When Online Student Discussions Become Cheating: Perceptions of Academic Integrity
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The primary objective of this study was to investigate the varying perspectives of academic integrity in relation to online learning and the use of Web 2.0 technologies. The study design was an explanatory mixed methods case study that focused on one medium sized Canadian University with students enrolled in a single online distance education course and faculty members from various online distance education courses. Data collection involved close-ended surveys followed by open-ended follow-up questionnaires. Although all participants were offered a choice of follow-up: face-to-face, telephone or online, all chose the online option. Sixty-nine students returned the closed ended survey; six agreed to follow-up. Ten faculty returned the closed-ended surveys; five agreed to the follow-up. Within the student and faculty groups, varying perspectives of what is permissible online and on-campus were held and these perspectives do not always match the institutions’ policies. Themes that emerged from participant’s statements concerned four cultures: institutional, faculty, student and learning. The overarching concept revealed by this study is that because the players participating in these cultures understand academic integrity differently, a dissonance exists that may or may not be resolved. Recommendations include the use of clear communication when expressing policies about the use of sanctioned collaboration and the use of Web 2.0 technologies. Education as an intervention directed towards institutions, faculty and students may lessen the gap, but that is a focus for further research. Duplication of this study with a larger population would also be worthwhile.