MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching
Vol. 5, No. 2, June 2009


Issues of Academic Integrity: An Online Course for Students
Addressing Academic Dishonesty

Camilla Jones Roberts

Shalin Hai-Jew

Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS  66506 USA


At Kansas State University, an institutional strategy to promote academic integrity involves an honor code that is backed up by the K-State Honor and Integrity System, a student judiciary system, and the “Development and Integrity” course for students who have been found in contravention of the code.  This article addresses the honor system, related university policies, and the recent development of the online version of the Development and Integrity course.  This article includes an introduction, a survey of the literature, relevant pedagogical theories, a brief background, an overview of the course design and development, and lessons learned. 

Keywords: Academic dishonesty, online course, development and integrity, honor code, honor and integrity system  



The issue of academic honesty is a sensitive one for a university because it is so central to the individual learner’s self-identity, the campus’s academic mission, the university’s reputation, and the qualifications it confers.  While universities strive to build learning cultures that support honest research and teaching, academic integrity goes beyond the quality of work to the moral fiber of each generation of learners, and these values include “honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility” (“The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity,” 1999, p. 4).  Academic dishonesty has been a persistent part of the higher education landscape.  Understanding the potential causes and complexities of academic dishonesty is critical in building an effective academic culture and system to try to counter this phenomenon. 

Survey of the Literature

Researchers used meta-analyses of published research and surveys (with self-reportage by learners) to get a sense of the scope of this issue.  Studies in both high school and college reveal an epidemic of academic dishonesty.  The portions of those engaged in academic dishonesty ranged from 23% to 89% (Miller, Shoptaugh, & Parkerson, 2008).  However, these statistics are not comparable across time and setting because of a “substantial disparity in rates being reported at any one point in time” (Miller, Shoptaugh, & Parkerson, 2008, pp. 326–327).  Ironically, researchers have also found consistent faculty underestimation of cheating (Volpe, Davidson, & Bell, 2008). 

Academic Integrity / Academic Misconduct

Academic misconduct involves a range of behaviors.  According to Hughes and McCabe (2006), misconduct may include the following:

…working on an assignment with others when asked for individual work, getting questions and answers from someone who has already taken a test, copying a few sentences of material without footnoting, fabricating or falsifying lab data, and receiving unauthorized help on an assignment (Hughes & McCabe, 2006, “Academic misconduct…,” p. 1). 

Bernardi, Baca, Landers, and Witek (2008), in an international study, found that students identified methods of cheatings fairly similarly in three broad categories: writing, visual / oral communication, and miscellaneous.  The writing category involved the use of crib notes, writing notes on the body, and writing on clothing or other things.  The visual aspect involved copying another’s exam, asking for answers, or having another student take the exam.  The miscellaneous group involved the programming of calculators, using cell phones, and hiding notes or books in the bathroom. 

Researchers have listed more nuanced forms of academic dishonesty in a survey to see how people perceive this issue.  This list includes such issues as “watching videotaped films of famous works of fiction rather than reading an assigned book,” (Higbee & Thomas, 2002, p. 42) using an article only after having read the abstract, changing laboratory results, switching off going to lectures and taking notes with friends, and turning in the same paper for two different courses. 

External and Internal Causal Factors

Causal factors for academic dishonesty may be separated into (1) external and situational ones, and (2) internal, developmental ones.  Values may be socially created between peoples and embedded in a culture.  Some values are situationally based and relativistic.  Other values may be internal to individuals and may be a factor of their developmental stages. 

(1)  External and Situational Causal Factors

In recent years, there have been some studies that have focused on academic dishonesty in more international settings.  One identified the influence of culture on academic integrity (McCabe, Feghali, & Abdallah, 2008).  Some researchers find cheating more endemic in collectivist cultures, while others find more challenges in individualistic ones. “‘Instrumental communities create an ‘egocentric climate’ in which an ‘individual conscience takes precedence over the claims of the community’ (Kaplan & Mable, 1998, p. 24) and exacerbate and complicate the tasks of reinforcing academic integrity on campuses” (Gallant & Drinan, 2006, p. 847). 

