Brandon University will use compassion, collaboration to build a culture of academic integrity

January 31, 2020

BU statement on compromised nursing exam

Brandon University is working to build a collaborative culture of ethical and empathetic behaviour in the wake of a significant recent challenge to academic integrity on campus.

Academic integrity is paramount, and deeply valued at Brandon University. We have a commitment to our community and to our students that everyone who graduates will have earned their degrees both with the knowledge and skills required and also with the ethics and integrity to guide them in their careers and lives.

An investigation over the past few weeks at BU has confirmed that a nursing exam last semester was seriously compromised. The exam had been prepared based on a Test Bank provided by a textbook publisher and was believed to be secured for faculty use only. This is common practice. These professionally written Test Banks include answer rationales, desired learning outcomes and expected sources of knowledge along with links to professional standards and competencies. These Test Banks have been crafted by testing experts to ensure a full and fair assessment of all of the knowledge covered by the curriculum while freeing up teachers to focus on their students in the classroom.

Unfortunately, today’s technology means that pirated versions of these exams and Test Banks can be found for sale online. This compromised exam and its Test Bank was purchased on a website specifically devoted to the sale of such materials, then circulated and made available to students in the class. The investigation discovered that students used the Test Bank questions they had obtained to prepare for their class exam expecting, and then finding, the questions to be the same. Other students declined to make use of the Test Bank.

Brandon University was faced with a limited amount of time to deal with a large and complex situation that is unlike anything envisioned by our existing policies. As an expedient, all students were offered the immediate opportunity to write a new version of the exam, with a penalty applied, so that upon satisfactory completion, they would be able to move on to second-term classes and clinical placements without having to lose a year of their studies. All students re-wrote the exam, and all students passed.

Penalties may be adjusted as appropriate for individual circumstances as determined in the fullness of the investigation. Students also have the opportunity to appeal their penalties or final grades through the normal university appeal processes.

To be as fair as possible to everyone involved in this recent case, we have carefully limited our public statements while we began our investigation, and as we assessed and worked through the processes outlined in our policies. This takes time, and we regret that our silence allowed rumours to circulate in the community and online. We must balance the legitimate public interest in this incident against our equally vital need to protect the interests and the privacy of all of our students, both during the past few weeks and in the future.

Though academic dishonesty is nothing new, we know that Brandon University has much work to do in our efforts to strengthen our culture of academic integrity. Our students and their Student Union representatives will be our partners in all of that work.

Already in this new year, we have had a series of productive and positive discussions with both students and faculty about this incident and we will be considering important changes to our admissions criteria, curriculum delivery and student evaluation processes in Health Studies. The aim is to better support our students’ personal growth and professional development and to continue to foster a caring and collaborative culture on campus and among our graduates.

These changes will also aim to de-centre the longstanding focus on grades as the sole measure of student performance. New criteria will be used to expand our consideration of the full measure of each student as a whole person, starting with their admission, which may include personal interviews and portfolios. There will be renewed focus on professionalism, ethics, collaboration, teambuilding and empathy. These are in line with current best practices in healthcare education and are expected to make BU a leader in this area and improve our already excellent outcomes for nursing graduates.

We thank everyone for their patience, understanding and support.