Life by Design

Posts Tagged ‘K through 12

(Cartoon thought bubble reads: ””)


With the explosion of online learning in both K-12 and higher education, there too, has been an explosion in plagiarism and cheating.   While the motivation for cheating has not changed over the years, the realization that one has cheated, especially in the digital world, has, as it is much more visible in a cyber based classroom.  Most students do not realize that by cutting and pasting text from a website into their research paper without citation represents plagiarism and cheating.

In an interesting survey of approximately 50,000 students from more than 60 universities students believe: ‘cut & paste’ plagiarism – using a sentence or two (or more) from different sources on the Internet and weaving this information together into a paper without appropriate citation – is not a serious issue. While 10 percent of students admitted to engaging in such behavior in 1999, almost 40 percent admit to doing so in the Assessment Project surveys [2002-5]. A majority of students (77%) believe such cheating is not a very serious issue (CAI research, 2005) as cited in Jocoy & DiBiase (2006).  Why has cheating become ‘not a very serious issue’?  It appears both the expectations and enforcements of facilitators/educators has fallen off.

According to Jocoy & DiBiase (2006), it is much harder to detect manually as well.  With budget cuts, shorter teacher days, higher enrollments, it seems plausible that a lot of cheating is going unnoticed.  Thankfully, plagiarism software is now available to online instructors that can check for plagiarism.  Turnitin is a good case in point.  Other methods include Google which allows instructors to track down copied phrases and online services such as EVE actually compares student papers to Web documents and/or to essay databases to find and report instances of matching text.  In their study, Jocoy & DiBiase(2006) did notice a difference in detecting instances of cheating by using digital resources.

Our authors, Palloff & Pratt (2011), discuss the importance of creating an assessment that is highly individualized.  For instance, rather than creating a multiple choice test, design the assessment so that the student has to write a personal reflection paper that demonstrates how they would apply the knowledge gained in the course to their everyday lives.  There is an argument for preparing students for the work world in such a way that collaborative research, and fact finding becomes a norm.  Right now in my son’s 7th grade class, the math teams occasionally take a group exam and each member of the team can contribute their knowledge to the exam.

As an instructor, there are several remedies than can be implemented to cut down on both plagiarism and cheating.

First of all, the instructor holds the expectation that students will not cheat and that there will be enforcements and consequences if students are caught.  The announcement of assignments being processed by Turnitin should be enough of disincentive for a student to go down that road.  More use of librarians can also be helpful, as many current students do not really understand the nature of plagiarism.

As an online instructor, examinations can be made of documents side-by-side, discussion posts can be compared to one another, unusual wording or lengthy wording that differs from the student’s ‘signature style’, and even a mix of fonts and type style in one paper are all ways that an instructor can possibly suspect cheating.  If it is suspected, it is best that the instructor addresses the issue with the student offline and explains the situation and asks for an explanation.

The online instructor has the responsibility to set the tone of this issue early on in Week Zero in the course policies of what the expectations and consequences are for cheating.

The student who cheats only cheats him or herself on really knowing the material that will benefit their life somehow in the future.  That is a real loss for that individual and needs to be prevented.

As I look to the future of online learning, I really like the idea of designing assessments that are as individualized as a student’s fingerprint.  Design the assessment so that the student is forced to engage higher level thinking skills and demonstrate metacognition.  Reflecting on one’s experiences in life or applying the content information to one’s life are excellent ways to measure learning and guarantee that the student has delivered original thinking and truly contributed something unique to the learning community of the course.


Cartoon courtesy of www.  Extracted from:  Google Images. 04/07/11

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.

Palloff, R. & Pratt, K. (2011) Plagiarism and Cheating. Laureate Education Inc., Video Production.


A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums. The teacher wants her students to take a “tour” of the museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the artwork on display. Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art.

