Academic Integrity: Setting Expectations

A part of addressing academic integrity is setting expectations with the class.  Having a conversation about expectations around collaboration and resources lets students know what is okay / not okay for your class and your assignments.

The nature of our programs at PACE has the students together every day, from 9 till 4, five days a week.  They are going to talk about assignments and how they worked on them.  But how far does that go for your assignments? Can students share answers, essays, research with each other?  Or can they talk about it but not read each others papers?

Many of our students are new to Canada, and are used to working collectively on assignments.  They put their own names on the paper, but the effort to put it together was a group effort.  Is that acceptable?  My own experience has found a number of papers that sound almost the same because the students read and then paraphrased each other.  I’ve taken to being explicit in my instructions that you can talk about the assignment, but not read each other’s paper.

Similarly, what about resources?  Many publisher’s case studies are now posted online, along with the answer key.  Is it acceptable for students to find and then quote the answer key?  Be up front with students about your expectations and set limits.

Speaking to the class about your expectations for the assignment, it’s purpose, and what is allowed will help students to follow the academic integrity rules and stay in your good books.


Academic Integrity: Resources for Students

Continuing with the theme of November as academic integrity month, students have been given a reminder about the resources they have available to them.  As instructors, it’s important to remember that, just like our students, we are not alone in this.

Certainly instructors are a resource for students when it comes to ethical writing, and writing in general.  Giving feedback, guidance, answering questions, these are a part of our role as instructors.  Not that we do the work, but that we help students to do the work required in the proper fashion.  Part of that role will involve answering questions and setting expectations.

A part can also be reminding students of the resources available, and perhaps working them through their use.  For example, all PACE programs have an Effective Written Communication Course.  The textbook for that course is not just for a few weeks and then to be cast aside.  It can be used over and over again throughout our programming as a tool to help students write better.

Nexus contains an APA tutorial.  It is under the program “Content” page.  Both instructors and students can refer to it at any time.

Additionally, full time students have the ability to book and appointment with the Academic Advisor and get assistance.

Sometimes students need a reminder about the resources that are available.  As instructors, we too need to remember that we are not in this alone.

Let’s play a game!

Imagine sitting in class from 9 till 4, five days, with a lecture each day. Sound like fun?  I agree, it doesn’t.  Breaking up the day with an activity can help wake students up, engage them in the learning, and in general, add a little fun to the class.  One way to do that is by including the occasional game.

Using games in the classroom is not a new idea; I can remember playing games in high school and elementary school. At the higher education level, they seem to be rare, but there is nothing wrong with including a game, when it’s added for the right reason.

Games, like any activity, should be connected to the day’s lesson, either to teach it or reinforce the learning. It’s a good idea to think of what the expected learning outcome of the game is, just like including any activity in the classroom.  Does the game reinforce the teaching?  Does the game teach?  If it is teaching the lesson, how is it doing that?  Is there any room for error or misconception? What learning outcomes are covered?

I’ve made use of games in the classroom for reviews. I use a PowerPoint version of Jeopardy to do a review of the course material.  There are a number of free versions for download that are easily set up with questions and answers; divide the class into teams and game on!  The first time I used it was an eye opener though, many of our international students had never seen the show; adding a small introductory piece is good to makes sure everyone is on the same page.

The second game review I’ve introduced is using the online trivia game maker at Stevi had highlighted Kahoot in her professional development session earlier this year, and acting on her suggestion I use it for chapter reviews.  There are some limits to the questions you can build: number of characters, options for answers, etc., but with some practice I’ve been able to put together a quick chapter review at the end of each session in my course.  Kahoot lets you save the game results, so I track the students and give a prize at the end of the course as an incentive.

Other game shows like Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune, and even Survivor have been adapted into games for the university and college level.

Next time you are planning your course, shake things up, try a game to break up the day and wake up your class!

Looking for Instructors to Volunteer

Check your email for a message from “instructorsupport”.

PACE is looking for instructors to volunteer their time to take an online course on developing assessments in support of one of our graduates who is now working on his Masters degree in instructional design.