External factors related to competition affect academic dishonesty.  These may include pressures to achieve good grades, test anxiety, the classroom environment and relative risk of detection, institutional policies on academic honesty, and performance and achievement issues (Higbee & Thomas, 2002).  Others suggest that such situational factors as “the pressure to succeed in school, external work commitments, heavy course loads, and financial aid or scholarship requirements” (Carpenter, Harding, Finelli, Montgomery & Passow, July 2006, p. 182) have little effect on academic dishonesty. 

The challenges of academic dishonesty do not only apply to undergraduate students, but doctoral-level researchers may be poorly advised and may have insufficient experience in the domain field.  If students plagiarize outside their Ph.D. advisors’ own area of expertise, lapses may not be easily discoverable (Mitchell & Carroll, 2008). 

Contemporary students may have varying senses of what is considered cheating.  A collaborative student culture may clash with “a more traditional, individualistic faculty culture” (Hughes & McCabe, 2006, “Academic misconduct…,” p. 15).  Students read their environments and decide how to proceed.  In a cost-benefit assessment, if they see a situation as low-risk, they may engage in academic dishonesty; a majority will choose not to report their peers even if it is an institutional requirement (Jendrek, 1992). A so-called thick trust culture will also result in the low levels of reporting friends because loyalty trumps an honor policy.  A contextual approach to e-learning uses organizational theory to situate “the student cheating problem in the context of the educational institution as a complex organization affected by people, time, and social forces” (Gallant & Drinan, 2006, p. 841). 

(2)  Internal, Developmental Causal Factors

In terms of internal factors, Angell (2006) found some potential links to personality constructs.  Demographic factors do not apparently affect whether or not a student will engage in academic misconduct, with researchers finding little or no correlation between academic dishonesty and ethnicity, or academic dishonesty and religious beliefs. Those with higher grade point averages (GPAs) tend to be less likely to cheat. Older, non-traditional students tend to cheat less than their younger counterparts. Those involved in campus organizations like the Greek system and athletic teams are more likely to cheat than their peers (Carpenter, Harding, Finelli, Montgomery & Passow, 2006).  Those with membership in Greek organizations have a greater likelihood to fabricate sources (Eberhardt, Rice & Smith, 2003).  Students may not have internalized the various sources of professional ethics for the different domain fields. 

Some internal risk factors relate to study skills: “poor time management, lack of preparation, lack of skills to find resources, unwillingness to follow recommended good practice, inability to seek appropriate help, (and) low intrinsic interest in subject” (Sheard, Carbone, & Dick, 2002, n.p.).  Traditional university-age students are seen as not “self-authorized” because of the particular stage in their intellectual development. 

If students do not feel that they can generate their own knowledge, then they might believe that it would be redundant to cite knowledge sources or to promise to refrain from accepting assistance on papers and examinations. When the environment is populated by individuals who are at the same developmental stage, it can ‘lead to the construction and reproduction of certain 'social realities' in a student culture that define[s] cheating as more acceptable or less-serious misconduct than it was considered previously’ (Payne & Nantz, 1994, p. 91, as cited in Gallant & Drinan, 2006, pp. 843-844). 

The greater the level of self-restraint, the lower the level of acceptance of cheating and cheating behaviors (Jensen, Arnett, Feldman, & Cauffman, 2001 / 2002).  There may be internal reasons for not cheating, including: “pride in your work, want to know what your work is worth, can get good marks without cheating” (Sheard, Carbone, & Dick, 2002, n.p.).  The student development theory focuses on individual student development as a factor in academic dishonesty. 

A consensus view is that cheating will never be absolutely eradicated either in face-to-face courses or online ones, including potential situations where students may pay another to take the whole course in their stead (Sibbernsen, 2008-2009).  However, there are ways to lessen this possibility. 

Technology and Academic Dishonesty

The role of technology has been controversial in terms of effects on academic honesty. Some have linked the popularity of the Internet and Web to growing “e-cheating” via misuse of the WWW (Rogers, 2006).  Web-based distance education may be more conducive to academic dishonesty than face-to-face (F2F) instruction (Kennedy, Nowak, Thomas, & Davis, 2000, as cited in Baron & Crooks, 2005).  A large technological divide exists between the current generation of students and those in the professoriate (Windham, 2005).  This gap may mean more opportunities to engage in academic dishonesty without discovery. 

Technologically based online environments may also be designed to lessen academic dishonesty.  Some testing systems have built-in “misuse detection” or “plagiarism detection.”  Others use computer forensics to track student work.  Some use key logger spyware and sniffers (Laubscher, Olivier, Venter, Eloff & Rabe, 2005) to detect academic dishonesty; others use watermarking to discover the actual audit trails of exchanged code in a computer coding course (Daly & Horgan, 2005). 

