Record number of plagiarism, cheating incidents at TRU last year | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Record number of plagiarism, cheating incidents at TRU last year

March 14, 2021 - 9:00 AM

Thompson Rivers University is reporting a spike in plagiarism and cheating incidents during the pandemic.

The university has seen a steady increase in reported academic integrity cases since the 2015-2016 school year, but saw an explosion of cases in 2019-2020. The cases include plagiarism, cheating, fabrication and academic misconduct, according to an academic integrity report which was viewed by TRU's senate Jan. 25.

Last school year saw double the number of cases from the previous year, including; 514 incidents of plagiarism, 342 incidents of cheating, five incidents of fabrication and 347 incidents of academic misconduct for a total of 1,208 cases, recorded from Sept. 1, 2019 to Aug. 31, 2020. The previous school year saw only 579 cases, according to the report.

A graph shows the huge increase in academic integrity cases in the 2019-2020 TRU school year.
A graph shows the huge increase in academic integrity cases in the 2019-2020 TRU school year.
Image Credit: Thompson Rivers University

A majority of the incidents occurred at the first and second-year level, with 424 cases reported at the 1000 course level (first-year courses) and 354 reported at the 2000 level (second-year courses).

The Office of Student Affairs also reported “there has also been an unprecedented number of students incurring multiple infractions.”

A majority of the infractions (673) were conducted by a student once, but in 158 instances, infractions were conducted by a student multiple times, according to the report. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted education initiatives and the support required for faculty, Open Learning Faculty Association and staff changed to meet the new needs. A focus on academic integrity was evident,” according to the report.

READ MORE: Writers group helping Okanagan College students cheat on essays, exams

Direct student services began to be offered virtually via telephone. Classes also shifted online and there was a concentrated effort to promote services and awareness through TRU's social media channels, according to the report.

Many open learning courses were updated to include final exams instead of final projects, and as a response to the pandemic, most open learning courses were adjusted to offer Proctor-U invigilated exams. Quizzes were updated to ensure randomization of questions. These shifts have promoted academic integrity, according to the report.

President Brett Fairbairn acknowledged the challenge of academic integrity amid the pandemic in the senate’s report.

“While academic integrity is a perennial issue, it also gains particular prominence during a period of changes in teaching and learning methods such as we have seen during the pandemic. Students, faculty, staff, and systems are all under stress. One consequence is a difficult volume of academic-integrity-related cases, which we are used to dealing with through thorough and careful processes.

"For my own part, it falls to the president (under our legislation) to suspend students following recommendations from the Academic Integrity Committee, and in the past months I have done so in a record number of cases,” he said, in the report.

 As of November 2020, 80 students were recommended for suspension. Fifty-five of those students were suspended and one was not. At the time, 24 cases were under the president’s review, according to the senate report.

TRU denied an interview request but said in a statement that it is continuously reviewing internal procedures and policies and "is a lead institution for the B.C. Academic Integrity Network to facilitate sharing of best practices among institutions and student organizations.”

UBC Okanagan and Okanagan College did not yet have available statistics to determine the number of academic integrity cases in the 2019-2020 school year.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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