Archive for January, 2010

Strategies for Decreasing Plagiarism and Cheating

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The following passage about plagiarism and cheating was taken from DL’s course in development,  Best Practices for Online Courses:

Instructors are frequently concerned about cheating and plagiarism when developing course activities. This is another good reason to provide a variety of assessment types in your course. If your entire assessment relies on a series of multiple choice quizzes, expect that copies exist. There is no surefire way to prevent copying of a quiz so your best defense is to create assessments where cheating and plagiarism are difficult to carry out.

Papers can also be obtained through paper mills, former students, etc. This is especially true for general topics and for assignments that have been used many times. This is where we will start discussing specific ways to minimize cheating and plagiarism.

First, clearly state your college’s academic dishonesty policy in the syllabus. The CFCC Academic Dishonesty policy can be viewed in the Student Handbook section of the CFCC Course Catalog. Students should know what constitutes plagiarism and cheating and that they are taken seriously. You might include a question about this topic in your course’s icebreaker assignment. Also, sometimes students plagiarize because they do not know how to properly pararphrase or cite sources. Make sure you provide students with writing resources. For example, if you require that students submit essays with APA Style formatting, provide them with links to the current APA Style Manual or online tutorials.

In addition to stating your school’s policy and offering writing guidance, there are a number of things you can do when designing activities to decrease the possibility of cheating and plagiarism. Below are some suggestions to help you create such activities:

  • Recent references:
    Require that at least some references not be more than a year or two old or tie in the assignment to current events.
  • Specific references:
    Require that students use some references from specific sources, such as resources used in the course or articles from the school library.
  • Submit work in stages:
    When assigning large projects or papers, consider having students submit this in stages. For instance, you might have students first submit a summary or outline of their project, then a rough draft that will be revised before submitting a final product.
  • Personal:
    Make at least part of the assignment personal by including a component such as an interview, personal experience, etc. or use project-based assignments. Adding a personal component to assignments will also motivate students.
  • Presentations:
    Require that students present their paper or project and defend their position, design, etc. Presentations can be conducted by using presentation software (such as PowerPoint with or without audio) or other multimedia applications such as Camtasia or Screencast-O-Matic. Discussion about presentations can be conducted in the discussion forum of the course.

You can learn more about these strategies and others by reading Arthur Sterngold’s article, “Confronting Plagiarism: How Conventional Teaching Invites Cyber-Cheating”, available through NCLIVE.

Best Practices for Quizzes and Tests

Monday, January 25th, 2010

A number of instructors have expressed concern that students have had difficulty with quiz and test-taking in Blackboard. Of course, you should always provide a variety of assessments in your courses, but there are a few things you can do to decrease problems with Blackboard tests:

  • Limit the time for quizzes to no more than one hour. This will decrease the possibility of the system timing out and intermittent connectivity problems that result in the test getting locked.
  • If your test material requires more than one hour, divide it into sections (such as multiple choice and essay, part A and Part B, etc.).
  • Include detailed instructions with the quiz link so students can read them before actually starting the quiz. This will decrease stress and students will not have to spend quiz time reading instructions. They will also know what to expect before entering the test. You should include: how many questions, how many points possible, how much time is allowed for completion, and general instructions.
  • Unless there is a compelling reason to use the Test tool for essays (e.g. you want the assessment to be timed), it is best to set these items up with the assignment tool. This also allows you to download the file, do any markup, and upload with your assignment feedback.
  • Advise students of a few important guidelines:
    • Read the information on the Blackboard login page regarding browser issues.
    • Close all windows on the computer and then launch a new window to login to the learning management system.
    • Close other applications before taking the quiz/test (including chat programs).
    • If there is a specific start time for the test, login 10-15 minutes early to test the connection.
    • After opening the test, scroll to the bottom of the page to be sure the Save and Submit buttons are available.
    • Do NOT click “Submit” until you have completed the exam.
    • Do NOT use any of the browser navigation buttons (i.e. Back, Forward, Home, etc.) during the quiz/test.
    • Do NOT leave the assessment page without completing the assessment and clicking the “Submit” button at the end (if it is a forced completion test).
    • Do NOT click the Refresh or Reload buttons in your browser while taking the quiz/test.
    • Do NOT open other browser windows or applications while taking a CFCC quiz/test.
    • Do NOT click on buttons in the Blackboard navigation while taking a quiz/test. 
    • If you are only able to answer one question at a time (questions present themselves on separate pages), make sure you only single-click the “Next” button to move forward.
  • It is usually beneficial to students, especially those who have not taken an online test before, to provide them with a practice quiz  or low-stakes quiz to ensure that students are comfortable with the interface. This can be a simple survey or an icebreaker assignment at the beginning of the course that asks questions about the syllabus and course expectations. This will also let you know if students have read the syllabus and other course information.

If you would like feedback or advice to help you create course assessments or other course content, feel free to contact me at or by phone at 910-362-7722 .

Liz Stover
Instructional Technologist

Course Essentials Checklist and Rubric

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Are you looking for guidance in developing your online course? Do you wonder what you should include and how you should organize it to create a high quality learning experience for your students?

The Department of Distance Learning has posted a list of 25 specific standards for developing a quality Internet or Hybrid course (see the Distance Learning Faculty Resource Webpage). After much discussion, the Distance Learning Committee and Distance Learning Department agreed up these items as being critical to creating a quality course.

Please visit with the DL department if you would like assistance implementing these 25 standards:

Larolyn Zylicz
Department Chair of Distance Learning

Liz Stover
Instructional Technologist

Academic Tweeting

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Most of you have heard of and/or use the microblogging tool, Twitter. Some of you might even be using it with your students to enhance your courses. If you are considering ways to use this popular free resource for your courses, check out academHacK’s list of ways to use Twitter in academia.

Twitter is a microblogging tool, meaning your posts will be brief (140 characters or less). Your posts are known as “tweets” and these tweets are broadcasted to anyone (by computer or cellphone) subscribing to your twitter account.  Likewise, you will receive messages from accounts to which you have subscribed.

Some of the educational uses listed by AcademHack include building classroom community, providing instant feedback, and maximizing a teachable moment. For specifics on these uses and to explore others, refer to academHacK’s list of ways to use Twitter in academia.

Free Graphics Editors

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Do you need to edit images for your course or are your students required to post graphics for assignments? If you do not have access to a nifty graphics editor like Photoshop, you will be interested to know that there are some free options available, which will provide you with many of the same features:

  • Photofiltre (free for educational or private use – Windows)
    This application includes many of the filters you find in PhotoShop and other software. The interface is intuitive and similar to other photo editing software so you’ll feel right at home for free.
  • LiveQuartz (MAC only)
    This one is for you MAC users. Created for Leopard, this free image editor uses layers and filters. View screencast of LiveQuartz.
  • Gimp Portable (Windows)
    Graphics application with many advanced features, a portable application that you can store on a flashdrive or other portable storage, interface is a bit complicated but the many features are worth it.
  • Photoscape (Windows)
    This graphics editor includes batch editing and a screen capture tool.