by Dr. Chris Kline
Senior Manager, Academic Authenticity
Traditionally, the priority of any educational endeavor is the degree itself—it’s the most critical outcome of the learning experience. Once an individual earns a degree, it’s assumed, they are fully prepared to enter their chosen career field, having learned and developed the skills needed to be successful.
But if only the degree itself is prioritized, the process of earning the degree is automatically understated. A student could do anything possible to get the degree, regardless of the ethical implications. Without an explicit, strong connection to academic authenticity, the degree itself loses meaning.
For example, if someone earns a degree via a process that lacked integrity—it may mean the student didn’t complete their work, they didn’t demonstrate competency independently, or they didn’t accurately demonstrate the skill sets needed to earn that degree rightfully—the final outcome of the degree loses all value.
So, we must ask: If a student didn’t do any of those earlier steps, what value is the degree in their chosen career field, and what are they bringing to the overall conversation within their chosen discipline? The focus can't just be on getting a degree; it ultimately comes down to what you put into that degree you seek.
We must keep all these considerations in mind when we focus on why academic authenticity is essential. It’s not important because it’s just something that sounds good. It’s not important just because it’s something that we talked about at some point in time or merely something that an instructor mentioned in a course. Instead, it’s essential because it defines how we do our work. It defines what we bring to the field, and ultimately, it defines how we complete the work we are entrusted to do when we enter the workforce.
Academic authenticity is central to everything we do at WGU, as it directly correlates to the paramount role of the assessment in the competency-based learning environment. This relationship is further emphasized in the individual learner's critical role in demonstrating competency within each course. However, it is essential to note that academic authenticity is more than just a focus because of the assessment experience. Instead, it is part of our culture.
At WGU, we foster a culture of academic authenticity, which means our focus is ensuring that integrity is part of all we do. We do this when we emphasize the importance of the learner demonstrating their competency; we also do this when we seek feedback, update policies, try out new avenues for learner support, or participate in conferences such as the International Center for Academic Integrity so we can gain first-hand information regarding best practices and the collective challenges that are present in academic integrity. This is what we do when we focus on the advancement of artificial intelligence and its impact on a learner’s competency demonstration. This is something we do every day! If you have questions on academic authenticity at WGU, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!