Institutional Interventions

Universities will need to more clearly explain the rationale for promoting academic honesty and integrity in lab or research work.  Many argue that this critical value needs to be supported from the top with its “authoritative allocation” “at the level of presidents, boards, and accrediting associations” (Gallant & Drinan, 2006, p. 855).  Leaders need to bring in all elements on campus to align behind the academic integrity policy, to avoid some of the blame-shifting that may occur regarding academic dishonesty (McCabe, 2005). A holistic institutional approach (MacDonald & Carroll, 2006) may be most effective. Faculty need to be supported when they uphold the honor code. 

Universities with honor codes have been found to have lower incidences of cheating (24% of students report cheating vs. 47% in schools without honor codes), but McCabe suggests that it’s the student culture and university prioritizing of academic honesty, and not the honor code itself that deters cheating (McCabe, 2005). Melendez (1985) as cited in McCabe, Trevino, and Butterfield (2002) and Kidwell (2001), explains a “true honor code” school as one having the following: a campus pledge against academic dishonesty, a judicial board with student input and/or student leadership, unproctored exams, and a requirement for reporting. McCabe, (2002) noted that true honor codes are traditionally located in small, private institutions with few exceptions, notably The University of Virginia. The modified honor code is one way a larger institution can still promote and hold students accountable to concerns of academic integrity.  The modified honor code has both (1) communication of importance of academic integrity and (2) student involvement in decision making body regarding academic integrity (McCabe, et al, 2002).  The “modified” honor codes have supported student decision-making and leadership in setting higher ethical standards (McCabe, 2005.  Peer feedback is critical to dissuade others from academic dishonesty (Broeckelman-Post, 2008). 

To be effective, the social norms intervention requires “consistency, depth, and breadth” (Engler, Landau, & Epstein, 2008, p. 101).  These norms relate to core values of the community (Carpenter, Harding, Finelli, & Mayhew, 2005). “Notions of independent thinking, intellectual property, the struggle of original thought, and academic freedom are all at risk should dishonesty prevail over integrity,” (Gallant & Drinan, 2006, p. 853) warn researchers.  Widespread abuses of academic integrity may lead to endemic corruption (Crittenden, Hanna, & Peterson, 2009).  At universities, a reputation for poor academic honesty will dilute degrees and potentially threaten accreditation. 

Faculty members play an important role in a university’s academic integrity policy.  McCabe and Pavela (2004) offer the foundational Ten Principles of Academic Integrity.  There is also “an apparent discrepancy in faculty’s general stated discouragement of cheating and their actual involvement in its limitation” (Volpe, Davidson, & Bell, 2008, p. 164).  Their in-class behaviors may discourage a serious approach to academic honesty.

…20% of faculty in Graham et al. reported that they did not watch students while they were taking a test, and 26% of faculty had no syllabus statements regarding cheating. Furthermore, even though 79% of faculty reported having caught a student cheating, only 9% reported penalizing the student (Volpe, Davidson, & Bell, 2008, p. 165). 

Learners may be receiving conflicting messages about this issue unless faculty are brought on board.  By contrast, some suggest that faculty members should not maintain a “suspicious attitude” towards learners because that breaks the fragile trust necessary in the learning relationship and introduces disunity (Zwagerman, 2008, p. 677).  

How faculty members design assignments affects learner integrity.  One approach is to vary assignments and assessments between terms.  Another is to avoid penalizing students for getting unexpected laboratory or research results.  The institution also needs to provide the proper equipment to fulfill the work, so students do not compensate for poor equipment by falsifying results (Hughes & McCabe, 2006, “Academic misconduct…”).  Assignments need to be more interesting to encourage student participation (Ma, Wan & Lu, 2008). Encouraging group collaborations may encourage more academic honesty (Mercuri, 1998).  Curricula built with progressively more difficult designs and the building of scaffolding to support and enable the learning may discourage academic dishonesty (Linder, Abbott & Fromberger, 2006). 

