring those two events together. As well, greater connections with other researchers and practitioners are on the horizon for this next year.”

Additional Thought(s)

“I’m not suggesting that you can eliminate misconduct, but if you put those resources in earlier and start to predict some of these times where there’ll be issues, by the end, you should need less energy to deal with fewer cases.” – Lisa Vogt, communications instructor, Red River College Polytechnic

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