It will be a great opportunity to enhance your own skills while also providing feedback on the training.

Check your email for the full details.

Academic Integrity Month

November is Academic Integrity Month at PACE. Throughout the month we will put out messages to PACE students reminding them of the importance of acting in accordance with the University of Winnipeg academic integrity policy.   We will be putting posters up in the classrooms, and looking to have instructors deliver information and reminders regarding academic integrity.

These messages will, ideally, be delivered during the first class of a new course. Reminders will then be delivered within a few months of the first message. Research findings suggest that in order to prevent acts of academic misconduct, consistent and persistent messages and reminders to students are essential.

As an instructor, you can help deter students from engaging in acts of academic dishonesty by discussing the topic in class, as well as reminding students of the importance of engaging in their academics honestly. Remind students that direct copying without citing a source is plagiarism, and is strictly not allowed.    Although it may seem as though this information is common-knowledge, it is important to consider our student population, as some students have not been in school for many years, or may not be familiar with the concept of academic misconduct and the implications in their studies. ,

As a part of that reminder, it is essential to follow through with the policies at place, and hold students accountable.  If you encounter plagiarism in an assignment or paper, DO NOT GRADE IT. You cannot mark a plagiarized work.  Review the policy on academic misconduct; you can access it either through the PACE website, the University website, or through the NEXUS Communication Portal.  Of course, you can also reach out to me as the Academic Program Manager and I’m happy to help.

If you are invigilating a quiz/midterm or exam and notice any suspicious behavior occurring, please intervene immediately, and discuss the severe implications of their behaviors. If you do not feel comfortable addressing the behavior directly, consult with a PACE staff member.

As our students move forward in their studies, help out with getting them adjusted to the expectations of the university. Help them learn about plagiarism, and to know our expectations.

PACE Copyright Info Sessions

The U of W Copyright office is going to hold two copyright information sessions for PACE instructors.  Log into the Nexus PACE Instructor Communication Portal for details.

Shortly after the last session, there will be an audit for compliance of all PACE course materials on Nexus, further details will be sent by email.

Creating Multiple Choice Questions

Creating multiple choice questions for exams or quizzes takes a bit of practice. There is more to it than just listing 5 items to pick from to answer the question.

Multiple choice questions consist of three parts:

    • The stem: is the problem.       It can be stated as a question, or it can be sentence. It needs to be clearly written and contain only the information needed.
    • Distractors: are the wrong options. These should be meaningful and relate in some way to the question being posed.
    • The Answer: there should be only one correct answer to the question

In writing the question, it should be meaningful and relate to the course materials and learning outcomes. There should be a valid reason for asking the question.  Write the stem as a ‘negative’ only when you really have to, don’t do it just because and it’s a good idea to emphasize it: Which of the following is NOT a primary colour?  Try to write the stem so that there is no clue as to what the answer is, such as through the use of ‘a’ or ‘an’ in the stem.

The distractors and the answer have some common points to keep in mind. They should be about the same length, they should all relate to the question itself.  Distractors should be listed because they are common misconceptions of the right answer.   In selecting these items, there should be a valid reason they appear on the list of choices.  For example, “From the following list, select Canada’s current Prime Minister:
A) Justin Trudeau
B) Stephen Harper
C)Pierre Trudeau
D)Darth Vader”

Option D has no value to the question. Option A is, of course, correct, option B represents the previous Prime Minister and can be linked to knowing who is the current office holder, while Option C can be considered a distractor because he was the Prime Minister and has the same last name as the current holder.  Option D is allowing students a ‘gimmee’ and letting them have a 33 1/3% chance of guessing the right answer.

Using answers like “All of the above” or “none of the above” should be avoided.   They give an advantage to students who merely need to know 2 of the concepts listed in order to be able to determine that ‘all of the above’ is the correct response.

All exams at PACE use a strict exam protocol for delivery. Instructors should adopt this for quizzes as well: clear desk tops, phones away, no late entries, etc..  Even during reviews, don’t let students have phones out.   These steps help reduce academic misconduct.