Faculty need to build communities where “the learning is emphasized over measures of academic achievement” and where role models who “do not cut corners” are lauded (Tanner, 2004, p. 292).  Learners need to be inoculated against pro-plagiarism justifications through rational and cognitive reasons to build up attitudinal resistance (Compton & Pfau, 2008).  Researchers have pointed out people’s ability to both engage in academic dishonesty but still consider themselves honest people (Mazar, Amir, & Ariely, 2008). 

Pedagogical Theories

Since the implementation of the Honor System in 1999, Honor System staff members have emphasized a student development perspective in adjudicating those found in violation of the Honor Pledge. Several studies have determined that becoming more congruous in integrity is one of several developmental tasks of college students (Kohlberg, 1984; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991; Perry, 1968; Rest & Narvaez, 1994).  Those associated with the Honor System are therefore committed to using procedures and sanctions that are educational in nature. Staff members strongly believe that college students are still developing in what it means to make ethical decisions in times of dilemmas (whether or not to cheat). They also believe that character development (becoming more honest) does not stop when young adults leave home. On the contrary, many college students learn what it means to be a good person and a good citizen through liberal education (in the old-fashioned definition) and in projects such as service learning. 

When young adults learn that it's not all about ME, they come to understand that living in a community requires following certain rules and regulations for the betterment of the community itself. Sometimes, young adults away from home need to learn (from the guidance of those more experienced) that it's about YOU and ME, together (Kansas State Honor and Integrity System, 2008, n.p.).

Chickering’s (1969) theory of identity development is a psychosocial theory; however it is most commonly held as the key student development theory.  Chickering’s seven vectors of development are a series of tasks that students often go through. Chickering’s non-sequential vectors do build upon another as students examine and develop. The seven vectors are as follows: developing competence, managing emotions, moving through autonomy to interdependence, developing mature interpersonal relationships, establishing identity, developing purpose, and developing integrity.

Although all vectors work together for a complete individual, the seventh vector, developing integrity, relates directly to an honor council and honor system. The goal for this vector is for the student to develop congruence between their moral thoughts and their actions.  The student begins to demonstrate a mutual respect of oneself and others while incorporating appropriate ethical decision making strategies into daily life.

With Chickering’s development of integrity, college students are also seeking to develop reasoning for moral judgment and decision making.  As ethics, integrity, and moral reasoning are often intertwined, the theories of Kohlberg (1986) and Gilligan (1977) focus on modes of reasoning.  Although Gilligan focused her research on women, the overall moral development models of both theorists resemble one another.  Kohlberg (1986) stated that decisions (especially in males) were made though a justice model, searching for what is just and right while Gilligan (1977) looking at females explained that the decision making process includes a level of care for oneself and others.  Although both males and females can use care and justice in the decision making, men and women align more often to justice and care respectively.  For men and women, there is a standard sequence for decision making.  In the first stage, individuals focus on themselves first.  Decisions are based on how an outcome will affect the individual.  The second stage in when the individual begins to think of others.  For woman in particular, the individual might sacrifice what is best for himself in order to enhance another person.  The final stage is an attempt to reach is a balance between oneself and others.  The interdependence of the outcomes of a decision affecting both oneself and the community one is in allows the individual to make appropriate decisions even in an ethical dilemma.

As a student determines how to connect himself or herself to the community in decision making, Kitchener (1985) gives five guidelines for an ethical decision.  These five guidelines give structure to an Honor and Integrity System to be fair and honest with all involved and help them to make decisions in the future.  The five guidelines are as follows: Respecting Autonomy (understanding that what one person might do may not be the appropriate decision for all), Doing No Harm (understanding the necessity to cause not extra harm to others because of one’s decision), Benefiting Others (understanding in what ways a decision can be of benefit to another), Being Just (asking oneself if the decision being made if fair and just to those involved), and Being Faithful (asking oneself if they are being faithful to the ideals, people, and morals that one holds dear).    


