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Plagiarism Detection and Prevention

August 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Plagiarism involves students deliberately using another’s prose, ideas, or other materials without acknowledgement. Many times, the student’s intent is to present these works or parts of them as their own original material. Contingencies for measuring plagiarism include degree of culpability and intentionality. (Jocoy, C. & DiBiase, D. 2006) Some students based on their moral values will cheat if they don’t think they will be caught or reprimanded. Dr. Rena Palloff, in our course video, indicated other students may not understand their behavior is plagiaristic. (Paloff, R. & Pratt, K. n.d.) The former students may need consistent review and policy enforcement. The latter students may simply need to be educated. I’ll discuss both aspects as part of this post. Additionally, I’ll examine modern methods for detecting plagiarism strategies for mitigating it.

While the Internet has made it easier for students to commit cut-and-paste plagiarism, software seems to have caught up. For example, the Essay Verification Engine can compare student papers to essay databases and find matching passages. Turnitin, used here at Walden, is a subscription-based online detection service. Finally, free search engines including Google or Yahoo can also be used to detect plagiarism. (Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006)

Researchers Jacoy & DiBiase (2006) found some tools inconsistent in their results reporting – even of the same/resubmitted document. Turnitin for example analyzes papers and calculates the percentage of copied material. The caveat is that Turnitin cannot distinguish between plagiarized text and properly-cited quotations and references. While not perfect, Jocoy and DiBiase (2006) contend these tools are still better than manual detection especially for copy-and-paste forms of plagiarism.

We know software can detect plagiarism, however, Drs. Palloff and Pratt in a course video said online environments were not the best places to administer tests. Instead, they suggested ways to design assessments that reduce or deter plagiarism. Course projects and assignments that mirrored the real work world and required students to chat with peers or look up references were preferred. (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.) Researchers found open book tests and teamwork did not automatically reduce the effectiveness of exams or applications. In fact they demonstrated a student’s mastery of a concept and its application. Dr. Keith Pratt reiterated “real life situations often require research.” (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.)

As an instructor, I would address facilitation in the manner of a well-trained police officer during a routine traffic stop.  Many will start their interrogation with a phrase such as “Ma’am do you know why I stopped you?” This is usually followed by their explanation of the violation. This scenario also reminds me of the approach outlined by (Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006). They said it was helpful for students to receive feedback on their infraction. Therefore, if I were facilitating as a future instructor, I would help students who plagiarized on their first assignment by explaining the violation. I’d include links to the source(s) of their copied passage as recommended by our resource and I’d allow them to revise and resubmit their work. I would not penalize them. (Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006)

I’ve been both sides of the plagiarism “fence” so I believe I have sensitivity to the issue and can offer specific considerations based on my experiences. I’ll outline two real-life scenarios followed by my recommendations as a future online instructor.

I had taken an economics class as a junior at my university. The instructor was handing out graded papers. I approached her to take mine and noticed two grades written at the top “A/F.” I asked, “What does this mean? “ She replied “This is an “A” paper, but there’s no way someone from your socio-economic background could have written it. I was 19 years old. I left the building and walked across campus wondering, “Who does she think wrote this paper?” “She doesn’t know me. Why should she make assumptions about my ability based on my background?” My final and catalytic thought was “She’s got to be kidding me.” I explained my situation to my academic advisor who sent me to the head of the department. I arrived at my appointment with several dozen 3×5 note cards (We didn’t have Zotero then), each containing a point, or thought, and relevant citations. Additionally, I brought marked-up rough drafts of the original paper.  Within a week, I received an “A” grade.

Years later I found myself in the opposite situation. I was teaching a junior level course at a state university. The assigned topic was around an aspect of typography. The student turned in a paper but large portions were inconsistent and changed “tone.”  The Internet was relatively new then. Yahoo may have been the main player among search engines. I started to look up passages from her paper and found them on the Internet. Students had to sign the school’s academic integrity policy. Based on the policy, I was supposed to report her, but I tacitly got permission from a department official to take a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach. Similar to Dr. Rena Palloff’s suggestion, I confronted her “offline” or privately. (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.) I told the student I knew the work wasn’t hers and she would receive no credit for this paper in exchange for my not reporting the incident. She never marched back into my office with note cards or drafts – and I never noticed any evidence of plagiarism in her subsequent work.

