Cheating and Plagiarism in the Online Environment

There are almost as many plagiarism detection programs as there are ways to plagiarize. Academic institutions can take their pick based on their needs and their budget to determine what will be the most effective for their school. Some programs will scan a larger internet data base, while others will lock down a browser during an assessment, and still others will store institution submissions for comparison against things that have already be submitted at that particular school.

According to Dr. Pratt in this week’s learning resources, the design of an assessment can significantly cut down on plagiarism and cheating by removing the need for academic dishonesty. His point was that in the working world, your boss will not lock you in a bathroom without resources to complete a project. Rather, you will have the opportunity to consult resources, check with an expert, or work with a colleague to get something done. In light of real world applications, if an assessment is designed appropriately, according to Dr. Pratt, there is no need to cheat because the evaluation of skills needed to complete the assessment encourages the use of outside resources and tools anyway.

The facilitation strategies that I would prefer to use would be those recommended by Dr. Pratt – the use of real world applications to eliminate the need for plagiarism or cheating. As long as one is citing one’s sources, there is never a need for it. I recognize, however, that the institution that I might be working for is likely to have its own protocols that need to be followed.

Dr. Palloff made the point that cheating and plagiarism is no more rampant in the online environment than in a bricks and mortar setting. The elimination of the temptation or need to cheat seems the most effective way to reduce it to me – and I would love to get a look at one of Dr. Pratt’s exams!

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Plagiarism and cheating [Video file].

Impact of Technology and Multimedia

·        What impact does technology and multimedia have on online learning environments?

Technology and multimedia impact online learning environments by creating the tools that the learners will use to interact with their course content. If the technology is easy to use, the learner will have a better experience than if they have to spend an excessive amount of time learning to use the technology and getting comfortable with the multimedia aspects before being able to engage with the content.

 ·        What are the most important considerations an online instructor should make before implementing technology?

I think the most important considerations an online instructor should make before implementing technology are: how accessible is it, how widely available is it, and how user friendly is it. Technology, even for online learners, needs to meet universal accessibility standards so that everyone can benefit. To meet the needs of the most learners, the technology being used for a course should be widely available and widely supported. Rare or specific versions of a program should be avoided because the tech support to keep up with them is often lacking and; thus, students will become frustrated in trying to access the tools. Lastly, technology should be user friendly. The online learner may not be a digital  native. In fact, many online students are digital immigrants, and the technology needs to be easily learned so that the majority of a student’s time can be spent on course content, not on learning to use the course tools.

 ·        What implications do usability and accessibility of technology tools have for online teaching?

If tools are not usable by every student, including those who have need of assistive learning technologies, the course becomes discriminatory. To have a successful course experience, the tools need to be user friendly for those with accessibility concerns, not just those who are digital immigrants who have never taken an online course before!

 ·        What technology tools are most appealing to you for online teaching as you move forward in your career in instructional design?

I am most interested in tools like Camtasia and Adobe Connect. Camtasia has a fabulous ability to build multimedia, professional-looking videos with very little experience, and Adobe Connect is a highly useful synchronous platform.

 

 

Launching the Online Learning Experience

As an online instructor, knowing the technology that is available to you will save you countless hours.  Boettcher and Conrad (2010) estimate that an instructor that is familiar with the course tools and content can prepare for a new course in twenty to thirty hours, whereas unfamiliar tools and/or content can make the task last more like forty or fifty hours! We can all relate to an operational update moving things around and making them unfamiliar, or a new phone taking hours to put into functional practice because nothing is in the same place as the old one. The same is true when you are setting up a course for an online learning experience.

It is essential to communicate clear expectations to learners to help them be successful in their class and make the most of their online learning experience. Additionally, clear expectations will lead to enhanced learner satisfaction (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). There’s nothing quite as frustrating as working diligently on something, only to realize as you are finishing it, that your understanding of the requirements was wrong. Sometimes, you have time to redo the work, and sometimes you have to hit the submit button anyway. Expectations in an online learning environment need to be clearly published and easily accessible. No one wants to be digging for the rubric or syllabus requirements when they have a question that requires simple clarification. From the instructor’s point of view, having expectations clear and obviously posted will make their job easier, as it eliminates needless questions.

Boettcher and Conrad (2010) also mention having patience when setting up an online course. Both in terms of being patient with yourself and being patient with your learners. There is a learning curve that may be fairly steep, depending on the tools being used, and patience will go a long way towards working through it. I also appreciated the tip from Dr. Pratt and Dr. Palloff to keep a little fun – education does not have to be deadly serious! (Laureate, 2010)

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

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Launching the online learning experience [Video file].

 

 

 

Online Learning Communities

In this week’s Learning Resources Dr. Palloff and Dr. Pratt discussed the importance of Online Learning Communities to student success and satisfaction to learning in the virtual environment. Just as in a traditional environment, it is essential for students to feel like the belong, to feel like they have a safe space to learn, and to feel like they are part of a community. Learning in isolation is counter-productive to the aims of the course, and often results in dissatisfaction and student attrition (Laureate, OLC, 2010). When students feel that they are part of a community, they are more likely to stay, more likely to be successful, and more likely to feel empowered in their online studies.