The Honor and Integrity System

In Fall 1994, Kansas State Provost James Coffman convened the Provost’s Task Force for Academic Honesty with a charge to create policies and guidelines to enhance academic integrity at Kansas State.  By 1996, a draft for the Kansas State Honor System was in place.  Within this draft, authors Dr. Mitchell D. Strauss and Brad Finkeldei (Student Body Vice President) compiled the overarching ideas of the current honor pledge. These ideas included:

That, as K-State students, they will not give or receive aid in examinations; that they will not give or receive non permitted aid in class work, in the preparation of reports or in any other work that is to be used by the instructor as the basis of grading. That, as K-State students, they will do their share and take an active part in seeing to it that others as well as themselves uphold the spirit and letter of the Honor System. This includes reporting an observed dishonesty. That, the faculty, on its part, manifests its confidence in the honor of its students by refraining from taking unusual and unreasonable precautions to prevent the forms of dishonesty mentioned above. The faculty will attempt to avoid academic procedures that create temptations to violate the Honor Pledge. On all course work, assignments, or examinations done by students at Kansas State University, the following Honor Pledge is either required or implied: ‘On my honor as a student, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this academic work’ (Kansas State Honor and Integrity System, 2008, n.p.).

Kansas State Student Senate approved the proposed modified honor code system on December 4, 1997, and Faculty Senate followed in the same suit on April 4, 1998.  Through the 1998-1999 academic year, Honor Council appointees constructed the constitution and by-laws for the Honor System.  In February 2004, this constitution was amended to include graduate students within the honor pledge.  The motto for this system soon became “Education, Consultation, Mediation, Adjudication: We do it ALL with student and faculty development in mind!” (Kansas State Honor and Integrity System, 2008, n.p.).

To date, 836 cases have been filed with the K-State Honor and Integrity System representing over 1100 students (Kansas State Honor and Integrity System, 2008). Faculty, staff, and other students can submit a violation report to the office regarding academic dishonesty.  As faculty and staff have the autonomy to decide to report, they too have the autonomy to decide upon a sanction for the student.  The step-by-step process that an alleged violator follows is one of due process to the student.  The student has the right to contest an allegation; however, one cannot contest the sanction.  The flowchart below (Fig. 1) follows an Honor and Integrity System report from being filed until closing the case.

Figure 1: The Honor and Integrity System “Due Process” Flowchart
(Roberts, personal communication,
February 20, 2009)

Since its inception, the Kansas State Honor and Integrity System reports have ranged from minor offenses such as having a fellow classmate sign an attendance sheet for another to major offenses which could include law enforcement officials through breaking and entering to gain test material or bribery for an increased grade. As previously mentioned, faculty and staff reporters may determine a sanction for the alleged violator.  In determining an appropriate sanction, the Honor and Integrity System suggests that the reporter and hearing panel establish the level of truthfulness of the alleged violator through the process, the premeditation of the act that violated the honor pledge, and the flagrancy or severity of the act.  These three components can assist in determining the severity of a sanction from a warning to possibly suspension or expulsion from the university. One well known punitive sanction for students is reception of an “XF” for the course of violation which signifies on the student’s transcript that the student has failed this class due to academic dishonesty.  Although well known, the “XF” is no longer the standard sanction.  Based upon the focus of student development and education, the most common sanction for a student is currently the Development and Integrity course.

The Development and Integrity Course

Following the inception of the Honor and Integrity System in 1999, the honor council saw a need for a way of removal of the “X” from an “XF” grade as well as a way to educate students though the honor violation sanction.  In November of 1999, the department of Counseling and Educational Psychology submitted a proposal for an “Academic Integrity (AI) Seminar.”  This seminar is now entitled the Development and Integrity Class (worth 1-credit) and it is still housed in the Department of Special Education, Counseling, and Student Affairs (formerly Counseling and Educational Psychology).  The first AI seminar occurred between April and June of 2000 with four individuals.  Each year, the course has emerged as an educational tool for the Honor and Integrity System to assist violators of the honor pledge in understanding the choices he/she makes, academic integrity at the university setting, professional standards and integrity in the workplace, and understanding the ethical and moral development of college students. The table shown in Fig. 2 relates the number of students who have enrolled in the Development and Integrity Course.


Academic Year

Face-to-Face Course

Online Course

Spring 2000


























11 (Spring only)

2008-2009 (to date)



                 Figure 2: Table of Enrollments in Development and Integrity

The Development and Integrity Course (Online)

The need for an online version of the “Development and Integrity” course originated with a growing number of students finish their studies and move on to pursue work and other endeavors but who still need to take this course in order to fulfill sanctions or remove an “X”.  A Principled Course Build

Early on, the lead instructor for this course (who was also serving as the Associate Director of the Honor and Integrity System) and the instructional designer decided to take a fully principled approach to the building of the online version. This would mean that they would pursue copyright releases on all contents created.  Any video captured of students would be by their express consent, and the videographer would not capture any faces or identifiable information during the classes to protect their privacy.  Students in the class were also referred to by acronyms or assumed names to protect their sense of privacy. The course ran for five weeks and was based on the following topical modules:

