It’s no secret that student mental health is a growing concern. Covid has compounded many of the social, academic and financial inequalities and challenges to mental health across the higher education sector in the UK and beyond. The result has been more students needing mental health support than before the pandemic and compared to other demographics.
Assessment and quality assurance
I recently read Cheating Lessons by James Lang, and this article is a by-product − that is to say, not plagiarism − of that book.
The academic integrity space has seen much activity during the pandemic. It has attracted the attention of scholars of everything from digital critical pedagogy and student equity to student mental health, as well as the mainstream media. But amid the feeding frenzy, what there hasn’t been is anywhere near enough mention of the administrative support required when cases of misconduct are reported by educators.
During the seismic shift to online and blended formats that we’ve all attended to, much of the focus has been on technological capabilities and solutions. Within this, even finer focus has been placed on online behaviours as a way of understanding student engagement.
However, lessons from cyberpsychology may be central here. To explain a little, cyberpsychology focuses on the psychological experiences of our interactions with new technology and the internet and seems to be entirely relevant to many discussions about online learning.
Artificial intelligence is full of potential and has been trumpeted as our saviour, the way forward, the answer to all the world’s ills and the future of learning. But this is not the true picture. Yes, AI has much to offer in education, but it’s not the be all and end all.
People are rightly concerned about plastic waste, but many might be equally shocked by the amount of paper in municipal waste – what consumers throw in the trash. In fact, in the US, it is the largest source of rubbish, with printing second only to packing as the largest generator of waste paper, research has shown.
Students are often reticent to ask or answer questions in a large group during face-to-face sessions and the digital world is no different. The all-engulfing silence following a request for contributions translates into a sea of students’ initials in the Microsoft Teams world.
I’d given the option of using the chat function, so why were my students not responsive? Was I, in fact, speaking to myself?
There is copious evidence that grades are not a good measure of learning, that they inhibit intrinsic motivation and that they create a competitive environment for students, and hostile relationships between students and teachers. We can’t entirely remove grades just yet, because they are hard coded into so many of our educational systems, but teachers can (and should) raise our collective eyebrows at grades. And we should do this work together with students.
Academics have had to shift to online delivery of our teaching, but students have also had to make a sudden change. Usually, they would be in a class delivering their end-of-module presentations, but this year that was not possible. The case discusses how a retail (or any other subject) presentation can be transformed into a digital authentic assessment that students loved to work on but also was helpfully resilient when the pandemic struck.
Why do this?
There has been a great deal written on how to “design out” plagiarism and contract cheating, such as essay mills and ghostwriting. Although generally very good advice, assessment design is just part of the answer. The supply of essay mills is booming in response to the huge demand for their services from students. We must respond with a range of actions.