According to Drs. Palloff and Pratt, the essential elements of building an online learning community are: people, purpose, process, method, and social presence. They went on to say that the people within the community need to interact with each other, they need to be together for some kind of common purpose, and there needs to be a process by which they meet their objectives.

To be able to sustain an online learning community, the facilitator needs to establish some rules of engagement. It needs to be established how the participants will interact with each other, how often they will interact with each other, and if there are any institutional guidelines that must also be observed.

Drs. Pallof and Pratt made mention of the fact that traditional strategies are not necessarily directly transferrable to the online environment. I think it should be noted, however, that the idea of community is not exclusive to virtual studies. I have worked as both a bricks and mortar and an online teacher, and the principles of community building begin from the same place. Students need to know what is expected of them, and they should have input on what they can expect from their instructors. Further, community building, both traditionally and in the online environment, play a vital role in successful learning outcomes. When a student feels safe in their environment, they can turn their mind toward what they need to learn.

 

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Online learning communities [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Scope Creep

Scope Creep is a potential hazard for every project. Project managers fall victim to “let’s just add this one thing” over and over again. But one thing becomes three, and three things become five, and before you know it, the budget is blown.

A little over a year ago, I began designing a series of optional professional learning sessions for my team at the request of my manager. I analyzed the data and targeted the topics that our participants were seeking most frequently so we could design the series.

At first, the series contained  ten different topics that would be offered at various times throughout the school year. After some discussion, however, it was determined that the series should also include open office hours with various teams, several multiple-session topics, and question and answer sessions for popular topics. Each time the list was thought to be finished, the director came back and said “let’s also add…”

The complications of those additions just expanded. It became next to impossible to keep the offerings up to date, and therefore keep the calendars where they were posted up to date. The whole thing grew into an enormous headache, well beyond the scope of the original plan.

If I had been the project manager of this, as opposed to the designer, I would have left the other departments, their open office hours, and their Q&A sessions off the list. Those offerings changed so many times that no one could keep track, and it would have been more efficient if they were updated by the departments in question and linked back to the flier with the optional sessions, rather than trying to put them all in one place.

Small details can lead to big problems!

The Art of Effective Communication

My interpretation from each scenario:

Email: Jane needs some information from Mark for a deadline she is facing. She seems a little annoyed by the situation, though offered a couple of excuses as to why Mark might not have delivered. The tone of the email is positive, but seems to have an underlying sense of displeasure and panic.

Voicemail: Jane needs some information from Mark for a deadline she is facing. Her tone is warm, understanding, and she just seems a little concerned about when she can get the information.

Face to face: Jane needs some information from Mark for a deadline she is facing. Her tone, combined with her body language, suggest that she is relaxed and just trying to plan ahead to make sure she can get things done. She sounds understanding and does not seem annoyed in the least.

Implications:

When I read the email version of this message, my first thought was “oh, boy, Jane is really annoyed with this guy.” From the sound of the email, it seemed to me like she had been trying to get in touch with him for some time, and was getting toward the end of her rope. As I progressed to the voicemail and heard the tone of Jane’s voice, I thought, well she’s not annoyed so much as concerned about making sure it all gets done.  By the time I watched the video and saw the face-to-face interaction, my perception had changed completely. Jane’s body language combined with her tone of voice showed me she wasn’t anxious or annoyed, just planning ahead and trying to take into account a colleague’s busy schedule.

I thought this was a fantastic exercise! This really demonstrated to me the point that Dr. Stolovich made in this week’s resources that if you have a significant update or communication to deliver to your project team, it should be delivered live and to everyone at once.  Without voice and body language it is dangerously easy to misinterpret the information that is being shared. This is an important consideration to keep in mind when engaging in all forms of communication. Today’s communication is frequently in the form of rapid-fire instant or text messages. Those messages may not convey the message you were seeking to impart on the recipient!

Catalog Conundrum

Roughly a year ago, I was given an annual project that had previously been the domain of my director (my boss’s boss). I was nervous about the size of the undertaking, especially since I was directly handed a project that had been hers every year since its inception. I was advised by my boss that my best course of action was to follow the template from the year before to the letter and adjust only the dates.

The assignment itself was the creation of a professional learning catalog that would include an introductory section for every department that worked with the professional learning team in any capacity. Each department was responsible for composing or editing their own section and any contributions that they wanted included in the catalog. My team was creating a new, accessible format for the catalog and compiling the sections into one organized document.

IssueAware (IA) tickets were sent out to each department, and they were asked to fill in their information and pass the ticket to the next team on the list. Again, I was following the procedure as it had been done in previous years. Unfortunately, it did not go quite the way we hoped!

Ultimately, the project was delayed in the information gathering process and the roll-out was late. The biggest lesson learned from this project was that my director had been the driver in previous incarnations, but she had also functioned as the project manager. In my role as a specialist, I did not have the clout to move the information gathering along as swiftly as she did. The resulting take away was two-fold: the director should have introduced me to the supporting stakeholders and let them know what to expect in the coming weeks, and I should have started my timeline much earlier in the spring for the same target end date.