Finally, as an online instructor, I would require that all students review their institution’s academic integrity policy. Additionally, I believe students need to hear definitions of plagiarism and see examples. A quiz would be a fun, interactive way to approach this. I would also create or refer students to a Web page similar to Walden’s (Walden University, 2012) or the University of Maryland’s (University of Maryland, n.d.) that succinctly outlines university policy.

I recognize some students, for varying reasons, might feel pressure to cheat. However, I would try to discourage this by emphasizing the need to uphold and respect the hard work and research of others. I would do this with the understanding that while setting expectations is a good practice, it does not typically reduce incidents of plagiarism.  (Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006) I also agree with Jocoy & DiBiase (2006) that institutions with atmospheres lacking respect should resort to consistently enforcing academic integrity. In closing, I would remind students about institutional resources they could consult to help them make positive distinctions. These would include librarians and writing assistants.

Works cited:

Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by adult learners online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15.

Palloff, R & Pratt, K. (nd) Plagiarism and Cheating. Laureate Inc. Baltimore, MD

University of Maryland, University College (nd). Copyright and Fair Use in the UMUC Online or Face-to-Face Classroom. Retrieved August 9, 2012 from http://www.umuc.edu/library/libhow/copyright.cfm

Walden University Student Handbook (June 2012). Code of Conduct. Retrieved August 9, 2012 from http://catalog.waldenu.edu/content.php?catoid=41&navoid=5129

Categories: Walden 6510

Impact of Technology and Multimedia

August 8, 2012 Leave a comment

I’d like to discuss the impact of technology and multimedia on online learning environments, share considerations for instructors regarding the implementation of technology, and address usability and accessibility.

Multimedia and technology have made a huge impact on online learning environments particularly because of their growing acceptance by the general population. According to George Siemens, PhD in his video “The Future of Distance Education,” the surge in exposure to new technologies allowed a broader range of individuals to gain practical experience with technology tools. (Siemens, G. n.d.)

Technology development has grown rapidly and costs have come down. This facilitates environments where all students – regardless of class or income can participate. Walden students, for example, have no cost and low cost ways to record audio and video from their desktops. (Palloff, R. & Pratt, K. n.d.)

In fact, the “social media” rise has made a larger swath of the world’s population more comfortable with the notion of online discourse. (Siemens. n.d.) I’ve taken classes with students from other countries – all of us using the same technology.

Additionally, the potpourri of new applications e.g. course management systems, blogs, Skype, and Flash, etc. have made it easier for online instructors to recreate and/or repurpose face-to-face activities for online environments. They’ve reduced transactional distance between instructors and students.

This plethora of technologies, literally at our fingertips, can enhance the online teaching and learning experience. However, I’d remind educators that if they’ve proven effective in face-to-face environments, they can adapt to their online roles with patience and practice. (Boettcher, J.V. & Conrad, A. 2010)

I’d also suggest instructors proceed methodically and limit tools within their repertoire to those that facilitate specific educational goals. (Boettcher & Conrad. 2010) In fact Palloff and Pratt (n.d.) suggest keeping outcomes and objectives at the forefront. “If it technology serves the outcomes, then we use it.” (Palloff & Pratt. n.d.)

Instructors should practice tools frequently enough to develop “automatic behaviors.” (Boettcher & Conrad. 2010) Additionally, our text suggests instructors become familiar with their institution’s course management system.

Online instructors should also review the Distance Education Teaching and Learning Resources Web site at Portland Community College. This institution built a matrix tool that instructors may find helpful when matching learning theory approaches and strategies with tools to enable them. This matrix walks educators through the “What (tools), Why (theory), and How (pedagogy)” needed to effectively pair tools and their applications. (“Distance Education Faculty and Staff Web Site,” n.d.)

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Conversely, instructors should give students a choice of technologies that support their learning goals. Mandating a technology just because it is available is not the way to go. (Palloff & Pratt. n.d.)

Finally, educators in online environments should consider the non-technology factors that may influence the quality of their teaching experience. This includes

  • Course overview with introductions
  • Learning objectives and outcomes
  • Assessment
  • Materials
  • Learner support and
  • Accessibility

Speaking of the latter-mentioned “accessibility,” I believe this issue along with “usability” should be reviewed and considered within online teaching and learning. These factors impact course effectiveness and learner satisfaction, particularly for disabled students. (Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. 2007). The terms accessibility and usability tend to be used interchangeably within some circles, but they are different.

Our course resource defines usability as the extent a system can be used to effectively achieve specific goals. Accessibility refers to the capability of a learning community to reflect the needs of diverse learners. (Cooper, et al., 2007)

Courses that hinder usability will generally hinder accessibility, again especially among disabled students. (Cooper, et al., 2007)

Here’s one example that may help distinguish usability and accessibility:

A course may be perfectly designed to allow students with varying classifications of disability to participate, but if it contains high-bandwidth videos and high-file size resources, it may not suit students in areas e.g. rural ones with dial up connections – regardless of their ability. (Palloff & Pratt. n.d.)

As I move forward with a career instructional design, I’d have to agree with Drs. Palloff and Pratt (n.d.) that Web.2.0 is the way to go. Inclusion of Web 2.0 technologies would enable synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. Additionally, Web 2.0 would allow me to take advantage of “user generated content” (Palloff & Pratt. n.d.)

I’ve mentioned in other discussions and assignments that I’m a member of the eLearning Guild. Hence I am biased toward Palloff and Pratt’s support of taking advantage of “en vogue” technologies e.g. tablet and mobile. For example, a recent article in Campus Technologies said tablets and smart phones saw “explosive growth” in 2012. (Nagel, D. 2012) This market expansion will allow even more students to download applications e.g. vodcasts or podcasts to their mobile devices.

Finally, as I progress, I will remind myself to be patient learning new technologies and their appropriate applications. I will try not to get distracted by “bells and whistles” and focus on technologies that support my teaching and learning goals.

Works cited:

Boettcher, J.V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. (2007). Embedding accessibility and usability: Considerations for e-learning research and development projects. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 15(3), 231-245.

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (nd). Enhancing the Online Experience. Laureate Education, Inc. Baltimore, MD

Nagel, D. (2002). Tablets, Smart Phones See Explosive Growth as Apple and Samsung Solidify Their Leads. Campus Technology. Retrieved fromhttp://campustechnology.com/articles/2012/08/03/tablets-smart-phones-see-explosive-growth-as-apple-and-samsung-solidify-their-leads.aspx.

Portland Community College. (nd) Distance Education Faculty and Staff Web site. Retrieved from http://www.distance.pcc.edu/distancehq/lrchq/

Siemens, G. (2010). The Future of Distance Education. Laureate Education, Inc., Baltimore, MD

Categories: Walden 6510

Setting up An Online Learning Experience

August 5, 2012 Leave a comment

I’d like to discuss steps related to starting an online training module or course. This discussion will consider the importance of understanding available technology and the value of establishing learner expectations and additional considerations for instructors.

First it’s critical that an instructor understand the technology options and tools because the right combination makes it possible repurpose learning experiences and activities previously designed for face-to-face environments. (Boettcher, J. & Conrad, R. 2010)

Vodcasts and Podcasts for example can help instructors reproduce lectures and posting these lectures to iTunes makes them portable via mobile devices. Additionally, tools such as Web cameras, video services such as Skype, and conference tools including Adobe Connect allow physically separated learning communities to have synchronous discussions and see facial expressions or hear verbal inflections missed in threaded discussions.

While there are several technologies available for teaching and learning, I’d recommend instructors initially choose up to three – and these should be germane to specific learning goals. (Boettcher & Conrad. 2010)

Finally, it is essential that instructors understand their institution’s course management system  (CMS). At a minimum, the CMS should facilitate file uploads, document sharing and revision, discussion forums, grade books, and groups. (Boettcher & Conrad. 2010)

Tangentially, the CMS we use at my organization allows students to access their transcripts. It also supports Adobe Connect.

The second aspect an instructor should understand is students need clear guidelines of what’s expected of them. Our resource indicates students tend to be more satisfied with a course when they know exactly what is required. This includes setting and sharing policies related to feedback and participation. (Boettcher & Conrad. 2010) Clarity of expectations ties into Malcolm Knolwes’ andragogy theory. Knowles believed adult learners were motivated and self-directed. These are fine qualities to possess and will better serve students when they are paired with a clear understanding of course goals and desired outcomes. (Conrad, R. & Donaldson, J. 2011)

A third set of considerations includes introductions of instructors and students. Instructors are encouraged to talk about the human aspects of their life. (Paloff & Pratt. n.d.) Additionally, icebreakers are suggested to help build social presence of the community. Instructors should be aware of students’ time zones. This will be helpful when forming groups.

Concluding, I’ve learned that I must be present and active within the online community to support effective online instruction. Regular feedback to students is a part of this. When it comes to students, I’ve learned that each of them will bring their own personal experiences, skills, and ideas to the experience.

Works cited:

Boettcher, J.V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The Online Teaching Survial Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J.A. (2011). Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (nd). Launching the Online Learning Experience. Laureate Inc.

Categories: Walden 6510

Online Learning Communities

July 10, 2012 1 comment

A weak online learning community can lead to high student attrition rates and low levels of learner satisfaction (R. Paloff & K Pratt. n.d. Laureate Education, Inc.) Hence, I’d like to focus on properties of successful online learning communities. I believe they must be “two-way” streets. Students must reach out to instructors and peers when necessary and instructors should stay in touch with students and involved in the dialogue. I’d like to discuss issues that make an online learning community satisfying for students, touch on the essential elements of building and sustaining online communities, and finally, tie a strong community to effective online instruction.

First let’s define an online community. Drs. Paloff and Pratt, in their video “Online Learning Communities,” said successful communities have three main elements:

  1. People
  2. Purpose
  3. Process

People are necessary to create a social presence or a sense of familiarity. The purpose of online communities is often tied to the transfer, application, and assessment of knowledge. Process refers to the way a course is delivered.

Strong online communities generally operate around clear guidelines that define, for example, the frequency of user participation and tone. They also thrive on creative, supportive instructor facilitation, and learner engagement.

Learner-to-learner engagement was essential to student satisfaction. In fact, Dr. Paloff related learner engagement and empowerment to social constructivism. Successful online communities transfer the focus from instructor to the student – however, that does not mean the instructor’s role is not critical. For example, I’ve heard educators in online environments referred to as “guides on the side.” Dr. Lawrence Ragan, in his article “10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching…” negates that phrase. He said the best thing an instructor can do is “show up and teach.” Drs. Paloff and Pratt supported Dr. Ragan’s notion and were adamant that instructors must be present to set the tone of the class. Tone setting can be done by actively and regularly contributing to discussions and asking questions that help students build upon their learning. However, Drs. Paloff and Pratt warn against instructors being intrusive with extensive postings – and individual responses. This forces an environment of Facilitator-to-Learner and stifles the Learner-to-Learner aspect of online classrooms.

Successful online communities are respectful, safe, and dynamic. This respect should be modeled by the instructor. Drs. Paloff and Pratt warned instructors in “Best Practices for Online Facilitation” against being disrespectful or pejorative or “making [students] feel like they’re stupid.”

Rather than calling the student “wrong” or “stupid” Drs. Paloff and Pratt said they respond to off-topic posts with “C” words. For example:

  • Confused e.g. “I’m confused about what you mean. Can you elaborate?”
  • Concerned e.g. “I’m concerned that you feel this way. Can you tell me why?”
  • Clarification e.g. I need some clarification. Can you help me understand where you are going?

Of course they also said tone-setting is an art that takes practice to perfect.

Finally, ideal communities also yield what Paloff calls “scholar-learners” who take responsibility for their knowledge acquisition (Paloff. n.d. Laureate Education, Inc.)

Works cited:

Paloff, R. & Pratt, K. (nd). Best Practices for Online Facilitation. Laureate Education, Inc. Baltimore, MD.

Paloff, R. & Pratt, K. (nd). Online Learning Communities. Laureate Education, Inc. Baltimore, MD.

Ragan, L. (nd). “10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education.” Faculty Focus. Referenced from http://www.facultyfocus.com/free-reports/principles-of-effective-online-teaching-best-practices-in-distance-education/

Categories: Walden 6510