Classes, tutorials and learning activities to help students understand the meaning and importance of academic integrity and ethics are now common practices in many tertiary institutions. Their aim is to emphasise to students that being a university graduate goes beyond getting good grades; having sound academic integrity and behaving ethically requires proper conduct for their personal development and also their future profession and career. Yet, despite our efforts, even with enforcement of student declarations and severe penalties for misconduct, cases of plagiarism, disregard for intellectual property, data fabrication and breaching of examination rules still arise with alarming regularity.

Currently, our institution (Hong Kong Baptist University) administers a mandatory online exercise called the Academic Integrity Online Tutorial (AIOT), which aims to increase students’ awareness of issues related to academic integrity. However, such web-based tutorial-style materials can sometimes be dull for today’s tech-savvy students. Also it is difficult for students to relate ethical concepts learned from the tutorial to real-life situations. In light of this, this project aims to make use of the latest advances in Augmented Reality (AR), coupled with mobile technology where appropriate, to bring scenarios of academic integrity and ethics to real-life situations for students. This project takes the approach of an ‘ethical induction’ learning trail. Students make use of their mobile devices to retrieve information, produce responses, and even consider ethically related decisions in different circumstances and locations. Furthermore, their responses can be gathered and further discussed online within a learning management system (LMS).



This project has two objectives:

1. To enhance teaching and learning by helping students to develop the concepts of academic integrity and ethics so that they can internalise their learning and adopt an intrinsic mind set to behave ethically and act with integrity.

2. To develop a learning environment supported by innovative digital technologies (a combination of mobile technology, Augmented Reality and a Learning Management System) whereby students will be motivated to learn about academic integrity and ethics, engage in learning activities, and share their experiences in making ethical decisions and acting with integrity.


This project takes the approach of ‘ethical induction’ learning trails, which are named the Trails of Integrity and Ethics (TIEs), consisting of various checkpoints, which are physical locations within the university campus. Using a custom mobile application, students activate learning activities at each checkpoint via Augmented Reality (AR) technologies such as QR code scanning and image recognition. The learning activities describe different scenarios related to academic integrity and ethics, and are centered on a set of fictitious student characters confronting those issues. The scenarios are written based upon the setting or physical objects found at the checkpoint location. Thus, the learning activities act as a digital overlay of information on top of the real-world setting, which is the essence of the conceptual definition of AR. Such a situated learning approach stimulates students to think about ethical scenarios in relation to the settings in which they might occur, and/or the physical objects which they might involve, and should help students link the information they learn with their everyday lives, resulting in learning being better embedded. At the end of each scenario, students are presented with different ethical choices about the issues involved, following which the consequences of their choices are presented for their consideration.

Before going on a learning trail, students are asked to participate in an online discussion to share their current understanding of certain issues related to academic integrity and ethics. After the learning trail, students are asked to participate in a similar online discussion to share what they have learnt from the learning trail. Contents of students’ discussions are analyzed using a learning analytics algorithm, which extracts keywords for instructors to ascertain the effectiveness of the learning trail in increasing students’ understanding and shifting their views of concepts in academic integrity and ethics.


The project commenced in July 2014. We identified and acquired an Augmented Reality (AR) application platform called Mobxz (produced by the Singaporean company BorderlessHealthLab Pte Limited) for the learning trail deployment and data collection on student usage. In December 2014, we produced a pilot learning trail (Trail of Integrity and Ethics 1, or “TIE-1”) and deployed it with 46 students (29 postgraduate and 17 undergraduate) as a class activity at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU). With the help of the usage experience survey, qualitative feedback, pre-/post-trail discussions and clickstream data collected from TIE-1, we optimized its design to create TIE-2, and deployed it with another group of 134 students (45 postgraduate and 89 undergraduate) in March 2014 as class activity at HKBU.

This project is an inter-institutional project and we are collaborating closely with three other local Hong Kong institutions. The aforementioned learning analytics is carried out by a partnering institution. Additional scenario development by partnering institutions is also in progress. Also, we are currently transplanting the TIE-2 checkpoints to the partnering institution campuses. In addition, we are engaging with staff from different disciplines at HKBU (including Biology, Physical Education, Humanities and Creative Writing, English Language, and Chinese Medicine) and the Student Residence Hall on the development of discipline-specific scenarios. In these scenarios, students learn about ethical concepts and dilemmas specific to their disciplines. As these scenarios are incorporated into further TIEs, students will be able to experience general ethical issues as well as those within their areas of study, and learn to make appropriate ethical decisions through this new system.


Mobile clickstream tracking captured the ethical choices students made in the learning activities, and data from Trail of Integrity and Ethics 1 (TIE-1) revealed that some activities were more effective than others in conveying the intended learning concepts, and some choices were more appropriate compared to others in inducing students to explore and learn about the consequences of their ethical decisions. These results have been useful in informing future iterations of the learning trail design. In addition, preliminary results from the learning analytics algorithm on the TIE-1 post-trail discussion showed that students mentioned keywords related to data falsification more than they did in the pre-trail discussion. This suggests students developed greater awareness of this concept through the learning trail.

With these encouraging results, we are working with different disciplines at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) on developing discipline-specific ethical learning trails, which will be deployed as class activities in major courses within those disciplines. Mobile contents for three completed learning trails have been created, tested, and are readily deployable on the HKBU campus. Each learning trail focuses on presenting specific issues related to academic integrity and ethics, as follows:

1. TIE-2: proper citation, data falsification, consequences of plagiarism, and ethical use of library resources
2. TIE-PE: ethical use of sports facilities and concepts of sportsmanship
3. TIE-HALL: ethical issues concerning student residence life on the HKBU campus

The learning trails development and initial data collected were presented at the eLearning Forum Asia 2015 (Singapore), with a positive reception. In addition, two journal articles on the learning trails development and preliminary results have been published. The PowerPoint presentations and papers are attached in the “Supplementary Materials” section.

Next Steps

This project will lead to full implementation of the learning trails for routine deployment on the HKBU campus. In particular, we will eventually use the learning trails as a way to replace the current Academic Integrity Online Tutorial (AIOT), which is a mandatory online exercise that aims to increase undergraduate students’ awareness of issues related to academic integrity. On the other hand, we will have completed a full set of discipline-specific learning trails at HKBU by the end of 2015. Upon piloting these trails with selected groups of students to elicit their feedback, the learning activities design will be further optimized, and then deployed thereafter as regular class activities in respective courses. Furthermore, we are currently transplanting the existing Trail of Integrity and Ethics 2 (TIE-2) to partnering institution campuses. We will demonstrate to related staff in these institutions on how to administer and deploy the learning trails as routine class or campus-wide activities.

Other Information

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