Dear Students and Staff
I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you back, and wish you all of the best for the year ahead. The year 2020 will go down in the history books as a year of much turmoil, strife, uncertainty and sadness. As we all emerged from such a year a few weeks ago it has definitely demonstrated how resilient and adaptable we are as the human race. This year will also be challenging but I am certain that if we work together we can once again overcome any adversity that we might face.
As we progress and continue to make efforts to complete the 2020 academic year we are currently engaged with multiple assessments across all Schools. Due to the current Level 3 Lockdown we have largely moved our assessments to be online using Blackboard and Respondus our proctoring and monitoring tool. It has been worryingly brought to my attention on multiple forums that there is an increasing number of students that are attempting to and in some cases actually committing assessment fraud online. This fraud is taking place through students using secondary devices to search for answers on the internet or via social media networks and messaging services, paging through notes and textbooks, copying from peers and attempting to bypass the lockdown browser amongst other mechanisms. This fraud is being captured and confirmed by the systems which the university has put in place to prevent and discourage this type of assessment fraud.
As such I met on an urgent basis on the 19th January 2021 with the academic leadership of the institution including Student Leaders, Deans, relevant Directors and academic staff to engage on the issues being faced by students and staff with regards to online assessment, particularly students who are blatantly committing assessment fraud. I have to share the leaderships shock and disappointment in viewing the activity reports and Respondus monitoring footage of students committing assessment fraud. We were at a loss for words at the behavior and actions of these students who were committing this fraud. It is perplexing how a minority of students who have been provided with an enabling environment through online assessments to complete the academic year can actually take advantage of this situation and blatantly cheat. As such we have taken a joint decision to not tolerate any form of assessment fraud going forward.
We have further resolved that:
- All students who have committed assessment fraud and where there is compelling evidence to prove such, will be subjected to the appropriate disciplinary processes of the institution. Students are reminded that in the professional degrees any breach of the University Rules including assessment fraud will need to be reported to their regulatory bodies which in turn might prove to be career limiting. Thus we have to treat the matter with the seriousness that it deserves. The actions of these students potentially poses a threat to the academic integrity of our programmes and we cannot allow the institution to be placed in a precarious position by the fraudulent actions of a minority of students.
- A document providing online assessment guidelines to staff and students will be released by the E-Learning Unit of the Centre for University Teaching and Learning by the end of the week. This document will guide staff and students on process and procedures to be followed with regards to online assessments.
- An Assessment Indaba focusing on Assessment Integrity for staff and students will be held in the coming weeks to provide an open platform for the institutions stakeholders to develop a shared understanding of assessment and academic integrity.
- Training for staff on online assessment best practice and for students on the use of Respondus will be reinstated urgently. I urge all staff and students to attend these sessions and empower themselves with the necessary knowledge and skills to get the most out of the systems that the University has invested in. HOD’s are to ensure that all staff attend these sessions so as to have an in-depth understanding of the systems, their capabilities and standard operating procedures.
We are hopeful that with these short and medium-term interventions we will be able to continue with online assessments and ensure that our assessments and academic programmes are able to pass the scrutiny of both our internal and external stakeholders. I urge all staff and students to remain steadfast in their resolve to complete the 2020 academic year. I further encourage all staff and students to keep themselves safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19, we cannot afford to lose any more of our students and staff.
I thank you for your continued support and effort.