While most students, including those at a 100% online University such as Grantham, are focused on pursuing their studies with academic integrity, there are bound to be a few bad apples in the lot.

As long as any school has existed with the intention of providing students an honest, quality education, there has been someone who has tried to “work the system” through misconduct, dishonesty or deception.

This is particularly true in the Internet age.

There seem to be more and more methods of cheating available to students looking for an easy, albeit unearned, way to a passing grade.

As a respected and accredited institution, Grantham has a responsibility to protect its reputation by adhering to strict rules and regulations. You might think of it as a sort of “institutional integrity” that Grantham expects to be matched by the academic integrity of its students.

Look to the Book

Any student at Grantham unaware of the University’s take on academic integrity need look no further than section 5.10 of the University Catalog and Student Handbook. It outlines the Code of Conduct and the Academic Integrity Policy, which covers specific violations and the penalties involved.

As the catalog states: “Academic integrity is the foundation of Grantham University's commitment to the academic honesty and personal integrity of its University community.” It’s a responsibility shared by Grantham’s faculty, staff and students, with the end goal of “social, moral and intellectual excellence.”

Grantham’s University Registrar, Mary Hanover, is also the Chair of Grantham’s Code of Conduct Committee. As she explains, the committee “is one voice of several in the implementation of the Academic Integrity Policy.”

“The current committee is made of up seven members, six of which are managers or higher, and represent six departments of the University,” Hanover says.

She says the committee reviews cases of reported academic violations to determine if there’s enough evidence to move forward with action against a student.

Hanover says these sanctions can range from a warning letter to a failing grade, a suspension or expulsion, with the worst-case scenario possible even on a single violation. Students should also be aware of a recent policy change on August 14 that removed the option to appeal for Level Three violations if a student is expelled.

“The standard is in place to protect the academic achievements of all students and the integrity of our conferred degrees,” she says.

Of Plagiarism and Paper Mills

So what exactly constitutes academic dishonesty or misconduct? How does one specifically violate academic integrity?

Well, the Grantham catalog divides the issue into multiple categories, including cheating, plagiarism, forgery, misconduct in research and a few other violations.

(Seriously, that section 5.10 is really worth a close read.)

But take, for example, plagiarism – maybe one of the most common violations. In short, it’s presenting another’s work as your own without crediting the source.

Among other sources, Blackboard offers tips for avoiding plagiarism and there’s even a plagiarism checker and proofreader from grammarly.com.

Ever considered buying a term paper from one of those websites that claim to do original work for a bargain price?

Not only is using these paper/essay mills cheating, but if the result is anything like what Duke University’s Dan Ariely detailed in this latimes.com editorial … let’s just say you’ll waste your money and will probably get caught.

Tools of the Trade

Grantham offers students and faculty resources to help maintain academic integrity, such as:

SafeAssign: Built into the Blackboard learning management system, SafeAssign provides an originality report with a percentage score when students upload their assignments.

The report shows how much of the paper’s content matches existing sources. It helps students avoid plagiarism and helps them better communicate what they’ve learned in class.

“It’s a coaching tool for faculty and students … to use collaboratively together, so students are able to learn more about the balance of original work versus sources,” says Keri DeVrieze, Grantham’s associate chair of faculty development.

Proctored exams: On occasion, student exams will be “proctored,” or monitored via either a software program with webcam recordings or by an approved in-person human proctor. Both methods have very specific rules and requirements designed to prevent cheating.

Teaching and Learning Center: In addition to tutoring services, TLC, through its Writing Center, offers tips and guidance on in-text citations and references, APA format, grammar and writing techniques and avoiding plagiarism.

When it comes to University policies in general, there may be ethical, moral, even legal issues involved, and Grantham’s Code of Conduct and Academic Integrity Policy are no exception. And sure, things can get complicated, but Grantham will continue to do its part to uphold a high standard, hoping that every student does the same.