A Life Less Analog, Technology

Ensuring academic integrity in the age of remote learning

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Remote learning is the new normal. As the dad of a college freshman in UP Diliman, I can tell you that online learning is no joke. My daughter and her classmates are probably studying even harder — and longer — because of these virtual classes than if they were physically going to school. And since remote learning is here to stay, every school will have to deal with the challenge of ensuring academic integrity.

“Moving forward, online education will become much more ingrained throughout the world. We are seeing that online learning is becoming a linchpin of the education system in the Philippines because of the pandemic. Governments have recognized the need for an agile education system that will remain functional, even during crises,” Jack Brazel, Head of Business Partnerships for Southeast Asia of Turnitin, told me in an email interview.

Copy-and-paste online culture

Ensuring academic integrity entails providing teachers and students with the proper tools and training, says Jack Brazel, Head of Business Partnerships for Southeast Asia of Turnitin.
Ensuring academic integrity entails providing teachers and students with the proper tools and training, says Jack Brazel, Head of Business Partnerships for Southeast Asia of Turnitin.

One of the things I pointed out to Brazel is the copy-and-paste culture that has become ingrained among online users.

For instance, CTTO (credit to the owner) is one of my pet peeves. You see it all the time, particularly among Filipino social media users, when they share photos and videos that they didn’t take. It’s hardly proper attribution, but people seem to think CTTO is a license to use content without permission. Worse, they might not even know or care who the original creator is. Or if the content was even organically created, instead of being seeded by paid trolls and the like.

What can schools do, then, to help change this copy-and-paste mindset?

“There is a need to strengthen the infrastructure to facilitate education in remote settings. This would mitigate the copy-and-paste habit in students and hone in them responsibility for their own work which ultimately molds them into citizens of integrity who will positively contribute to their country,” Brazel said.

Founded in 1997, Turnitin is a US company that provides software solutions aimed at ensuring academic integrity, such as its internet-based plagiarism detection service.

Shifting to online learning

What are the factors that schools should consider and prioritize as they embrace online learning?

“It is important to consider how one can assess students’ work fairly, accurately, and efficiently while being able to identify underlying learning challenges to coach and correct students in their weaker areas, in the absence of face-to-face interactions.

“The unplanned and sudden shift to remote learning in the Philippines resulted in an unprecedented volume of students logging into virtual learning environments simultaneously. Institutions must ensure that they have a robust infrastructure, capable of supporting this move, that will not disrupt a student’s learning experience,” Brazel said.

Helping teachers

Of course, it’s not only the students who need to be prepared, but also their teachers.

“Teachers working remotely should be equipped with the right technologies to bolster their teaching capabilities, as the use of capable infrastructure will ensure that teachers have the tools to fairly assess students and keenly monitor academic integrity. This has to be done in light of varied budgets and resources, teaching faculties, and employee skill levels to cope with the sudden change.

“Apart from building a solid technology infrastructure, institutions should look into building up their learning technology stack to include learning management systems, formative feedback tools, plagiarism detection platforms, and online assessment and grading systems. These investments will allow institutions to provide students with a higher quality learning experience, as well as support teaching staff to be more efficient, and mitigate data security risks,” Brazel said.

Digital divide

Yet what about the digital divide? For instance, one of the problems that students face in the Philippines is the shortage of devices and lack of internet access.

As the education system embraces digital, how can we ensure that poor students won’t be left behind?

“The education sector needs the government’s support to ensure that no student will be left behind. Internet connectivity is a challenge for many students in the Philippines. We empathize with both students and educators attempting to navigate the online learning environment for the first time and are struggling, in light of connectivity issues and access to equipment such as laptops and desktops to be actively engaged in remote learning environments.

“In such cases, there are measures to bridge technology issues, such as the use of blended learning, or producing educational content through television programs. However, bridging these issues relies heavily on the combined efforts of community leaders, the government, and key partners in the private sector who can deliver on the vision of remote learning systems for all,” Brazel said.

Let’s work together to make sure no student gets left behind in the digital revolution.