Academic Integrity among University Journalism Students An Action Research Project to Study the Impact of Online Educational Modules
Academic integrity among college students continues to be a problem at colleges and universities. This is particularly important for journalism students where ethical issues in the profession are critical, especially in an era of “fake news” and distrust in the media. While most journalism students study professional ethics, they do not necessarily make the connection between their future careers and their academic career. In fact, at Western Washington University (Western) a recent exploration into academic dishonesty revealed that violations were increasing, and that journalism was one of the top three majors where violations occurred (based on percent of majors). To address this problem of practice, an online academic integrity resource – specific to journalism – was developed to see whether it could increase students’ knowledge as it relates to academic integrity and decrease violations. The mixed methods action research (MMAR) study took place during summer and fall quarter at Western Washington University, a state university located in Bellingham, Washington. Participants included students who were pre-majors, majors, and minors in the three tracks of journalism: news-editorial, public relations, and visual journalism. They were given multiple opportunities to self-enroll in the Resource for Ethical Academic Development (READ) Canvas course for academic integrity. Self-efficacy theory and social learning theory provided a framework for the study. Data was collected through pre- and post-innovation surveys as well as qualitative interviews. Quantitative results suggest that there is work yet to do in order to educate students about academic integrity and potential consequences of behavior. Qualitative results suggest that one avenue may be through an online resource that provides concise and comprehensive information, models behavior relevant to the student’s own discipline, and is easily accessible. It also suggests that a culture change from a systemic emphasis on grades to a focus on growth and individual learning may be beneficial.