Canadian Schools Have Been Preparing for a Pandemic for Years

May 26, 2020

The media makes it seem like schools and teachers around the world have been scrambling to ensure teaching and learning continuity for students. Meanwhile, in Canada, school district administrators, principals and teachers, went into their archives to find the plans that were developed for just such an emergency. You see, way back in 2003 Canada was hit hard by SARS. We learned a great deal from it and somewhere in our collective psyche, we knew it wasn’t going to be the only pandemic. As a result, school districts and boards across Canada began asking themselves, how do we prepare for a pandemic? No one had any clear answers, but they developed plans, just in case. Here are a sampling of just a few of these pandemic planning guides produced across Canada, many of them from school districts or boards. I have included the year of publication, so you can see how far back we have been publishing guidance for school administrators and teachers about how to prepare for a pandemic — These guides date back to 2005 and there were more I could not retrieve because the websites are now defunct.

All the documents I’ve shared in this post had live links to the plans at the time I wrote this post.

British Columbia

Pandemic Response Framework: and Pandemic Planning Guidelines for School Districts, British Columbia Ministry of Education (2009)

Pandemic Response Plan, School District No. 78 (Fraser-Cascade), British Columbia (BC) – 2009 

British Columbia Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Plan: Guidelines for Planning, Response and Recovery (2005)

Alberta

Pandemic Response Plan – Horizon School Division (2009)

Saskatchewan

A Guide for School Board Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (2015)

Manitoba

Pandemic Influenza: Preparedness Guidelines for Manitoba School Divisions and Schools (K-12) (2007)

Ontario

Pandemic Action Plan, Northwest Catholic District School Board (2009)

Renfrew County & District Pandemic Influenza Plan: A Planning Guide for Housing, Residential and Social Service Providers (2006)

Toronto Pandemic Influenza Plan: Appendix 1.2 — A Planning Guide for Schools (2007)

Atlantic Canada

Two educators from Nova Scotia, Howard & Howard (2012) published a great article on elementary school teachers’ experience with H1N1.

Canada’s doctors published years ago about how to ensure Canada’s children were safe during a pandemic (see Langley, 2006).

And Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam? Well, she has been leading research teams on publications about pandemics in Canada since 2005, too.

So don’t believe the hype. In true Canadian style, we have been quietly and modestly preparing for this for years… So, when Canadian schools and universities make decisions about what they’re going to do for the fall 2020 semester and beyond, trust us when we say that we may not have all the answers, but we sure have been thinking about all this for a long time.

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Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.


Let’s Talk About the Other Pandemic: Academic Cheating

May 17, 2020

Since the shift to remote emergency teaching and learning as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, there has been story after story in the news about students violating academic integrity.

It’s time we talked about it. Let’s talk about the associate head of school at a New York city upper west side private schools who allegedly tampered with high school admissions tests by (allegedly) providing unsolicited answers to students to help improve their scores.

Let’s talk about how the “unidentified party” who posted fake answers to the Advance Placement (AP) test on Reddit and other social media to lure cheaters taking. It has been reported that the body who administers the test, the US College Admissions board, would not comment on how a “ring of students who were developing plans to cheat” were identified. But someone planted fake answers on social media for students to find. Then that “someone” used those fake answers to identify alleged cheaters.

Let’s talk about the other incidents of individual college professors allegedly posting fake answers to assignments on social media in order to identify students who cheat. Let’s be clear, if this is really happening and it is not some mutated urban myth in which educators are evil masterminds, these would be pretty clear cases of entrapment.

Let’s talk about the professors who allegedly post messages directed to their own students on social media outlining how they’re tracking students’ every move, from their social media posts to their IP addresses during exams. If this is really  happening, then that would be awful. I mean, it would be surveillance to levels that even Orwell didn’t dream up. It might even be considered intimidation, or harassment, or even bullying of students.

Let’s talk about how none of this actually helps students, who are also living through this pandemic along with the rest of us. Let’s talk about how students are reporting they are so stressed out by the conditions under which they are learning and taking exams, that they are throwing up, due to anxiety related to the crisis conditions in which they too, are living. Yes, students. They are trying to complete their academic work in the middle of a global crisis.

I acknowledge there are many caring and dedicated educators who are working hard to support students’ learning, but the increasing number of examples of unethical behaviour among instructors and administrators during the Coronavirus pandemic is not only worrisome, it is downright disturbing. Those educators and administrators who believe that entrapment or other unethical behaviour is “fighting fire with fire” when it comes to academic conduct have forgotten this basic lesson: Two wrongs don’t make it right.