Course Reflection

Distance education is defined as learning that takes place with some kind of separation between the learner and the instructor. In most instances, the separation is one of space (a geographical separation), but the concept may also refer to a separation of time, based on location or simply schedules, or intellectual ability (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015). The concept of distance education is one that has been in play for at least 175 years! As far back as 1840, England offered a course in shorthand via correspondence (Tracey & Richey, 2005). Since that time, learning has been offered via correspondence, radio, television, video tape, and almost any means of communication that could get the information from instructor to student and back again, despite their separate locations (Tracey & Richey, 2005).

In the last ten years, and even more in the last five, perceptions of distance learning have shifted significantly with more and more people accepting distance education and becoming comfortable with the benefits it can provide (Laureate, Future). Based on the information presented by George Siemens in the Week 8 Learning Resource Video, this shift is occurring based on individuals’ becoming more comfortable with the use of online tools and the increase in online communication. Mr. Siemens also pointed out that the contributions of corporations, and their uses of distance education technologies, are bringing it more to the mainstream. I believe that as the Millennial generation progresses further into the workforce, and the children of Generations X’ers begin to explore their educational options, distance learning will take on an even greater role. Those who have grown up with the Internet and use online communication as comfortably as face-to-face methods, will have no compunction when it comes to choosing distance learning as an alternative if it best suits their needs.

Instructional designers can be proponents for improving societal perceptions of distance learning by faithfully following the ADDIE model of design. When conducting a delivery analysis for an upcoming course, an instructional designer may or may not determine that a distance delivery model is the optimal solution (Laureate, Planning). By acknowledging that some content may be best suited for a face to face delivery, while other content could be ideally delivered in an online or hybrid fashion, instructional designers are creating the best possible product. This, in turn, creates quality course content and delivery that enhances and improves the image projected that society will perceive. Continuing to produce the best quality learning product, implementing it with fidelity, evaluating the outcomes, and making corrections where necessary will only work to improve the perceptions that distance learners and those associated with them will have regarding their experiences.

I believe that I am already a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education. I work daily to educate K-12 teachers across the country regarding best practices for reaching their students in an online format, as compared to their traditional bricks and mortar roots. I will continue to work for improvement in the field by completing my Masters in Instructional Design with Walden University. I will use what I learn to make sure I am delivering quality content to the teachers I work with, who can in turn make a positive impact on their students.

 

References

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Planning and designing online courses [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th ed.).

Tracey, M., & Richey, R. (2005). The evolution of distance education. Distance Learning, 2(6), 17–21.

 

Converting to Distance Education

The conversion of traditional course content to distance education is becoming more and more common place. The sage-on-the-stage format of learning is no longer viable in a distance format, with the learning experience shifting to a student-centered experience and away from a teacher-centered experience.

This guide to converting to distance education outlines key points to remember: pre-planning your course, enhancing the content to make it appropriate for distance learning, encouraging communication between participants, and the use of the ADDIE model.

To review the guide, you can find it here: Wk7AssgnAltpeterS

Open Course Learning

I chose to look at the MIT Open Courseware site, as I was intrigued by the idea of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offering anything for free.  The course I investigated was an introduction to education, “Looking Forward and Looking Back on Education.”

http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/urban-studies-and-planning/11-124-introduction-to-education-looking-forward-and-looking-back-on-education-fall-2011/this-course-at-mit/

The course itself is moderately overwhelming when one is accustomed to working with Blackboard and the way its modules are defined. There is a wealth of information on this page, and I feel like I could spend several days reading through all of it, and still not be completely confident in my knowledge of the course material. The thing that stands out to me is that this seems to be an older version of the course. The course is listed as being the way it was taught in the Fall of 2011. I suppose that is why it is offered in an open course format!

I found it fascinating that one could download all of the instructional materials for the course and be ready for the online version. What I also found intriguing was that, despite MIT’s reputation for academic excellence, this course appears to violate the premise “avoid ‘dumping’ a face-to-face course onto the web” (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p. 114).  This education course (oh, the irony), has identical methods and activities as the in-person version, and even cites the fact that this course is just for those with scheduling difficulties.

The course designer does an excellent job of creating activities that maximize active learning; however, it would seem that this course is not a true open learning course. The activities associated with this course involve field activities and school observations that one who is interested in pursuing from a distance would not be able to facilitate. While I could certainly read the content of this course and complete the assignments, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for me to establish observations at a local school for the purposes of this course. In this way, the course seems to violate another of Simonson, Smaldino, and Zvacek’s principles for online learning to “integrate the power of the web into the course” (2015, p.116).  Videos and virtual tours could certainly be embedded to replace this aspect of the course requirement.

While I think this may, in fact, be an excellent course as an introduction to education, it does not meet the basic requirements of an online course. It would be better described as a hybrid course. I will be investigating other MIT open courses to see if they exist in similar fashions.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th ed.)