In a similar fashion, having multiple versions of quizzes in use in a classroom helps reduce cheating. Moe the order of the questions, change the order of responses to produce a Version A, Version B, and even a Version C.  Hand them out so that no two versions are sitting beside each other.

If you want to know more about writing multiple choice questions, and excellent online resource is from the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching:


Copyright & Publisher’s Slides

Are you using publisher slide decks in your courses? Are you posting them on Nexus?  Have you ever checked the permission rights to do so?  You may be surprised to know that many publishers do NOT give permission for publisher created slide decks to be posted to a learning management system such as Nexus.

The recent federal court case against York University has highlighted the need for faculty, instructors, and university departments to actively engage in following copyright laws. This includes following the rules when using publisher supplied slides.

The best practice for those using these items is: DO NOT POST TO NEXUS.  Unless you know the explicit permissions of for the textbook you are referring to you run the risk of being in violation of the copyright laws.  Even when using a text book from previous course offerings, where the permission was granted, it may not be valid in a course offering for which you are no longer using that text book.

Additionally, the views of publishers around modifying or adding to the slides varies, causing another area where issues arise.

An audit of the materials posted on Nexus will be coming up shortly and there will be further communication on that topic. Going forward, instructors should ensure that you have reviewed the copyright permissions specific to the publisher and course before you post them to Nexus or reproduce them in paper.

Copyright and Instagram

The recent communication about changes in the copyright rules came to mind when I saw this article on reposting / using Instagram images:

If you use Instagram, it would be worth checking out the rules around using other people’s materials from there.

Be sure as well to check out the university’s message on copyright posted to Nexus.




From time to time, instructors ask the question does every student have to pass? At the core of answering this question is understanding PACE’s view on grades and the connection to our mission, and the relationship of PACE with the University.

PACE’s mission is to provide educational opportunities to our students that relate to the work place. Knowledge and skills learned in our classrooms are intended for use in the workplace.  By providing students with certificates and diplomas with the University’s logo, instructors are confirming to current and potential employers that students have achieved a standard within the courses and programs needed to meet the standards of the University’s Senate.

Employers are looking at those credentials as confirmation that a person has the ability to do certain jobs within the work place. Grades provide an indication to PACE that the student has those skills for granting credentials.  Students are looking at those grades as confirmation that they can represent their skills and knowledge to employers as being at an acceptable level.

Grades should be viewed then as a gauge that students can use in judging their skills and knowledge. Are they proficient at different skills to different levels? Is their knowledge of a subject adequate to meet the demands of a particular task or job function?  Are there areas for improvement?  Are there areas that are outstanding?

If you think of a sports team, whether hockey, football, volley ball or soccer, not every player will perform all the skills needed for that sport to the same level. Some players will be better at passing than others; some players may be better at catching a football, while others may excel at blocking.

If you praise a player for their catching ability when they can’t hold onto the ball, they will have false expectations of their abilities as they try out for positions. If they are selected on the basis of that praise, their new team will not be appreciative if the player can’t catch the ball.

Grades are similar. Giving unjustifiably high marks builds false expectations in students, and creates false expectations in employers.  Giving unjustifiably low grades can cause students to have low opinions of themselves, and cause employers to pass them over.

Clustering students into the top end of a grading scheme, or giving everyone a pass for a course, can also cause resentment between students. Students who have put large amounts of time and effort into producing quality work for a course may feel short changed by seeing peers who do little work receiving similar grades.

An established grading scheme for every method of evaluation on a course is critical to ensure that students are scored according to their knowledge and skills. Employers can then have confidence that students are presenting themselves with credible skills, which builds long term credibility for PACE courses.

In setting grades and designing rubrics, it is also important to keep in mind the expectations of the University itself around PACE courses. Many of our courses are articulated with courses in degree programs.  This means that taking the PACE course is considered the equivalent of a degree course, sometimes at the second or third year level.  Assessments and grades in these courses should be reflective of that recognition.

In short, no, not every student needs to pass a course. Nor does every student need to get an A+.  Grades should be reflective of the demonstrated knowledge and skills a student has shown to meet the method of evaluation for the course.