If we are going to ask students to uphold academic integrity, then for the sake of all that is holy, teachers, administrators and learning organizations must lead by example. Educators and administrators who focus on cheating, rather than learning, may not have students’ best interests at heart.

It’s time to start talking about instructional integrity, administrative integrity, and institutional integrity.

A symptom of the academic cheating pandemic is not that students are cheating more, it is that we, those who are responsible for supporting their learning and development, are letting them down. We must keep the focus on helping students to learn. We need to work with our students, not against them.

In the game of “Gotcha!” no one wins.

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.


E-Proctoring: Understanding the debate about invigilating remote exams

May 12, 2020

There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about the rush for secondary and post-secondary institutions to implement digital solutions for proctoring of remote and online exams. In this post, I share helpful resources, articles and news to help you better understand the current debate about what’s good, what’s bad and what’s ugly. This post is not meant to be exhaustive, but instead to curate and share some of the key resources I have found particularly helpful.

Back to the future

Interestingly, the debate is not entirely new. In 2018, Rory McCorkle predicted more students would be taking exams remotely in the future. Welcome to 2020, where the Coronavirus has changed everything.

Students stressed out

Math students at Laurier University were described as furious after their department required them to buy external web cams for their exams. Rebecca Heilweil shares the perspective of University of Washington student, Marium Raza, who shared concerns about the lack of transparency about how their recorded video will be used or who will see it. The heightened use of surveillance to monitor students’ every move is a recurring theme in these stories.

Faculty disgruntled

Faculty are also concerned about surveillance and an invasion of students’ privacy. References to George Orwell’s 1984 have been made in more than one news article, such as this one by Colleen Flaherty in Inside Higher Ed, and this one by Shawn Hubler in the New York Times.

Michael Sankey of Griffith University has described the rapid move to e-exams as driving headlong towards a cliff.

Human rights considerations

An article in the Washington Post describes how some students get so stressed out by the heightened surveillance of remote proctoring that they throw up into their waste bins while on camera because they have been told they cannot leave the room during the exam. (This begs the question: Is there a human rights violation here? I mean, shouldn’t students be allowed to vomit into a toilet?)

Concordia University has included guidance in their rollout of e-proctoring that: “Any proctored online exam that goes beyond two hours may include a break for students.” They are basically sending a message to faculty to have exams of a reasonable and humane duration, which is a good place to start.

Glitches in the matrix

A recent news story out of Australia detailed how over 250 candidates taking a TAXAU120 required special consideration after their remote exam provider, ProctorU reported that they experienced “a momentary connectivity issue”, leading to them being disconnected from their exam.

Hacking the system

There are ample resources available to students about how to beat or hack e-proctoring software. This post talks about how easy it is for students to load up a virtual machine to beat the system. There are also plenty of online videos dedicated to showing students how to beat e-proctoring system. Let’s be clear: There is no completely foolproof way to ensure students do not cheat on exams. There will always be a small percentage of students who spend more time and effort trying to find creative ways to cheat instead of putting that same effort into preparing for their exams.

Resources: Webinar Recordings

A couple of publicly accessible webinar recordings you might find useful are:

Academic Integrity in Online Exams – This session was presented by Tod Denham and the team at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) Open Learning did for us at the University of Calgary.

Implementing remotely invigilated online exams at scale, presented by Kylie Day as part of the  Transforming Assessment Webinar Series is also worth a watch.

Additional Resources

E-CampusOntario – ProctorTrack Instructor Support Guide (open access pressbook)

Fourteen Simple Strategies to Reduce Cheating on Online Examinations – Excellent article by Stephanie Smith Budhai

What the research says

For those interested in scholarly perspectives on the topic, a couple of journal articles worth looking up include:

Cramp et al. (2019) – Lessons learned from implementing remotely invigilated online exams.

González-González et al. (2020) – Implementation of E-Proctoring in Online Teaching: A Study about Motivational Factors

I will update this post as I collect and curate more information that I think will be helpful to educators and administrators as we learn more about this brave new world of remote learning during COVID-19. (All literary and cultural references to sci fi and dystopian future(s) are most definitely intentional).

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.

