Building a Culture of Academic Integrity

Building a Culture of Academic Integrity

Fall 2020
professor Mzamo Mangaliso in a maroon sweater smiling
Mzamo Mangaliso
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Recently, Professor Mzamo Mangaliso from the Isenberg School of Management presented the challenges he faced in supporting academic honesty with his online exams as part of a Faculty Senate Forum on Online Exam Proctoring. We reached out to Mzamo and talked with him about his initial concerns with administering online exams, the changes he made in his fall course to support academic honesty, and the impact these changes have had on his students.

Why did you initially become concerned about giving exams online?

I have been teaching management courses online and in person for a number of years and I typically have not had any problems, but during the winter term (2019-2020) I saw that several of my students, enrolled in an online section of my course, had scored 100% on their exams. I was very impressed by their performance and also surprised because students typically don’t score 100% on these exams. I then reviewed the course logs and discovered that several of these students had taken less than 15 minutes to complete the exam. This puzzled me; it took me 20 minutes to complete a 50-item exam (and even I only got a 98% because I was trying to rush through it). As I delved deeper into this, it became clear that several students had shared their answers, and this really concerned me.

When we went remote in spring 2020, I was nervous about what might happen because of my experiences earlier in the winter term. I considered online proctoring software but there were costs involved, so I began to really think about how to address building a culture of academic integrity and what I could do to ensure that my students maintained honesty in their exams.

What did you do to support academic integrity?

I did several things this fall (2020). First, I decided to really emphasize ethics with my students and explain to them why ethics were so important to them professionally. I made a video in which I explained that one of the reasons our UMass students get hired by the major firms is because the UMass name is valued. We are viewed as instilling ethnics and integrity in our Isenberg students, and these values of trustworthiness and integrity are critical when you begin to handle other people’s money. I also talked a bit about the consequences: that when students do cheat, they run the risk of failing the class and even of being suspended in the worst-case scenario. After all that, I asked them to sign an honesty statement pledging to uphold these ethics

Before implementing these five strategies, Mazamo talked to his students about why ethics were important in his discipline and to their future.

I then changed the format of my test: I rewrote test items to require more higher order thinking, set up the exam to show only one question at a time, and randomized the order of the questions through Moodle for each test taker. I also made sure that individual students didn’t receive the results until all the students had completed the test – I have a lot of students living in different time zones, so I allowed students to take the test over a 24-hour window.

Here is an example of a higher-order thinking multiple-choice question. It uses a real-life scenario that tests more than simple recall of what the theory states: In analyzing and evaluating the situation, the student can recognize Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory in application:   

  • Cindy Pauper seems to be always ‘grumbling’ and complaining about one thing or another. First, she ‘grumbled’ about having no food and being hungry for days. When the problem of food was solved, she began to ‘grumble’ about her home not being safe because the door locks did not work. When the locks were fixed, she began to ‘grumble’ about not having friends to hang out with. But soon after the neighborhood kids had befriended her, she ‘grumbled’ that they often tease her and show little respect for her. When kids realized how smart Cindy was, they began to respect her. Next, she began to ‘grumble’ for not being placed in the AP math class, and that this will prevent her from achieving her dream to become an astrophysicist. How can this constant “grumbling” be explained in terms of motivation theory?
    •     Thorndike’s law of effect  
    •     Vroom’s expectancy theory  
    •     McClelland’s acquired needs theory  
    •     Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory
Side by side graphs of exam results for proctored and unproctored exam

What was the impact of your efforts on your students?

I did a comparison of the first face-to-face exam I gave in spring before we went remote (proctored) with the first exam I gave this fall in the fully online class (unproctored), and I was really pleased. In the side-by-side graphs below, you can see that the distribution of scores for the face-to-face and fully remote exams are very similar—none of those surprising 100% scores that I’d seen in winter. This approach really seemed to work.

Have there been any challenges or things you might do differently in the future?

I think sometimes on the case studies that I use, students may be more likely to plagiarize, but I’m not sure what to do. I think maybe it might be good to include the honesty pledge for those assignments as well. And now, hearing what other faculty talked about at Faculty Senate, I’d like to think about ways—even with my larger classes—that I could involve students more collaboratively in creating the exam questions so that critical thinking is really built into the way the class runs. I’ve been able to do that with smaller classes, but I’m hoping that maybe there are some ways to explore this with technology in my larger classes.