Module 1: Student Development

Module 2: Academic Integrity

Module 3: Giving Credit

Module 4: Ethical Approaches and Decisions

Module 5: Refocusing the Future

Each module consisted of a multimedia article that would feed the learning based on professional journalistic pieces created by mainstream broadcast media organizations.  The instructor created slideshows that would be used in videotaped lectures. The instructor debriefing of the learned ideas and help students apply them to their lives.  There were case studies used to help students discuss applied philosophical and values-based ideas. 

Course Objectives

The course objectives enable students to understand that they are still developing integrity while in college.  They will empathize with other stakeholders’ perspectives in terms of academic dishonesty dilemmas, in order to formulate better decision-making skills while in a classroom or future profession-based dilemma. Students will be able to understand several perspectives in viewing ethical behavior and appreciate multiple sides to an argument or situation. Optimally, they will choose not to act unethically in the future. 

More specifically, students will identify the ethical risks of academic dishonesty and evaluate their own academic ethical decision making strategies.  Students may adopt different strategies in ethical decision making, through reflection and self-monitoring dialogue.  They will increase their awareness of their own moral agency in everyday situations and be more aware of their “obligation to help others manage ethical decision-making” while respecting others’ boundaries. 

Module 1: Student Development

The first module creates the framework understanding of student development as an element of counseling.  The instructor’s videotaped lecture helps contextualize the course for learners.  The learners meet their instructor, and they meet each other.  The students review the syllabus.  The instructor’s talk is future-focused, centered on the professions that the students will be entering upon graduation.  The instructor’s task is not to necessarily dwell on the sanction but on supporting the students in developing the necessary skills to function well into the future.  The stated goal is also to help them graduate without another academic honor violation at this university.  At date of publication, of the 644 students, 14 have been found responsible for a second violation after having been sanctioned the class.  This statistic includes those students who may not have had the opportunity to complete the class prior to a second violation.

The instructor engages with the students who talk about their busy lives—with work, family, and courses.  The instructor empathizes with the students’ heavy work and then asks students what grades mean to them, observing the students identified issues of status and money.  There are values higher than those, the instructor suggests.  The instructor introduces the theories of Lawrence Kohlberg in his Stages of Moral Development. This shows how people’s various stages of moral judgment affect the students’ motivations for their actions.  The instructor also introduces Carol Gilligan’s (1977) Ethics of Care Model, which also includes various stages of moral development.  The first assignment familiarizes students with the honor system as they read about past cases. 

Module 2: Academic Integrity

The second module defines academic integrity.  This is defined both in the context of the “Cheating Crisis in America’s Schools” news story but also within the context of Kansas State University’s honor policy.  The instructor introduces the model for addressing academic integrity:  Component I involves knowing the policy.  Component II involves knowing the community.  Component III involves knowing the self.  Students now have a context for the course approach.


Figure 3: The K-State Honor System Logo.
Across the top of the logo, it reads “Academic Integrity.” 
To the right, it reads “Moral Development.” 
And across the bottom, it reads: “The Demands of Citizenship.” 

The instructor addresses issues of risky behaviors—such as taking on excessive life commitments and pushing deadlines.  An “honest degree” requires honest work, the instructor exhorts. The instructor walks the students through understanding the long-term consequences of their choices: ethical compromises can have effects on their own lives and that of others.  When individuals get into positions of power and responsibility in the future, choices will have many implications on others’ lives, so honesty will be that much more critical. 

A session in Module 2 focuses on students’ experiences, with a focus on the generational differences between them and the so-called “gray-hairs” in the academy.  The instructor encourages the group members to share their experiences that led them to the academic integrity sanction, working with the students to understand motivations and actions in the context of integrity.  The students explain how they forgot to cite sources in a research paper or how they were under multiple pressures in their lives and thought plagiarism would be an easy copy-and-paste solution.  Another describes how he put a grade on a paper before he actually took a test.  Another has had an issue with lab notes. 

Dr. Helene Marcoux (personal communication, 2007), the instructor, exhorts the class about shame:

It is good for you to feel guilt and shame in moderation.  If you don’t have enough guilt and shame, society hurts.  If you have too much, who hurts?  You do. So deal with that guilt.  Deal with that embarrassment.  And then let it go.  That’s what this class is about, too.  It’s processing through what happened and letting it go and doing better the next time around.

