Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Supporting Academic Integrity in a Fully-Online Degree Completion Program through the Use of Synchronous Video Conferences

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Supporting Academic Integrity in a Fully-Online Degree Completion Program through the Use of Synchronous Video Conferences

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

For many years, scholars interested in university-based learning and teaching have investigated topics under the umbrella category of academic integrity (Aasheim et al., 2012; Faidhi and Robinson, 1987). More recently, research studies focused on online learning within higher education have been published (Bliemel and Ali-Hassan, 2014; Jahng, Krug, and Zhang, 2007), and since 2008, the U.S. government has required that all distance education courses/programs have methods in place for verifying that the student registered for the course is the one actually taking the course and receiving the academic credit (Higher Education Opportunity Act [HEOA]-Public Law 110-315). This context is the backdrop for the growth of software products and services designed to increase academic integrity compliance, including plagiarism detection software, remote proctoring devices, and browser lockdown technology. Such services are sold along two lines: identity management and plagiarism detection--in other words, determining the student is who they say they are and that they are doing their own work. At the same time, approaches aimed to prevent academic dishonesty before it starts are developed internally by online programs and courses. As such, there are calls for further investigation into effective strategies for decreasing the risks of academic dishonesty that are inherent to so-called virtual environments (Grijalva, Nowell, and Kerkvliet, 2006).

In our School of Business at a large urban university, we have chosen to address academic integrity issues through an inexpensive technology approach that deploys video conferencing in an otherwise fully online and asynchronous degree program. The program was sponsored by a larger institutional initiative which called for "reThinking" the institution by designing programs that are flexible, student-centric, and that apply technology to pedagogy. The School of Business was awarded a $296,000 grant to build a fully-online degree completion program (junior and senior years of the business degree). To be as flexible as possible, the program was designed for students who may never be able to come to campus. Inspired by the work of Richard Light (2001), which showed the most powerful undergraduate experiences include small group "face time" with faculty, the new program integrated the mandatory use of regular, small-group video conferencing in all courses. While some have suggested that synchronous elements in an online course are counter-intuitive and antithetical to the distance learning ideas so often associated with MOOCs, recent commentary on highly regarded and innovative online programs shows evidence of a shift toward such synchronous, video-based elements in online courses, in large part to address issues of academic integrity and high level student engagement with course material. For example, at the University of North Texas, fully online degrees in business now play a more significant role moving forward in that they are placing a greater emphasis on video strategies (Hayes, 2016).

Additionally, Minerva, one of the most innovative and forward thinking, fully online schools in the U.S., showcases "a proprietary online platform developed to apply pedagogical practices that have been studied and vetted by one of the world's foremost psychologists, a former Harvard dean named Stephen M. Kosslyn" and also uses short (45minute) synchronous video conferencing with faculty and small groups of students to explore topics and solicit succinct discussions and interactive pop quizzes around course content (Wood, 2014). What is the value of such sessions? Wood (2014), an author for The Atlantic, had the opportunity to visit Minerva and test the online platform. He describes this experience as fast-paced and intense, or not at all like what he had experienced in "an ordinary undergraduate seminar." Wood (2014) expands on his experience, saying,

   In an ordinary undergraduate seminar, this might
   have been an occasion for timid silence, until the
   class's biggest loudmouth or most caffeinated
   student ventured a guess. … 
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