Significant research has been conducted exploring many aspects of academic integrity including the role of an academic honor code. Although academic institutions have created courses and training programs detailing expected academic standards, no published empirical evidence supporting the reliability or validity of such efforts could be located. The purpose of this study was to gather evidence documenting the effectiveness of the Metropolitan Community College Academic Integrity Training Course (MCC AITC). This objective was the cornerstone influencing the research design that included the creation of a treatment mechanism (AITC) consisting of five module quizzes, one pretest, two posttests (posttest1, posttest2), and various evaluation tools.
The MCC Business Administration Department was selected to pilot the AITC, and, for comparative purposes, the Social Sciences Department was also asked to participate. Using student rosters from eight classes (four Finance and four Psychology), 154 students were randomly assigned to either group WA or group WB. A total of 86 students completed the AITC that was conducted during the Spring 2008 academic quarter. Pearson chi-square tests reported no significant difference between participants and nonparticipants specific to group or class; T-tests, however, revealed there were statistically significant differences between groups (WA and WB) with respect to GPA, and classes (Finance and Psychology) specific to credits attempted and completed.
The AITC was delivered online using WebCT where students were provided limited accessibility (Day1: 1 login per student; Day14: 1 login per student). Once logged in, students were expected to finish the course requirements in their entirety (Day1: pretest, modules 1–5, and posttest1; Day14: posttest2). Estimated completion time on Day1 was 90 minutes and on Day14 10 minutes. Measurement instruments assessed learning based on three constructs: knowledge, understanding, and attitude. Numerous subscales were developed to evaluate the measurement instruments (pretest, module quizzes, and posttests) created to assess the constructs of knowledge, understanding, and attitude. Cronbach's alpha results indicated the use of the subscales developed to measure attitude were reliable measures; subscales created to measure knowledge and understanding, however, may not have been reliable. Similarly, results assessing the internal consistency of the individual module scores suggested these scales may also not have been reliable. As exploratory research, the cumulative module scale was considered reliable given a lower accepted cut-off value.
Data analysis tools also included the use of Pearson chi-square tests, T-tests, repeated-measures 2 x 2 x 3 ANOVA, and pairwise comparisons. Results from pretest and posttests suggest participation in the AITC did significantly enhance student knowledge and understanding of concepts and expectations of ethical behavior in the classroom; changes specific to knowledge, however, were not sustained over time. Research also revealed a statistically significant relationship between module quiz scores and correct responses to knowledge questions (posttest1) as well as understanding questions (posttest 1, posttest2). Further, analysis specific to module quizzes revealed participation in the AITC did significantly enhance student knowledge and understanding of potential penalties imposed given the occurrence of a violation as well as student understanding of the relationship between academic integrity and workplace integrity.
To encourage academic integrity, colleges and universities are creating courses and training programs detailing expected academic standards. With the exception of this study, it is believed no published empirical evidence supporting the reliability or validity of these efforts exists. Although this study can be considered valid in that it provided evidence documenting the effectiveness of the AITC, threats and biases potentially undermining the validity of this study (e.g., statistical, construct, content, and internal validity) should be considered. Consequently, the reader is advised to review these findings in consideration of said limitations. Suggested future research efforts based on these findings include those addressing identified limitations as well as studies evaluating the long-term value of an academic integrity training course. Until further research is conducted, those in the academic community are left to question the real value of academic integrity training.