As a trained counselor, the instructor is helping the students work through the emotional fallout of the students’ experiences while also addressing community standards and expectations: Even if one doesn’t agree with these standards, the standards still have a way of affecting individual lives. 

Students write a reflection paper on the honor pledge violation.  Students are asked to summarize as best they can remember, what the circumstances were leading to the Honor Pledge violation/dilemma, what was happening at the time of the violation/dilemma, what they were thinking and feeling, and their thoughts and emotions immediately following the violation/dilemma but before having a report written. The students also reflect on when they received notification of the violation and the hearing process.  The paper concludes with the question of whether the student has changed any of their thoughts or feelings regarding the violation since being sanctioned.

Students must also synthesize the information from an investigative news story about the cheating crisis in American schools.  The students discuss how teachers (high school) and instructors (colleges and universities) contribute to or factor into the issue of academic integrity, its lack or prevalence.  They must decide whether students should be responsible for addressing academic dishonesty in the classroom when they see it and the students must determine whether they believe promoting integrity is a “lost” cause. As seen in the news story, many faculty and students have mistrust between them; therefore, this assignment concludes with the student offering two or three suggestions for improving the trust between faculty members and students.


Figure 4: Interacting Components Necessary for Nurturing a Culture of Academic Integrity
(Marcoux, 2000/2007;
used by permission of Dr. Helene Marcoux, Feb. 2009)

Module 3: Giving Credit

The third module provides a foundational understanding about the rationales for giving credit where it is due to avoid plagiarism.  The instructor draws on the publication “On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research” (2008) by The National Academies Press to help students argue through various professional dilemmas in research.  The instructor uses a “jigsaw” to help them work through the cases.  This lesson involves understandings of information provenance, primary and secondary sourcing, and proper citations.  This helps learners connect to the practices in the larger academic community and professions. 

The students study a case of widespread cheating at a high school in the state and discuss the complex fallouts on a number of stakeholders—on the students, the parents, the instructor, the school board, and the high school as a whole.  Students must make the decision of which side they support.  The students also discuss the idea that others say that cheating it not wrong but helps you gain an advantage.  The students see through this real life example how academic dishonesty among some students can affect those honest students as well. 

Students write a reflection paper on academic integrity to synthesize the various ideas. Using the K-State Honor & Integrity System website, students are asked to read actual cases adjudicated at K-State. Students are asked to summarize the academic integrity cases for a given year.  Based on the students’ research, the students are asked to make observations and generalize based on the information found.  They examine violations, sanctions, rank of reporter, cases that went to a hearing, and are asked to draw conclusions for the differences in the cases.

Module 4: Ethical Approaches and Decisions

The fourth module focuses on ethical dilemmas in personal and professional lives.  The instructor shows the effects of student dishonesty in the experience of one instructor and administrator who serves as a guest speaker.  The instructor also offers some ethical models, such as T.L. Beauchamp and J.F. Childress’s model (from Principles of Biomedical Ethics), and which is added to by K.S. Kitchener (in Foundations of Ethical Practice, Research, and Teaching in Psychology).  The instructor also discusses the relevance of I. Kant’s categorical imperative as applied to people’s interests. 

The instructor illustrates four approaches to framing ethical dilemmas: principle-based, case-based, virtue-based, and responsibility based. What principle or rule was broken in the ethical dilemma?  What specific case details surround the dilemma?  Who is the person involved?  And whose obligation is it to address this dilemma?  The presentation shows the strengths and weaknesses of each framework for ethical decision-making and analysis.  Film snippets shown depict characters in various situations of professional ethical dilemmas.  Students then write a “retirement” paper about what they want to have achieved in their lives by the time they retire. Students are also asked to ruminate on personal heroes and heroines and what they admire about them. 

Module 5: Refocusing the Future

The final module culminates the learning by introducing James Rest’s (1986) Defining Issues Test, which focuses on moral development.  Using this as a general framework, students re-conceptualize their academic violation.  Students also have a possible catharsis in contemplating what they would say to the faculty member and the student honor council that sanctioned them. 

