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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Plagiarism Detection and Prevention






One area of any learning environment centers on plagiarism and cheating. Cheating has existed for centuries. Since the Internet was invented, it seems as though this technological environment has made it easier for those who are going to cheat to do so in an easier manner. But is that necessarily the case? Is plagiarism more of a problem in formal educational institutions or also part of the corporate environment? Let’s first define these two terms. Plagiarism is “when a writer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, or other original materials without acknowledging its source” (Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006). Cheating can be performed in different ways. “Sabotage is deliberately setting a classmate up for failure. Fabrication is simply making things up, Collusion – working with someone without instructor permission” (Wassenmiller, 2013) to name a few.
Now, let’s take a few moments to look at the differences between a formal education institution and a corporate training environment. Formal education deals with plagiarism and cheating mainly with assignments and tests. In this environment, LMS/CMS are used to provide ways to monitor course work through the use of “statistics for test taking, lockdown browsers, and Turnitin” (Fang, 2012). The corporate environment on the other hand contains no formal assignments. This type of training is normally focused on specific skills for an individual’s job. Cheating becomes more of a problem for those companies that have strict guidelines related to operation qualifications. In these situations, if an employee does not pass the test, they can very well lose their job. In that particular situation, there may be a higher rate of cheating on the written exams. For example, the company that I work for has strict policies on individuals having to pass not only the operation qualification tests but any training that they take. This means that any course that the employee takes is graded in such a way that the employee is only able to miss a certain percentage of the test. This percentage is based upon using the Angoff method (Wheaton & Parry, 2012) that is scored by experts within a defined skill area. This method takes the average score given by each expert for each question and then comes up with an overall percentage. If the individual fall below a specific percentage, they fail the course and are not allowed to continue in their job. This may seem unfair, but if the course is designed properly, then there is normally no cause for concern. I have personally never had a person fail a course that I have developed. This type of pressure on any student does provide a high possibility of cheating in order to keep their job.
As you can see although both of these learning environments are different, there is still the possibility of cheating. Despite the fact that corporations do not train on the area of plagiarism, it is still an area that should be of great concern to corporations. As an instructional designer, I have seen individuals grab pictures and parts of material from the Internet and not ask for permission from the original author or company let alone cite where they got the information. Many times, they take credit for the information. Though this act of plagiarism may seem to be deliberate, many times it is not. The fact is that they do not understand that they are indeed plagiarizing.
As an ISD or instructor, is it of upmost importance to design an instructional solution with cheating or plagiarism in mind. There are many ways in which the design of the course, itself can cause a diversion from either plagiarism or cheating. Parker states that “providing practical testing in which there is observed performance of the learner completing the task” (2012) eliminates the ability to cheat. Fang states that “it is essential for students to develop skills that enable them to learn in more informal settings” (2012). This can be accomplished by focusing on collaboration, randomizing test questions through question pools, assessing based on real-life expectations and scenarios, and providing authentic assessments” (Laureate, 2010).
So what does all of this mean for the instructor or ISD? It means that in order to quench the ability to plagiarize or cheat we need to educate learners on the definition and also provide examples. The design needs to be developed in a way that allows for individuals to share their strengths and develop their own original thought when wrestling with a question or problem presented through a course scenario, etc.  

References:

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Fang, B. (2012). Addressing Academic Dishonesty in the Age of Ubiquitous Technology. Retrieved from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2012/9/addressing-academic-dishonesty-in-the-age-of-ubiquitous-technology

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.

Parker, K. (2012). Power of Connections. Retrieved from https://nextthought.com/

Wassenmiller, A. (2013). Understanding Cheating in Online Courses. Retrieved from https://wp.cune.edu/elearning/2013/05/06/understanding-cheating-in-online-courses/

Wheaton, A & Parry, J. (2012). What’s the Score” Did You Really Pass: Using the Angoff Method to Set Cut Scores. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/QuestionmarkSlides/using-the-angoff-method-to-set-cut-scores

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Impact of Technology and Multimedia on the Online Learning Environment






            Does technology and multimedia impact the online environment? If so, how? These are important questions to be considering during the design and development of any online course.

            If you have been involved in any online learning environment, you may or may not have noticed how the technology and multimedia affects your perception of the environment. But, in fact, it does!

            The technology that is used, shapes the way in which one interacts with the learning environment. If the technology tools are not set up to be user friendly, if time is not devoted to providing a practice session to walk-through the environment prior to the course, as well as many other factors, it can significantly affect the success of the learning experience for the learn.

            Let’s look at how technology and multimedia is selected by an ISD or instructor.

Example: Beth and an Accounting class

Let’s say that Beth is asked to move her Accounting course online. It seems easy enough since most of the tools that she is currently using are online anyway, right? Well, let’s see! Although Beth does have pre-defined technology tools to use, she needs to not only be able to link these items to the training environment but also make sure that it works within this environment and is accessible within the schools LMS. She also has to be able to get the core basic information to each learner. This is without speaking a word, seeing their frustration, etc. Not so easy, you might be thinking. This is where using the right type of support technology and multimedia can support her efforts. If she introduces herself to her students via video, she can bridge the distance gap. Using multimedia to demonstrate how to perform certain accounting functions on the program that she selected for the course will take care of her typical demonstrations in a brick and mortar classroom. Using technology to provide interaction through blogs, twitters, discussion posts and group projects provide the communication piece. Supplying content in a way that provides the information in a cohesive manner will add structure to the online learning environment. All of these variables need to be considered in order for the class to be effective.



Let’s talk about another important issue related to online learning. Usability and accessibility. We mentioned it a little above when we were talking about Beth making sure that the learners could access her software programs, videos, content. That does fit right into what we are talking about. It even goes beyond that scope. Since everyone learns differently, it is important that there are various ways to access the same information. This includes script for any audio or graphics as well as videos. It also involves instructor usability. Many LMS and CMS systems provide a “sophisticated set of tools that make tracking student engagement in course activities [such as through the use of] performance dash boards" (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). Accessibility also relates to meeting the guidelines of the Americans Disability Act of Section 508. In this same way, usability also can mean navigation of the site. Peter states that “usability is the ability of the user to navigate through the site. [this means the student will be able to] concentrate more on the content than on navigating a site” (2002).

How about the technology tools that we mentioned that Beth was going to use in her class? As technology continues to expand and grow, so should the tools that an instructor uses online. Why is this important? As technology is updated and expanded, many of the tools that Beth may use today may be obsolete in a year or more. It is important for the ISD and instructor to keep up-to-date on what tools are available. With technology tools comes great responsibility in making sure that the instructor is “developing good habits, encouraging learners to use tools most useful for supporting collaboration, teaming and project coaching” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 162).

One of the most important steps is to not forget interaction in your online classroom. I don’t just mean that you make sure there are questions or quizzes for the learners. I’m talking about interaction that happens between you and each learner, interaction between the learners via group activities and through the use of blogging, twitter, Skype, chat programs, etc. I would also recommend that, if at all possible, use a blended learning approach so that the human contact whether it be via webinars are available for the learners.

As I’m sure you have noticed, popping a course online is not that easy and takes more than just uploading it to the server and calling it done. It goes way beyond that to making sure that the interaction that was in your physical classroom is even better in the online environment.


References:

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Peter, D. (2002). Usability and Accessibility – Everyone Learning. Retrieved from http://david-peter.com/papers/dec2002/dec2002_paper.htm

Pictures:
Picture of teacher - www.justinfiveminutes.com 
Picture of computer and spreadsheets - www.businessnewsdaily.org
Picture of technology - www.blogeoregon.edu