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Prioritising Ethics and Inclusivity: CWC’s Educational Initiatives

CWC has launched a digital course on plagiarism and an instructive teaching document to improve access and quality of learning and pedagogical resources

Academic Integrity & Ethics: Introducing A New Digital Learning Resource

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, the digital realm has become a powerful tool for expanding access and improving the quality of learning. Keeping up with Ashoka University’s vision of being mission-driven and delivering excellence, recently, the Centre for Writing and Communication (CWC) introduced an innovative digital learning resource: “Introductory Course on Academic Integrity & Ethics”. This course is primarily aimed at undergraduate students but will soon be made available to all within the Ashoka community. It is the result of years of experience gathered by the Centre through the teaching of the mandatory ‘Plagiarism & Citation’ modules at the beginning of every academic year. This groundwork augured and informed the course’s design, which had its genesis in an extensive needs assessment to identify the specific challenges that undergraduate students at Ashoka face regarding academic integrity and ethics.

Based on these insights from the needs assessment, a curriculum was meticulously designed to address these challenges effectively. The course is divided into modules, each dedicated to a critical aspect of academic integrity, such as originality, credible sourcing, proper citations, plagiarism prevention, and summary and paraphrasing. A section dedicated to the potential uses and misuse of AI-powered language models has been incorporated to address the ethical concerns over the usage of AI in academic writing and research. Engaging multimedia content, interactive quizzes, and case studies have been integrated to keep students engaged.

The multiple accessibility features integrated into the “Introductory Course on Academic Integrity & Ethics” set it apart in the South Asian higher education context. In this region, limited precedence exists when it comes to accessible online courses. The inclusion of closed captions, alternative text, and screen reader compatibility ensures that students with visual and hearing impairments can engage with the course content effectively. This approach extends the reach of the course to a wider pool of learners and has the potential to reshape the pedagogic ecosystem in Indian universities. It not only fosters a culture of academic integrity but also exemplifies a commitment to equitable access to quality education.

Content creation involved collaboration among subject matter experts and instructional designers at the CWC and external multimedia specialists. The course material has been curated to strike a balance between academic rigour and engaging delivery methods, catering to diverse learning styles. Before the official launch, it underwent rigorous pilot testing. A diverse group of students (including those with disabilities), instructors and tutors at the CWC, provided valuable feedback, leading to refinements and improvements in the course content and user interface, before being officially launched this semester. Presently, it is accessible to only first-year undergraduate students at Ashoka, but will soon be extended to anyone within the university community interested in enhancing their academic integrity and ethics knowledge. Continuous evaluation mechanisms have been put in place to ensure the course’s effectiveness and relevance.

In contemplation, the course has the potential to make a profound impact on the pedagogic ecosystem of Indian universities. Currently, academic integrity and ethics receive inadequate attention in many Indian educational institutions, resulting in issues of plagiarism and unethical practices among students. This course can serve as a foundational resource to instill a culture of ethical scholarship and academic integrity from the outset of a student’s higher education journey. Furthermore, the digital format of the course makes it accessible to a diverse array of students. While the course can be seen as being similar to services offered by writing centres in the Global North, like providing resources and guidance on academic writing, citations, and plagiarism prevention; however, this online course has been specifically designed to cater to all kinds of accessibility and other requirements specific to an Indian/South Asian university setting. This inclusivity is crucial in the Indian/South Asian context, where accessibility has often been overlooked in higher education.

Overall, it represents a transformative development in the field of academic integrity and online education in South Asia. Its sophistication and design, which take into consideration every minutiae of academic and research writing, commitment to accessibility, and potential impact on Indian universities, make it a significant stride towards fostering ethical scholarship and inclusive learning environments. As this course continues to evolve and inspire similar initiatives, it may well serve as a model for universities across South Asia to follow.

Enhancing Student Support: An Instructive Document for Teaching Assistants and Fellows

In its initial steps towards creating a knowledge bank dedicated to writing and communication pedagogy in a South Asian university setting, the Centre for Writing and Communication has recently launched a valuable learning resource titled “An Instructive Document for Teaching Assistants and Fellows”. This document provides concrete measures for professors and teaching fellows to make courses more accessible and meaningful for students requiring English language support. It covers various aspects of classroom teaching, discussion sessions, and office hours, emphasising the importance of identifying students needing language support and adapting course materials and learning outcomes accordingly. Additionally, the document offers guidance on reading-writing practices and assessment methods, addressing a critical need in the Indian pedagogic setting.

One of the document’s key contributions is its guidance on recognising students who may require English language support. This is a crucial step in ensuring inclusive education, as language barriers can hinder a student’s academic progress and overall learning experience. By providing clear indicators and strategies to identify such students, the document empowers teaching assistants and fellows to proactively address this issue. It also highlights the importance of modifying course materials and learning outcomes to accommodate students needing language support. In the Indian pedagogic context, where English may not be the first language for many students, such adaptations can significantly enhance comprehension and engagement.

Effective reading and writing practices are essential skills in higher education, but they can be particularly challenging for students requiring language support. This document offers practical advice on how to improve these skills, ensuring that students can engage with course materials more effectively. Additionally, it provides insights into adjusting assessment methods to assess a student’s understanding and critical thinking rather than solely their language proficiency. It fills a critical gap by equipping educators with the tools and knowledge to create a more inclusive learning environment. The development of this resource aligns with Ashoka University’s commitment towards fostering an inclusive and equitable education system in India.

By offering concrete measures for professors and teaching fellows to support students needing English language assistance, this document plays a pivotal role in enhancing the accessibility and meaningfulness of courses. In doing so, it contributes to ensuring that all students have an equal opportunity to excel academically.

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