The multimedia in Module 5 focuses on Michael Josephson’s poem “What Will Matter” (Josephson, 2009) to offer a more long-term view of life and personal choices.  The professor also links to lyrics of a song to highlight the role of ethics in life.  The curriculum concludes with a culminating case about a professor who was found guilty of murdering two people in his youth; he served his time and had entered the professoriate. When his past was discovered, he was removed from his faculty post.  The questions: Was this man rehabilitated?  Should he be allowed to teach and contribute to society?

As a final paper, students are asked to refocus on the class and on their violation. After having spent time examining academic integrity, decision making, and ethics, the students are asked if they think they were aware of the ethical/moral nature of the individual violation.  Students reflect on what the class has meant to them and how they might think or make decisions differently based on the class. 

Adaptations of the Course since Construction

As a course develops, minor changes and evolution occur with various instructors and students within the class.  Since the inception of the online class, the following changes have occurred. The syllabus for the current Spring 2009 class is included.

The students do not look at the class in modules, but rather weeks similar to a face-to-face class. The five modules are spread through a 10 week period of time. Each week the new information is uploaded and unlocked for access for the students.  This includes a PowerPoint presentation, all needed handouts as well as all multimedia components.  Each week the students are also asked to answer specific questions or discussion topics through the online message board.  Following their own original response, the students are asked to respond to a minimum of two classmates’ responses for the same week to create an online dialogue of the week’s information.

An additional component of the class is a week spent on citations.  Although citations are discussed as giving appropriate credit and through the idea of sloppy scholarship, many students were unable to create appropriate citation.  Within this week, students examine correct ways to cite books, journals, and websites and must complete a citation exercise which includes creating in-text citations and reference pages.

Some Lessons Learned

Building an online course to change attitudes, awareness and behaviors is ambitious.  Any of these elements may be highly entrenched.  The strategy was to engage learners in an interactive online course.  The course was built in a way that aligned with university standards and policies. This alignment strengthened the impact of the course. The Development and Integrity course was built in a principled way by observing the intellectual property laws and federal accessibility guidelines (with full transcription of all audio and video, alt-testing of images, and other endeavors). 

The course was designed to support learners.  It was designed to offer metacognitive awareness and some catharsis as they moved through the honor and integrity process.  Students were protected as they went through the course. The students’ sense of self, their public identities, and their self-respect were all protected in the learning process.  The students’ voices were encouraged and supported in this course.  The instructor engaged with each learner in a way that each was recognized and affirmed. 

The course design instructor clarified that she would not even be addressing students in the course by name (unless students spoke to the instructor first), on the off-chance they didn’t want to be identified as having any relationship with the instructor, given the “honor and integrity” profile on campus. 

The use of the multimedia was strategic to include students in on the national debates relating to academic integrity.  The contents also involved case studies from a national online repository (with proper copyright release) to enhance learners’ ability to ethically reason.  The instructor’s telepresence—in introductory video snippets and in course videos—was a critical part of creating rapport and in encouraging the identification with an instructor modeling honor and integrity. The instructor has a role model responsibility in terms of integrity (Lumpkin, 2008). 

Students wrote personal analytical essays and received in-depth responses by the instructor.  This allowed more customized and interactive assessment.  This also allowed the instructor to promote the various learners’ respective growth issues individually. 

The course was built for transferability with the separation of components for optimal instructor flexibility.  The course would be designed to be inheritable by others, so the various components of the course could be changed in or out depending on instructor needs.  There would be room for defining domain-specific professional values and ethics that would inform the learning for different groups. 


As this online course “Development and Integrity” is taught both online and face-to-face, more information will be collected to evolve and revise the course materials.  The reality of academic integrity is a critical one for 21st century higher education, with much at risk if universities fail.  An online development and integrity course serves an important function in a university’s overall approach to academic integrity by offering opportunities for rehabilitation and further learning.  This course carries a pro-social and pro-learner orientation that supports the idea of social responsibilities and second chances. 


Thanks to Dr. David Allen, Dr. Christy Moran, and Dr. Ken Hughey in assisting me to take on instructor responsibilities of the course and adapt the class to guide the students. - CJR

Thanks to Dr. Helene Marcoux, Rosemary Boggs, and Dr. David Allen for helping this initial online course build come together. Thanks to Tim Seley and Evan Reser for the videography work.  Thanks to R. Max.   - SHJ


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Manuscript received 23 Feb 2009; revision received 8 May 2009.

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