Academic Integrity Considerations in Using the Social Web to Assess Student Learning

It is widely recognised that assessing students' Web 2.0 activity raises significant and complex challenges for academic integrity and other aspects of educational quality in higher education. Academic practices related to assessing students' Web 2.0 activity need to address key issues that may affect the reputation of the field of study or the university where it is used. These issues, as well as traditional marking and feedback practices for reinforcing these academic practices in student learning, are being challenged by the affordances of the social web.

Questions of how to reference social media correctly are vexed. Established academic practices supporting originality and attribution (for example, major citation and referencing styles) are scarcely applicable to some of the dynamic content creation features of many Web 2.0 forms. It is not that the sources of references are not needed or not there, but our ideas of how to acknowledge them are being tested.

Many universities have signed up to use Turnitin (https://turnitin.com/static/index.php), a text matching software application which allows students or staff to upload assessments and compare them for similarity with existing written work stored in the Turnitin database or on the Internet. It appears that such systems as Turnitin may not be applicable to some forms of student Web 2.0 activity. For instance, Web 2.0 authoring may consist of text that is largely summarised, with incomplete sentences which, when taken out of context, could appear in many different published works. Also Web 2.0 work is, in many cases, group work, and it may not be possible to attribute it to one author. Web 2.0 authoring often involves mixed media rather than just text.

Collusion has traditionally been regarded as a form of student misconduct. But the social web may be best understood as a collective effort in which some but by no means all contributors are identifiable. Since Web 2.0 is meant to be collaborative, academic assessors' questions about what is whose in a composite work - for example, which student provided which contribution or which student should be allocated the marks for which section - may be difficult to resolve, or indeed the wrong questions to ask.

Though Web 2.0 challenges our notions of authorship and originality, it also extends them. The theme of academic integrity runs through all of the examples in the resources here, and the many academics whose work is distilled here have approached it in different and sometimes innovative ways.

For more information about Web 2.0 and academic integrity in higher education, see:
Waycott, J., Gray, K., Clerehan, R., Hamilton, M., Richardon, J., Sheard, J., Thompson, C. (2010). Implications for academic integrity of using web 2.0 for teaching, learning and assessment in higher education. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 6(2), 8 - 18. http://www.ojs.unisa.edu.au/index.php/IJEI/article/viewFile/699/527

Page source:
Gray, K., Waycott, J., Thompson, C., Clerehan, R., Sheard, J., Hamilton, M., & Richardson, J. (2011) Using Social Web (Web 2.0) Activities for Student Assessment: Resources for University Learning and Teaching. Retrieved from https://web2assessmentresources.wikispaces.com