Life by Design

Posts Tagged ‘learning and technology

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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.

Today, instructors who are looking into online education may or may not be well aware of the vast array of technological tools available for the function of online courses.  The value of these tools which include:  LMS (Learning Management Systems such as Blackboard, Sakai, and Moodle), Discussion Board forums, wikis, email, blogs, video lectures, YouTube, synchronous collaboration tools, webinar and online chatting apps all help to create one of the most essential functions of online learning, and that is, to build a community of online learners.  These tools also increase learner engagement, which inspires and encourages the learner to rediscover their natural love for learning and ignite the curiosity that is still present about things unknown.

For a new online instructor, the exposure to these tools can be overwhelming and daunting and may deter the instructor from moving to an online format.  The key is to try just the essentials the first time around.  Those essentials would be:  email communication, Discussion board forums and the grade book.  With each version of the course, learn another tool that will add another dimension to your course.  But always remember, the content is what is most important.  All the enticements of the technological tools are secondary to the content and the instructor’s responsibility to build a close-knit community of learners.

We have to keep in mind that online learning opens the door to students who may have disabilities of various kinds; so again, the technological tools increase accessibility and usability of information.  Tools like, Text to Speech, Close Captioning for videos, and font and design tools that can build and simplify the appearance of websites for these students.  Building online courses that are both usable and accessible increases the success for all learners.  In their article, Cooper, Colwell & Jelfs (2007) make a compelling argument that by making elearning both useable (effective, efficient and satisfactory in a specific context of use) and accessible, which allows the learning system and environment to adjust to the needs of all learners, everyone wins.

As I move forward with course design myself, I am particularly excited about Learning Management Systems that are modeled after Social Networking sites because they are intuitive, fun and excellent at building communities.  I also think blogging, webinars, online chatting and having classroom lectures in virtual worlds such as Second Life and other SIM environments are exciting possibilities.  From what I have learned, the more you learn about technology, the more you can learn.  Challenge yourself to try something new each day, and before long the courses you design will be amazing, educational and support your students in rediscovering their natural curiosity and love for learning.

For instance, this video shows a fascinating animated look at the role of antibodies in our body.  Media like this certainly engages the learner and tells a story that no words can!

Click here to view:;jsessionid=qQe1JtsRQ+h8BltDfNlOPA**?action=2&discussion.ascdesc=ascending&discussion.listtype=threaded&resid=19623


Boettcher, J. & Conrad, R. (2010) The Online teaching Survival Guide. Josses-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.

CTE Online (2010) Antibody Animation.  Extracted from:;jsessionid=qQe1JtsRQ+h8BltDfNlOPA**?action=2&discussion.ascdesc=ascending&discussion.listtype=threaded&resid=19623

It is clear through this course that the concept of how I learn is  broader than what I initially described in our first discussion post.  In that post, I described myself as an experiential learner.  While this remains true, other things are also true.  My learning fluctuates during a given task depending on what I’m learning.  Gilbert J.  and Swainer, C.  (2008). I am much more reliant upon a connectivist point of view than I ever would have imagined.  Technology is becoming increasing relevant to me, so I am eager to learn anything in this area.  Lim, C.P. (2004).  Based on the criteria of an adult learner, I surely fit the description.  Conlan, J. , Grabowski, S., and Smith, K. (2003).  Instead of acquiring knowledge, I am constructing it day by day with course materials and the resources listed on my learning network map. Kim, B. (2001).   My ZPD in this online environment  not only includes our instructor, but a whole host of expert mentors I can access through my online learning network.  Kim, B. (2001).    I discovered that I rely on several different intelligences when I meet new learning and I have discovered the intelligences I need to further develop in becoming  a well-rounded designer in the future.  Armstrong, T. (2000).

My learning preference expressed in the first discussion post composed of years of exposure to both Constructivist and Social Learning Theory.  It has been through environmental and social interaction  that my learning has occurred.  I have not been exposed to much strategy on how to learn and I want to improve on that now.    I can  now better understand my reluctance to taking higher level math or computer programming.  My native intelligence in logical thinking is one of my weaker areas.  I can remember specifically in middle school, through some pretty traumatic experiences I had with math and the instructors, that I developed both fear of the subject and self-doubt about my ability in those classes.  I want to get over this now and improve these skills.  I, like many, learn best when a subject is relevant.  If I cannot see the relevance, I have difficulty justifying spending my time and energy on a topic.  I used to think this was a short coming, but now I understand that it is a natural characteristic of an adult learner.  Because of my early exposure to more of a Social Learning environment, I became dependant upon the instructor.  Now with a vast learning network developed which is mostly online, I feel much more confident in learning on my own.     I can understand now why high school was so boring for me.   Being  delivered in one specific format, not allowing any options for personal engagement and not addressing any of the multiple intelligences made for long, bland days at school.

Technology has become an essential tool in my learning.  With courses now, if the content or style does not engage me, I can augment my learning by accessing the learning network I have constructed online and find information embedded in venues that support my stronger multiple intelligences.  I have become reliant upon Google Search for research, blog searches for new content, a daily read of my aggregator, tools like Simply Box to capture information I want to save for current or future projects and my social bookmarking library for resources for my new career.  I am looking forward to learning how to create more visual and auditory media through technology.

In conclusion, this journey of self exploration of my learning style has clearly impressed me with the complex nature of learning.  I hope to remember this as I become an instructional designer.  I want remain  sensitive to the subtleties of learning behavior as it interfaces with human nature and  new content.


Armstrong, T. (2000).  Multiple Intelligences in the classroom (2nd ed.).  Alexandria, VA:  Association for supervision and Curriculum Development.

Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (2003).  Adult learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching and technology.  Retrieved from _Learning

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008).  Connectivism.  In M. Orey (Ed.), emerging Perspectives on learning, teaching and technology.  retrieved from

Gilbert, J., & Swainer, C. (2008).  Learning styles:  How do they fluctuate?  Institute for Learning Styles Journal (Vol. 1).  Retrieved from

Kim, B. (2001).  Social constructivism.  In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology.  Retrieved from

Lim, C. P. (2004).  Engaging learners in online learning environments.  TechTrends:  Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 48 (4), 16-23.