Syllabus Links to Academic Misconduct Regulations: Necessary but not Sufficient

The syllabus describes the course, outlines the requirements, and sets the expectations.  Important expectations relate to academic integrity, and ensuring academic misconduct is avoided.

Updated Template at USask

The University’s syllabus template has recently updated some of the standard information related to academic integrity.  See page 6 of 8 of the templates, available here.   Students will see links to the Governance Office site where academic integrity and its value are articulated, links to supports and skill building programs and resources available through the Library, and links to the academic misconduct regulations where students can see definitions and what the responses to misconduct may include.

General and Mixed Messages Confusing for Students

Because these resources and their description are appearing on a template with potential use for all USask courses, they are by necessity general in nature and point to a widely applicable university-level policy.  But, general definitions can only provide so much guidance to students who are often encountering a real mix of messages about what is permitted.

This leaves instructors with the opportunity (and I suggest, the responsibility) to explain what defines academic misconduct and academic integrity in your course and in your disciplinary and professional contexts.  You can also explain what you regard as serious misconduct and why.

Here are some questions that may help you think of additional information students need:

  • What are some common, more minor errors you see that students may not know how to avoid?
  • What are some major errors you see that students may not know how to avoid and/or may not know how seriously you regard the misconduct?
  • How can you help students see the difference you see between a minor and major error?
  • What does a student need to already know when you tell them to, for example follow a certain referencing convention or complete an exam you describe as “closed book” or “open book”?
  • What does a student need to know about the collaborative learning you might encourage for studying or smaller assignments compared to what you would say is okay for larger assignments or exams?

Necessary, but Not Sufficient

In summary, the syllabus template and its link provide very helpful content to you and your students, just remember the link to academic misconduct regulations are general and you can do more to make the rules for your assessments much more clear for students benefit and for your own.

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