This Sounds Familiar …

Have you ever done a Google search on a topic and clicked on a variety of links that take you to various blog posts – all with the same article – virtually word for word? I’ve encountered this situation many times. As a former copy writer, I’m always a little stymied that businesses are willing to be so unoriginal. Don’t they know that they lose integrity with the public?

Now imagine this scenario in an online classroom. Students have a huge resource for information. Sometimes that resource must seem tempting. Why give thought or credit to someone else’s ideas when you can just as easily steal them. Again, it’s all about integrity.

Fortunately, there are some tools that assist with the prevention or detection of plagiarism. Three tools that will assist with detecting and preventing plagiarism are:

  1. Plagium. Copy and paste the questionable text into a search box. This is a great free of charge service, although participants must register to use it. The only downside, each search is limited to 250 characters.
  2. Turnitin. This is one of the cornerstones of online academic integrity. Turnitin will compare the student’s work to a vast collection of information – 24+ billion web pages, 300+ million student papers, and over 110,000 publications.
  3. Dupli Checker. Another great checker. Dupli Checker also operates in the “copy and paste” mode, but also displays the website with copied content and delivers an analysis report upon conclusion.

If you are interested in finding more resources to battle against plagiarism, check out this article at Educational Technology and Mobile Learning (http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/06/top-8-plagiarism-detector-tools-for.html).

At this point, I believe it’s essential that instructors rely on plagiarism detectors for written communications within an online course. The ability to access information readily, combined with the perceived “distance” in distance education makes it much easier to cheat. Some students simply don’t feel accountable to an instructor they’ve never met or seen.

Assessments are one method of testing students on their skills or knowledge gained in the classroom. Of course, an online assessment can easily become an open-book test. It’s almost impossible to keep students from relying on other resources when completing assessments. But maybe the student gains knowledge from looking up the materials for the assessment.

Ultimately, the internet is once again that great tool that continues to spin out of control. Unfortunately, there’s only so much we can do as instructors or instructional designers to combat it.

 

 

Old School vs. New School

(Week 5 application, part 2)

Okay, I admit it. I’m a little bit old. I remember when multimedia in the classroom meant showing a film (using a projector) or showing slides, with an accompanying CD or tape playing music in the background.

Now it’s possible to create a truly multimedia experience – to create a presentation that actually incorporates audio, video, presentation slides all in one file. But guess what? That’s old school too.

Technology and multimedia provides a new face to the old training model. Suddenly we can reach more students across the globe, students can engage when it works best for them, we can encourage students to share their real-life experiences, and to grow and learn from one another. As stated by Cairncross et al, the learning process can be enhanced through the integration of multimedia. It allows users to have control over the delivery of information and interactivity (Cairncross et al, 2001).

Caincross et al also states that multimedia allows for multiple representations of information in a variety of formats. This repetition creates what they describe as an Authentic Learning Environment (Cairncross et al, 2001). One example of an authentic learning environment in online instruction is a course that combines:

  1. An interactive learning module based on course curriculum.
  2. Implementation of the content of the module in online course.
  3. Use of blogs or wikis to document learner’s process and engagement within the course.

At my work, we often use two of the above components – an interactive learning module (in Captivate), and implementation of the course in an online environment, such as a class Webex. What we seem to be missing is the important element of learner engagement.

Why stop without fully engaging all students? Part of it is the twin demons of usability and accessibility. After all, we are engaging learners all over the globe. Many without the benefits of consistent internet connectivity. There’s also a huge cultural process to address. Many of our learners are simply more comfortable in a traditional face-to-face classroom environment.

I’m excited about the rapidly changing face of technology and multimedia and what it means for our learners. Sometimes it takes a while for organizations to catch up to technology, sometimes it takes a while for learners to catch up. Eventually, I believe we will all be working together in an online learning environment that is truly an authentic learning environment, with students engaged and actively participating. Of course, by then technology will have made another huge leap, and we will once again be playing catch up!

Resources:

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

Cairncross, S. and Mannon, M. (2001). Interactive Multimedia and Learning: Realizing the Benefits.

Innovations in Education & Teaching International, 38(2), 156-164(9).

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Behind the Curtain of Online Learning

Week 3 Application Post

 

A few months ago, I set up a mock class to meet the requirements for one of my Walden University courses. I’d been using Blackboard Learn for over a year, and assumed I had a failry good understanding of the features and uses of the software application. It seemed only logical to use Blackboard Learn to set up a course site for my mock class.

There’s a big difference between setting up a class and particpating in a class. I soon disocvered that while I had an understanding of how to navigate within the Blackboard course site, I was clueless when it come to setting up class files, linking documents, making sure all the class links worked, putting announcements in the right place, etc.

In our course text, The Online Teaching Survival Guide, Boettcher states “part of the instructor’s responsibilities it to take action to ensure that all learners are engage, present and participating” (Boettcher et al, 2011, p. 52). While this sounds like a straight-forward task, without an understanding of the technology, it’s almost impossible to create an environment that will engage the learners. As I was preparing for this mock class, I kept feeling a bit like the Wizard of Oz – I didn’t want learners to look behind the curtain, or discover all I didn’t know.

I think a well constructed site, with an easy to use interface, may not merit any comments from students. But when students encounter difficulties, or find links that won’t work, their frustration level understandably rises. Given that one of the goals within the online community is to establish a presence – social, cognitive, teaching and community (Boettcher et al, 2011), these kinds of errors present a road block for the class.

It’s essential to have a well thought out plan for developing a course online. However, just as important to developing the course content is an understanding of the technology tools used for the online course.  The next time I set up a class, I’ll spend much more time understanding the behind the scenes (or curtain) environment. I think it makes all the difference for the learners.

Resources:

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival 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