PRIMO Site of the Month Interview: November 2020

Academic Integrity

Creators: Ahmed Alwan, Yi Ding, Melissa Rassibi

Institution: California State University, Northridge

Interviewee: Ahmed Alwan, Yi Ding, Melissa Rassibi

Interviewer: Brittany O’Neill

Description of Project (provided by creators): 

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a nationwide sudden transition to remote teaching. Among all the challenges instructors are faced with, there is a growing call for post-secondary institutions to proactively address academic integrity. As experts in information literacy, academic librarians are poised to play a substantial role in providing instruction on academic integrity. The LibGuide aims to teach students about academic integrity. We applied various tools to ensure a visually pleasing presentation of instructional content with accessible interactions. More importantly, we used plain language to explain not only complicated concepts such as the importance of attribution and citation and how intellectual property is a legal and social construct, but also institutional policies. Since the guide was originally intended for international students, we created it with culturally responsive teaching in mind and aim to address the educational, linguistic, and cultural challenges diverse students might face to avoid plagiarism.

Q: What was the inspiration for this tutorial?

A: The creation of this resource has been influenced by the research efforts of our team into the topic of international students and how they interact with academic libraries. Ahmed, working with two other colleagues at CSUN, had previously designed a standalone workshop on academic integrity for international students, presented at the CSUN (IESC) office that liaises with this student population. The lessons learned from that workshop, as well as the assessment data, resulted in a chapter publication in an ACRL publication entitled The Globalized Library. That work spurred a growing interest in the larger and more proactive role academic libraries and librarians could play in relation to the topic of academic integrity. Although librarians could be considered the content experts in this area, the research found that they play only a peripheral instructional role. Moreover, literature delving into the topic of international students and academic integrity in the field of higher education, demonstrates that services and resources for international students in relation to academic integrity are not adequate at most higher education institutions (HEI). This was extremely concerning, since international students have repeatedly been identified as particularly at risk in relation to the phenomenon of academic dishonesty. Our preliminary scan of library resources, both within our own institution and beyond, demonstrated that very few, if any, academic libraries had developed a bespoke library resource that would tackle academic integrity from a culturally responsive teaching perspective. Therefore, we saw a niche and decided that we could develop something grounded in the literature and research on the topic and spent a considerable amount of time and effort ensuring the use of sound design principles, accounting for different learning styles, accessibility, and language comprehension. We were dedicated to developing a resource that would also contend with the concern of not having adequate time to cover the issue of avoiding plagiarism in an in depth manner during one-shot library instruction sessions. We combined all of these concerns with the plethora of new literature and pedagogical practices relevant to teaching international students and information literacy.  

Q: You’ve said the original intended audience for this tutorial is international students. How did you cater this tutorial to that audience?

A: While the literature does not definitely indicate a greater prevalence of plagiarism among international students, it does indicate that international students plagiarize for different reasons than their domestic counterparts. For instance, all three of us have attended school systems outside the US in which practices that would be considered plagiarism here were not only acceptable but encouraged. Rote memorization, for example, is a common practice in many countries, especially in the Global South. The content of our tutorial needed to address these different needs. We have a section entitled, “Why should I care about plagiarism?” This section came about through our work with students and other colleagues when we realized there was a disconnect between what international students consider to be plagiarism. Even domestic students have trouble distinguishing instances of plagiarism, but many international students do not realize that some of the practices they have been taught may be considered acts of plagiarism in the United States.

Similarly the section entitled, “What happens if I get caught” is another example of content that caters to international students. Unfortunately many professors are not aware of the specific difficulties and pressures faced by many international students–things like helicopter parents, visa requirements, requirements for grades, family honor and shame–and are at a loss to help resolve them. International students face different, often more severe, consequences (e.g revoked visas) and are less likely to know how to seek recourse or even that they have any other option than accepting the consequences as meted out. When we went about looking for information on the exact consequences students would incur if they plagiarized, we quickly determined how genuinely difficult the task of sifting through all the information was. We decided it would be helpful to gather all the relevant information in one place, as well as simplifying the content by removing any jargon. This act was not done in an effort to be patronizing, but instead as a result of our need to clarify much of the content that we were finding–and provide actionable items. 

Q: How did you work with other librarians, faculty, students, or other stakeholders in the creation of this tutorial?

A: The idea for developing a bespoke LibGuide on academic integrity for international students was born out of a workshop Ahmed and some colleagues had developed during the 2016 – 2017 academic year. Ahmed, Joy Doan and Eric Garcia developed this workshop, again grounded in the literature on the topic, and presented it to CSUN international students at the International and Exchange Student Center (IESC) at CSUN. The development and execution of the workshop, as well as the resulting assessment, presented us with a strong foundation upon which to build, by giving us a bird’s-eye view of the specific needs of the international student population at CSUN. When we had started to lay the groundwork for what this resource was going to be and how it was going to look and operate, we also presented our ideas at a departmental meeting to our library faculty colleagues in an effort to garner feedback and ideas on how we could improve or adjust the tool. Moreover, Ahmed being a member of the International Education Council, a faculty committee dedicated to internationalization efforts at the CSUN campus, was also aware of the issues faculty faced in the classroom with students. This information also played a significant role in informing the creation of the LibGuide and the learning objects within. The other two creators of this LibGuide and the accompanying Canvas module, Melissa and Ding, brought their own expertise on instructional design and specifically their passion for culturally responsive teaching and universal design for learning. They have collaborated in previous projects on tutorials, presentations, and publications on these important topics that informed the design of the LibGuide and the accompanying Canvas module. Below is a list of considerations during the design process to take into consideration of the needs of all stakeholders:

  • Culturally Responsive Teaching: Positive language (academic integrity vs academic dishonesty), no colloquialisms, inclusivity (avoid isolating the student population), cultural competence (awareness of unique circumstances), debunking myths, provide practical solutions 
  •  Universal Design 
    • Accommodating learning styles 
    • Multiple methods of presenting information.  
    • Accessibility (closed captioning for videos, alt-text in infographics)

Q: How did you choose the learning objectives for the tutorial? What drove the design process?

A: We used the ACRL framework “Scholarship as Conversation” and “Information has Value” to inform our inclusion on sections of “why should I cite” & “how can I avoid it”. In addition to what we discussed in the previous questions about the inspiration behind the tutorial and the guiding principles, we also made sure to follow the below principles when designing the LibGuide:

  • Using the literature to inform design
  •  Learning at the point of need
  • Curiosity and reward-motivated learning

Q: You’ve mentioned that this tutorial was created as a response to the shift to remote teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How did you promote this tutorial to students and faculty in light of that? Has it been integrated into the curriculum in any way?

A: The original content was created before the pandemic. However, the need to address plagiarism issues skyrocketed during remote learning and we modified the LibGuide to include easier integration of Canvas modules for faculty to embed them into the LMS. The views of our guide exponentially increased, with 1591 from March 12-Oct. 8 in 2020 compared to 607 in the same period of time in 2019. Right now, the Canvas module has been downloaded to 82 courses at CSUN and beyond. While it is hard to track all the specific courses that integrate this module, we were able to collect some information from the survey at the end of our module. Selected departments that adopted our content are Deaf Studies, Kinesiology, Criminal Justice, Psychology, Family and Consumer Science, Anthropology, English, and Child and Adolescent Development. The courses range from lower division general education courses to graduate level courses. 

Q: How are you assessing this tutorial?

A: Similar to our response to the question about the collaborative creation process, assessment is also an iterative process. In addition, we presented this tutorial at one of the departmental meetings for instructional librarians and the intensive english program on campus to solicit feedback. We also checked with faculty individually about the content effectiveness in achieving goals and included an anonymous feedback form at the end of the module for instructors and students to rate the helpfulness of the module and provide comments and suggestions for us to improve the tutorial. 

Q: The tutorial uses multiple design elements and technologies such as LibGuides, infographics, Google Forms, and video. What factors contributed to the decisions on how to present this tutorial?

A: Our department has some broad guidelines on LibGuide styling but we wanted to create a simple, fluid, enjoyable user experience utilizing the tenets of Universal Design for Learning representing the information and engaging the students in a variety of ways. In addition to general considerations, we made sure to: 

  • Maintain legal language when discussing consequences of plagiarism (limiting liability)  
  • Refer students to other services on campus whenever appropriate
  •  Avoid gray areas or ambiguous language 
  • Limit text and use relevant visuals in infographics and videos 
  • Write in first person to engage the students
  • Use different LibGuide pages to scaffold the learning experience

Q: For other librarians looking to use similar tools for their own tutorials, what do they need to know to get started? What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of using them?

A: H5P was a great resource in creating interactive digital learning objects for this resource. Unfortunately after the creation of the resource, they pulled their free version so continued access to the digital objects would be under their pay model. Our advice on creating interactive digital objects using free programs would be to make sure you have alternative versions of the same content, for reasons of continued access but also in case of students’ differing access to the internet. 

To create an engaging video, we decided to use Moovly, an online video maker, which has both the hand-writing animation feature and the flexibility of adding different pictures (photos of real students and news headlines) to enhance the learning experience with a focus on relevancy. 

 Q: While you have the tutorial integrated with a CSU Northridge Canvas module, it also looks like the module is available to anyone as an Open Canvas course. What kind of response have you received from within your campus community and beyond?

A: The module is an advanced, interactive version of the LibGuide that can be easily integrated into any Canvas courses at CSUN and beyond. It is also available in the Library Research Toolkit Canvas course. Based on the feedback form, students rated 4.3/5.0 (356 responses) on the question “How helpful would you consider the module? 1 being not very helpful, 3 being helpful and 5 being very helpful.” Below are two examples of positive feedback we got. This module covered a lot of important information and included the consequences of plagiarism. I think an improvement would be to add a small interactive task in the first couple of modules since there is a lot of information and text to read compared to some of the other modules. 

  • The information is straight to the point and very useful.

There are some suggestions about including more examples, reviewing quiz results, and etc. which we are working on improving.