Given this example, the best CMS choices are the new Web 2.0 Social software for learning.  Models such as Edu 2.0 or EctoLearning. are learner driven, allow for media viewing, communication and collaboration.  Also, both of these systems have email capabilities allowing for communication (threaded discussion) not only between students, but with the instructor and in this scenario, museum curators.  Both models also support project based learning, which will allow small groups of students to work together on a project, collaborate and actually present their group findings digitally. These systems combine the function of discussion technologies, podcasting and media sharing as is presented in our course resources (Laureate Education, Inc. 2010).

The specific components of a course management system that are available in both examples and speak directly to this scenario are: Content presentation, course communication, and group project space and partner applications. (Simonson et al, 2009, pp. 239-242).

According the Pew Internet & American Life project  (Lenhardt & Madden, 2007. Extracted from, a great majority of today’s learners are actively developing new methods of communication and on their own acquiring competencies in content creation, sharing, and distribution. These learners are often actively involved in what has been called participatory cultures.

EctoLearning “ is a social, collaborative, online learning environment that directly addresses the needs of the modern learning environment by making the new communication skills and competencies for content creation and sharing central to the classroom experience.  This system enables students to create, collaborate and learn.” (Extracted from

An interesting application featuring EctoLearning comes from an educator, Alana, who is studying the use of EctoLearning to control cyber bullying in their school system.  Alana states:  “Educational networking sites like these provide a safe environment controlled by the school district that enables students, parents and educators to actively participate in the use of 21st-century social networking technology.”

Edu2.0 is again a good example of a social software based learning network that puts all learning tools in one place…wikis, blogs, email, embedded media and the like so that the student can have ease of access, communication and collaboration.  A case study demonstrating the efficacy of Edu 2.0 highlights the use at Central Cambria High School.  In interview with Aaron Minor (2010), a business teacher and member of the technology team, it was discovered that:

“Central Cambria is using almost every aspect of edu2.0.

  • Teachers are accountable to place their lesson plans on edu2.0.
  • Many of our teachers utilize the different assessments that are available.
  • Content and resources for lessons are uploaded to edu2.0.
  • Soon we are going to begin utilizing the parental support on edu2.0.
  • All of our special education teachers are co-teachers of the regular education classes. Adding the special education teachers as co-teachers has improved communication between the regular education teachers and the special education teachers.
  • Our use of online education will only increase over time. Our district has consistently been adding more laptops to our school over the past three years and is committed to adding more in the future. Currently, Central Cambria is located in a county that provides a broadband wireless signal that blankets the entire county. Central Cambria is committed to advance with the evolutional changes of online education.”

From a report in 2007, the National School Boards Association is encouraging schools to take another look at the use of social networks in the classroom.  In the report, it is stated: Social networking may be advantageous to students — and there could already be a double standard at work. 37% of districts say at least 90% of their staff are participating in online communities of their own — related to education — and 59% of districts said that at least half were participating. “These findings indicate that educators find value in social networking,” the study notes, “and suggest that many already are comfortable and knowledgeable enough to use social networking for educational purposes with their students.”  And “In fact, 76% of parents expect social networking will improve their children’s reading and writing skills, or help them express themselves more clearly, according to the study, and parents and communities “expect schools to take advantage of potentially powerful educational tools, including new technology.” “

There are a number of new learning technologies that fall into this category.   The Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies has created a Tools Directory of Instructional Tools that allows you to compare the vast array of CMS and LMS for specific needs.  It is clear that with these systems, distance education is a viable and sustainable form of educational delivery.


Alana (2010) Enhanced Learning in Professional Contexts.  Extracted from :

Cassel, D., (2007) School boards:  net dangers over-rated; bring social networks to school. Tech.Blorge Technology News.  Extracted from:

EctoLearning website:

edu2.0 website:

Minor, A. (2010) Central Cambria High School Case Study.   Extracted from:

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albirght, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009).  Teaching and learning at a distance:  Foundations of distance education (4th ed). Boston, MA:  Pearson. pp. 236-242.

Multimedia Presentation:  “The Technology of Distance Education” (2010) Laureate Education, Inc. Video Production. Extracted from:  (Click on Week 3 Resources).

Tools Directory. Centre for Learning and Performance Technology. Extracted from: