Friday, June 14, 2013

Detection v. Inspiration


While some free online tools exist to support the detection of plagiarism, most institutions purchase programs such as Turnitin, Grammerly, and SafeAssign, to check not only Internet resource plagiarism, but to host a database of previously submitted student work for the institution.  This practice can greatly enhance an institution’s ability to hold students accountable for academic integrity, even if a student copies his or her own work from a previous course.  Although these programs promote the ethical use of information, they create a false sense of security in that the work a student submits is their own.  In my district’s virtual school, there were some cases in which a student account was submitting work of sufficient academic integrity, however, the student’s parent was doing all the work.  This prompted the virtual school to implement a policy in which content in an online course is split into modules and each student must schedule a “call-in” with the teacher of record to talk about what they have learned in the module.  This process has greatly helped in ensuring that the student of record is the one completing the work.  The virtual school final course exams are proctored and students must come to a testing site and provide photo identification to be given the online exam.  In this manner, the virtual school has been able to prove that the student of record is the individual completing and submitting the work.
The punitive nature of copyright infringement, whether intentional or unintentional can hinder the body of academic work and creativity (Jocoy, & DiBiase, 2006).  Last year during the training for building blended courses in Blackboard©, teachers were cautioned and trained on the proper use of citation and copyrighted materials.  The fear of retribution convinced some teachers to limit their use of the learning management system and caused a backlash from others concerned about their own intellectual property rights.  


More important than the detection of plagiarism is the development of student’s sense of ethics and integrity.  Challenging students and building a culture of respect for individual contributions will have a greater and more positive impact than whether a program caught a “copy/paste” infraction.  The lesson is not, in the not getting caught, but in the not wanting to steal in the first place. 
Just as the Internet has provided almost unlimited access to information in the virtual classroom, teachers in the physical classroom have had to deal with these issues as well.  In a great post entitled, “Google-Proof Questioning: A New Use For Bloom’s Taxonomy”, blogger and educator John Sowash shares how teachers can challenge students in meaningful and creative ways.  Similarly, online courses can be designed with the intention of getting beyond the copy/paste option and into the creation of more personalized content that cannot be stolen but must be created to meet a specific goal.
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. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lions, Technology, and Multimedia ..."Oh My!"


Have you seen the GEICO© commercial with the Antelopes?  Poor Carl the king of beasts, reduced to slinking away from a delicious meal because of technology.  Have you ever wondered how the story ends?  Do the antelopes realize that they will have to take off the night vision goggles in the daytime?  What if Carl comes up on their blind side?  Reliance on technology alone is a dangerous thing.

Technology and Multimedia

Technology provides a vehicle for delivery of communication in the online environment (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2008).  Multimedia designed well and with a focusing purpose can add to the content delivery and meeting of diverse learner needs (Cooper, Colwel, & Jelfs, 2007).  While all these are useful aspects of technology, some drawbacks include the diverse systems, software, platforms, and Internet speeds of the student. 
As an instructional designer in the learning technology department of my organization, there is a constant battle between the use of technology for the sake of technology and the careful design and implementation of technology to enhance learning.  Two years ago, our state received a large grant called “Race to the Top” from the federal government to increase instructional use of technology, STEM, and the technology infrastructure of the district.  One million dollars of the grant was set up as a competitive grant, which all schools were able to submit a proposal.  Guidelines and stipulations were given, but the end goal was to encourage school leaders to break out into innovative ideas and strategies for the use of technology to engage students and teachers.  The surprising and sad fact was that many of the grants were more about the “stuff” than the learner outcomes and program goals.  The schools that were chosen came up with some terrific ideas, and all those who submitted put a lot of work into their proposals, but technology alone is not the answer (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2008).  In a similar manner, an online instructor must carefully plan and design the use of technology as a tool to meet a desired student outcome (Conrad, & Donaldson, 2011).  If transactional distances are vast, meaningful interactions made possible by the technology will increase the engagement and construction of collective meaning (Boettcher, & Conrad, 2010).
When designing instruction in any medium, the designer must first consider and analyze the target audience.  As a clear picture of the end user is developed, better choices can be made as to appropriate learning objects and course design (Burgstahler, 2006).  Not all students may have access to high-speed Internet, or unlimited streaming capabilities.  Students may have time or geographical distances that would make synchronous activities difficult.  Many online courses include a minimum requirement list to help students assess their equipment and access to the content.

Drive by trainings... "Oh My!"

Through my work in the K-12 realm, I am most excited by the possibility of creating sustainable professional learning communities through our district learning management system.  In the past we have jokingly referred to our efforts for professional development to be “drive by trainings” in which participants enjoyed the session, but little transference occurred from theory to practice.  With 148 schools, and over 5,000 teachers, our small staff of 7 struggles to make inroads into the classroom.  However, by offering face-to-face sessions with an online organization and online professional development, we are beginning to see that the continuous support and online interaction creates an elearning community focused around a purpose.  In a recent webinar, one of the speakers shared a profound thought that collaborative learning leads to collective knowledge (Marini, McGonagle, & Peterson, 2013).  The opportunity to facilitate groups, project based learning, discussions, and shared content with the powerful connection of the learning management system has me excited about the upcoming year in our schools.  Here is a simple Infographic I created to help explain the concept of online interaction as it relates to face-to-face interaction. 
Levels of Interaction created by Tischann Nye, March, 2013 for the MNPS Learning Technology Department.

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Burgstahler, S. (2006).The development of accessibility indicators for distance learning programs. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 14(1/2), 79-102.
Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database.

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). 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.
Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database.

Marini, P., McGonagle, L., Peterson, K., (2013, June).  Collaboration and Content in Online Course Design [webinar].  EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO).  Archived at:

Simonson, M., Smaldino S., Albright M., & Zvacek S. (2008). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.