Archive for October, 2011

Improvements to Scotland’s Glow

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Scotland has a very technologically forward thinking way of incorporating Information and Communication Technology, or ICT, into its educational system: an intranet.  This intranet is referred to as “Glow” and it is the national intranet used by Scotland’s educational community.  According to Education Scotland’s website, “the main purpose of Glow is to enhance the quality of learning and teaching in the classroom by fully supporting Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). It is proving to be an essential tool, and provides a platform for the educational community to build capacity and ensure a first-class education for Scotland. Using the national directory, Glow users can find others with similar areas of interest or expertise, collaborate across the country and make connections with others to improve learning and teaching.”  If you would like to learn more about Glow, you can review an article about it that we posted in July.

Glow has received very positive reviews by educational staff and students alike since its inception in 2007.  Recently, some exciting improvements were made to Glow based on user feedback and additional research.  Some of the new features and enhancements Glow users will be enjoying are as follows:

Glow Wikis

Glow Wikis are online spaces for classes or individuals to share information and collaborate on class projects, schoolwork, or simply build a body of knowledge about a specific topic to use as a resource.  Glow Wikis also allow teachers to create and plan lessons as a team, no matter how far apart they are geographically.  Practically anything can be shared using the Glow Wiki medium including text, images, video, audio, or links to other valuable online resources.

Glow Forums

Glow has added a Forum feature in which users are able to interact with each other in a style much like a message board.  Glow Forum users have the ability to create and facilitate discussions, conduct polls, and gather feedback.  The Glow Forums are a great resource for student and staff support.

Glow Groups

Glow Groups are user created groups of students and educational staff with similar ideas and interests.  The Glow Groups feature allows users to share ideas through discussion boards, chat rooms, document servers, image galleries, and a web conferencing feature called Glow Meet (which is another new Glow enhancement).  Glow groups are easily created and maintained by Glow users themselves.

Glow Blogs

Glow has added a blogging feature called Glow Blogs.  This feature will allow students and educational staff to create blogs much like the typical blogs seen all over the Internet today.  Glow Blogs can be used in conjunction with specific assignments or as an ongoing showcase of student work and achievements.  As with traditional blogs, users of the Glow Blogs feature have the ability to update content and publish images, text, and other resources to be shared with classes or entire school sites.

Other exciting enhancements to Glow include Glow Search, Glow Personal Profile, Glow Favorites and Glow Light.  If you would like to learn more about these new features or about Glow in general, you may visit the Education Scotland website at www.ltscotland.org.uk .

Online Educators and Academic Dishonesty: Dealing with Plagiarism

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Last week we shared an article regarding cheating and how online educators may deal with this form of academic dishonesty.  Today we are continuing our topic of academic dishonesty in eLearning environments with a discussion centered on plagiarism. Plagiarism can be defined as when a student intentionally presents the written work of someone else as his or her own work.  Plagiarism is usually associated with long written assignments such as essays, research papers, or even masters theses and doctoral dissertations.  However, plagiarism can certainly occur in any assignment that requires a written response.

The first step in curbing any form of academic dishonesty is prevention.  While plagiarism may be more difficult than other forms of academic dishonesty to prevent, sometimes simply discussing what plagiarism is and how to avoid it can quell a student’s temptation.  As we stated in our previous article on the subject of cheating, another form of prevention is making the policies around academic dishonesty known to all students at the beginning of your course.  Each student should have access to your personal academic dishonesty policies and those of the organization you work for.

Plagiarism can also be somewhat difficult to detect.  There are many plagiarism detection resources from free online services to paid subscription or software.  If the organization you work with utilizes a plagiarism detection service, you would be wise to make use of it.  If not, a simple Internet search for free plagiarism detection services will return several options and you should be able to find a solution that works for your needs.

There are also certain “red flags” you can look for in a student’s writing that may be an indication of plagiarism.  Sudden font or text size changes in a work of writing may indicate copying and pasting from another source as many students are not savvy enough to ensure the text size or font they have copied matches the text in their original work.  Another tip-off that a student may have plagiarized a portion of a written assignment is the use of atypical spelling of certain words (for example, the use of “-our”  in words like behaviour or colour if you are in a region that used the “-or” spelling instead).  Some students have also been known to leave various header or footer information (advertising or other indications of original source) in items that they have cut and pasted from an Internet source.  This is an obvious red flag that should be investigated.  Another way to detect a possible act of plagiarism is if you sense a student’s voice or tone has changed abruptly in his or her writing.  Again, this could indicate that text has been copied from another source.

If you do find that you have detected an act of plagiarism by one of your students, you should document all of your research and evidence thoroughly.  Most organizations have a protocol that should be followed for handling such cases so you will need to familiarize yourself with the procedures that apply to your situation.  Ideally, preventative measures and education on the subject will make the occasions you have to deal with plagiarism rare.

Online Educators and Academic Dishonesty: Dealing with Cheating

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Being an online educator has many advantages.  As an online course instructor, you can usually telecommute for a large portion, or maybe even all, of your working hours.  You have the opportunity to work with cutting edge technology and can access your course materials and student data at any time day or night.  You can share the passion you have for your subject matter with students all over the world.  However, one downside to working as an eLearning course instructor is dealing with academic dishonesty.

While all educators have to address academic dishonesty at some level, it can be argued that students enrolled in online courses might have more opportunities to engage in academically dishonest activities simply due to the nature of being a distance-learning student.  That being said, dealing with academic dishonesty is not an insurmountable task.

There are several types of academic dishonesty, but for the purposes of this series we will be discussing only two kinds: cheating and plagiarism.  Cheating in an online course can include anything from a student having someone else complete assignments or take tests for the student, to a student looking up answers to quiz or test questions on the Internet, in course textbooks, or in course notes while taking a test.  Plagiarism occurs when a student intentionally submits someone else’s work as his or her own, and usually applies to lengthy written assignments.  Today, we are going to discuss how to handle cheating as an online course instructor. We will follow up next week with an article about dealing with plagiarism.

Prevention is the first line of attack when dealing with cheating.  It is always a good idea for online course instructors to review their policy regarding academic dishonesty at the beginning of each course.  This policy should be in writing and available for all students to reference along with all other pertinent course documents.  If the organization you work for has an academic dishonesty policy, this should be presented and made available for review as well.  By sharing these academic dishonesty policies early on, students will be mindful that the instructor is aware of possible indiscretions and the students will also know exactly what the consequences are should they decide to participate in any academically questionable behaviors.

Another preventative measure is to “cheat-proof” assignments and tests.  Assignments should be relevant and engaging and require higher order thinking responses, rather than the simple regurgitation of facts, in order to discourage cheating.  Students will also feel less compelled to cheat on assignments if they can tell the assignments are valuable to the course content as opposed to “busy work”.  Tests should be conducted in formats other than multiple-choice to deter cheating for obvious reasons.  Also, shorter or more frequent tests should be administered, as a student is less likely to solicit “help” on an ongoing or frequent basis.  Tests can also be timed or only made available for a small window of time to discourage students from spending time on looking up answers or engaging others for assistance.

Each learning organization is different, so if you do encounter a student cheating you will need to follow the policies of the organization you work for.  It would be a good idea to keep as much documentation of the student’s indiscretion as possible should you need it for evidence. Most likely, the number of times an online course instructor has to deal with this type of academic dishonesty will be few and far between.  Don’t forget to join us next week when we will examine the topic of plagiarism.