Last updated: 8 June 2020


The Impact of COVID-19 on Academic Integrity

March 10, 2020
woman wearing face mask

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

This past week I attended the annual conference of the International Center for Academic Integrity in Portland, OR. Participants shared news stories and websites such as Worldometer Coronavirus, which gives daily updates on COVID-19. During our stay last week, both California and Washington states, which flank Oregon to the south and north respectively, declared states of emergency. And on the last day of the conference, Oregon followed suit, as many of us headed to the airport for our already scheduled flights home.

We followed news stories with interest about large schools such as Washington State University closed to undertake “deep cleaning”. Within days it became clear that the university would not be re-opening for on campus classes, but instead would be moving all spring classes online, effective immediately.

An abrupt shift to online learning at this scale is unheard of in the history of education. No doubt educational historians of the future will look back on this as a pivotal and challenging time in terms of a rapid re-think of education, with online learning being seen as a viable alternative at a time of this global health crisis. Resources such as this one from the Chronicle of Higher education are quickly popping up about how schools and educators can move to online learning quickly.  As one news report points out, there are implications for academic integrity when teaching and learning approaches shift dramatically in a short time.

Proctoring services are available for online exams, but they are not free. Instructors who lack skills and experience with online teaching may find themselves at a loss with how to re-design assessments such as quizzes and tests that they have only ever given in a face-to-face classroom. Students may find themselves confused and frustrated as their learning environments and assignments change quickly and without sufficient communication about what is expected of them.

There is no doubt that institutions that choose to move away from traditional classroom-based learning to online learning quickly will experience growing pains, but hope is not lost. As this article from a group of researchers at the University of Maryland University College reminds us, academic misconduct is not necessarily more prevalent in online courses. It is important to keep the focus on teaching and learning, rather than on cheating, as Tricia Bertram Gallant points out.

In this paper I wrote with some graduate students a few years ago, we offer practical tips to take pro-active approaches to upholding academic integrity. Many of the ideas can be used in online courses.

The key thing to remember is that as educators, our focus should always be on  students’ learning. If you find yourself in a situation where you are moving to an online environment very quickly, it is OK to tell students that you are learning as you go, too. Remind them that you are all part of a learning community together and you are there to support them.

Even if the world is shifting rapidly around us, teachers are in a unique position to encourage students and help them focus on the positive. Convey through your words and actions a sense of calm to reassure learners that you are still focussed on helping them learn in ways that are productive and future-focused. The world may be changing quickly, but the fundamental values that underpin academic integrity can continue to guide us in times of uncertainty:

Courage

Have the courage to talk about COVID-19 and how it is impacting teaching and learning at your school. Share facts, and have courageous conversations. COVID-19 presents learning opportunities not only about the virus itself, but also about prevention, and impact. If students are feeling anxious or scared, that is normal. Have the courage to acknowledge the mental health impacts and reassure students that it is OK to feel unsure or overwhelmed. Also, have the courage to share facts. Now is also a great time to talk about fake news and how to look for accuracy in news reports.

Fairness

In times of crisis may be fairer to incorporate some flexibility into how you assess your students, as well as how you handle the impact of trauma on students’ lives. If learners find themselves quarantined or personally know people who have been affected by the virus, they may be experiencing trauma. Take this into account when you interact with them.

Honesty

Be honest with your learners if you find yourself in a position of having to teach online for the very first time with no preparation. Sometimes being vulnerable with your students can help them to understand that you are human, too.

Respect

As institutions and educational bodies make decisions quickly in a rapidly changing environment, it is important to respect those decisions. Avoid openly criticizing decision-makers who are also trying to do their best in a situation they have never faced before. Instead, honour their decisions by adapting as quickly as you can, as best as you can. Remind students that they also show respect by adapting. Be patient with questions and remind students that you still expect them to conduct themselves respectfully even if learning happens in a virtual classroom.

Responsibility

As an educators, we have a responsibility to lead by example. Remind students of what their learning responsibilities are. Take the time to explain your expectations of them, even if classes are quickly moving to an online environment. Let them know you still expect them to be responsible for their learning, but also show compassion if they are experiencing trauma or anxiety.

Trust

It is important to trust that your students are doing the best they can; and so are their parents, school administrators and everyone else. Trust that things will get better. Trust in yourself as an educator.

As an educator, you’ve got what it takes to see your students through this!

Related post:

COVID-19, Contract Cheating and Academic Integrity in Online Courses: What you need to know https://wp.me/pNAh3-2rx

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.


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