Durban University of Technology on How To Mitigate Academic Misconduct
When Remote Emergency Teaching was put in place, it was meant to be a temporary solution – a month, two months, at most three. It soon became clear, however, that this pandemic and consequent circumstances, were not just going to blow over. The rest, as they say, is history. While many institutions carried on for the sake of keeping the momentum, others paused to re-evaluate the way they do things.
The Durban University of Technology did exactly so. Dr Prinavin Govender shares their journey, “It started two years ago for DUT. We noticed there was dishonesty taking place during assessments. Our marks were improving exponentially. So, while we were in a position to carry on with teaching and learning, we overlooked this critical component of assessments.” Most institutions had turned to an emergency format of assessments, where continuous assessments were put into place. But
DUT was not alone; several institutions now faced the challenge of academic integrity at online or remote assessments. Dr Govender shares that they picked up on misconduct – students copying each other’s work and working together on assessments together. It was easy to note as answers were similar, or marks were not reflective of the student’s usual marks. But unfortunately, they had no proof to show this was indeed the case. They needed hard, quantitative data.
As the emergency in remote learning became more of a permanent solution, dishonesty among students became more apparent, and the pressing question was asked at DUT, “what are we doing about it.”
The Durban University of Technology looked at various proctoring software solutions, from local to international. With specific criteria in mind and a researcher’s mind, Dr Govender found that most if not all solutions were pretty data-intensive and expensive. And one had to keep the two major issues or challenges of students in mind, being 1) they don’t have expensive smartphones 2) they don’t have unlimited data available. Unfortunately, the solutions that they looked into require high-end equipment and full bandwidth. As a result, there were two main factors that would influence their final decision, access to connectivity/bandwidth and equipment (such as high-end laptops or phones).
After running a few pilots of proctoring solutions, a peer from an alternative institution advised Dr Govender of The Invigilator. And so, Dr Govender tested it. As one of the first academics in the institutions to use it, Dr Govender was pleasantly surprised. Next step, they piloted the application with 30 students, and now picked up on irregularities through The Invigilator application. There was proof that students do tend to find shortcuts during assessments and behave in a manner that is not with integrity. In fact, through the various flagging features of The Invigilator, they could pick up within 30 minutes that some students were being dishonest. It met all the criteria and put mitigation measures in place for students to be less tempted to cheat during assessments.
Dr Govender presented the evidence (now hard data) to his faculty and the exco and moved on to piloting the application on a faculty level. The ideal is to implement the software in all faculties across the university. They are currently in the process of rolling it out to other faculties, i.e. at an institutional level.
The app certainly deters academic misconduct and places students on the same playing field. This makes the results and outcomes of their academic records more realistic and fairer. As more institutions start using The Invigilator, the application adds an important element of credibility to qualifications in South Africa and hopefully soon around the world. As staff and students using it at DUT, “we can honestly say it is a deterrent for dishonesty,” Dr Prinavin Govender.
Dr Govender extends a big thank you to the Eiffel Corp and The Invigilator Team for their patience and professionalism when it came to all the red tape they had to overcome at the institution to roll out the application on a large scale. The support and service were applaudable.
Dr Prinavin Govender is currently employed at the Durban University of Technology in the Information Technology (IT) Department as a Computer Science Academic. He received his PhD in Education in 2020. He has been in the IT field for over 30 years and is passionate about both teaching and research.