The Association of Leading Universities (ALU) of Russia has held a round-table discussion with representatives of leading universities and partner organizations across Russia and Kazakhstan. At the initiative of Saint Petersburg University (a co-founding member of the Global MOOC and Online Education Alliance), the event focused on the issues in relation to how to improve electronic supervision of examinations (invigilation) and open an academic integrity association that will promote the principles of honest tests and exams and opposes misconduct behaviors in the process of assessing knowledge.

Nikolay Kropachev is Chairperson of the Association of Leading Universities, Board member of the Global MOOC and Online Education Alliance, Rector of Saint Petersburg University, and Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Addressing the participants of the meeting, he proposed to open an Association of Academic Integrity in Russia, which could bring together various educational organizations.

‘Together with the members of the Association of Leading Universities, we need to develop a set of rules that would regulate the behavior of students and academic staff by using invigilation not only during examinations. More than 20 years ago, the Academic Council of the Faculty of Law of the University requested the Academic Council of Saint Petersburg University to include the rule in the Charter: “A student expelled from Saint Petersburg University for cheating cannot be re-instated at Saint Petersburg University.” This proposal was not supported by the Academic Council of the University,’ said Nikolay Kropachev.

Today, the charters of many universities (including the Charter of Saint Petersburg University) and the Saint Petersburg University Student and Staff Code of Conduct contain general ethical requirements for all university students and staff. It seems to me that it is high time to develop a common academic code for all, i.e. a set of principles of academic integrity.

Nikolay Kropachev,
Chairperson of the Association of Leading Universities, Board member of the Global MOOC and Online Education Alliance, Rector of Saint Petersburg University, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences

How to improve invigilation is what many universities in Russia and worldwide are concerned about, and the AVU meeting brought together more than 140 participants to discuss this topic, said Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities at Saint Petersburg University.

Vladimir Starostenko, Director of the Centre of E-Learning Development at Saint Petersburg University and Executive Committee member of the Global MOOC and Online Education Alliance, made a presentation and said that today invigilation systems combine machine algorithms, artificial intelligence, and efforts of invigilators. They make it possible to detect violations of the rules (for example, eye drifting, extraneous noise, background programs, and others). This aims to ensure maximum objectivity of online examinations. Although the invigilation systems are used in Russian and worldwide, students and participants in online courses may have different understandings of how the system works and sometimes try to find ‘loopholes’ during examinations.

There is a need to stipulate the rules as an approved standard to eliminate free interpretation of the requirements specified in.

Vladimir Starostenko,
Director of the Centre of E-Learning Development at Saint Petersburg University, Executive Committee member of the Global MOOC and Online Education Alliance

‘Many students are interested in following the principles of academic integrity, which do not allow cheating, and are in favor of independence in learning and passing examinations. Students understand that any precedents of fraud in exams cast a shadow on everyone, devalue their diploma and the work that stands behind it,’ added Vladimir Starostenko.

The participants of the round table shared their experience of using the invigilation systems and discussed the issues of regulation for testing and approval of the procedure for examinations by using invigilation systems. As Vladimir Starostenko said, the rules for examinations for online courses are based on the Academic Regulations and the regulations for interim assessment at Saint Petersburg University.

Today, Saint Petersburg University offers more than 160 online courses on the OpenEdu educational platform and more than 190 online courses on the international platform Coursera. The University is among the top 5 universities in the world and of Coursera partners in terms of the number of online courses presented on the platform. Additionally, Saint Petersburg University is the only Russian university represented on the Chinese national educational online platform XuetangX, a co-founder and representative of Russia in the Global MOOC Alliance.

One of the initiatives of Saint Petersburg University aimed at ensuring an objective assessment of examinations is to open an association of academic integrity.  It is set to: formulate rules and standards for the procedure for conducting exams and tests, including those by using invigilation systems; and protect the principles of academic integrity. Today, professional associations that promote academic integrity among academic staff and students already exist in many countries.

In the codes of conduct at many universities, the unacceptability of cheating is stipulated in the clauses in relation to honesty and the prevention of cheating. Thus, the Higher School of Economics has codes of conduct for academic staff and employees. Tsinghua University (China) reprimands for cheating using the materials related to the exam.

Sergei Pen, Chairperson of the General Meeting of the League of Academic Integrity of Kazakhstan, shared his experience in opening the League of Academic Integrity. ‘Since 2018, in Kazakhstan there has been an association that includes 11 leading universities. This is a practice-oriented community that solves real-world problems in education. Encouraging universities to change is our core mission,’ said Sergei Pen.

During his report, he spoke about some of ethical rules. If students violate them, they face sanctions. Even if a student knows about the violation of honesty by someone else, but does not report it, they can be held accountable for it, even they can be expelled. In this case, they, like many others who have been expelled for violation of integrity, will not be able to transfer or enter another university that is a member of the league.

The League of Academic Integrity of Kazakhstan checks universities across 14 indicators. Among them are: compliance with the criteria for evaluating results; organization of the educational process; transparency of assessment procedures; targeted use of assets; procedure for admitting applicants; and others. ‘By using these indicators, we determine whether a university is committed to ensuring academic integrity. All universities in Kazakhstan have codes of conduct that declare we should follow the principles of academic integrity, but not all educational institutions implement them properly,’ added Sergei Pen.

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