EIDT-6510-2: WK6 Application (part2)

Plagiarism Detection and Prevention

Technology has opened many possibilities “to improve learning and create a more exciting and motivating environment” (Connors, as cited in Schmidt et al, 2009, p.2); however, the use of technology in education has triggered a new round of academic cheating, leaving educational institutions faced with new challenges to their social responsibility of producing high-quality graduates.

Overall, there is little convincing research on “the actual prevalence of academic dishonesty in the online classroom” (Black et al, 2008, p.24; also see Laureate Education, 2010). Moreover, some studies demonstrate the opposite trend (Black et al, 2008) and the relevance of the ‘Media Equation’ phenomenon, according to which “students are exhibiting the same behavior in online courses that they exhibit in traditional classrooms” (p.24).

To adequately and effectively address the problem of cheating and plagiarism in both online and traditional environments, it is necessary to understand the reasons and motives underlying the cheating and plagiarism behavior, that is, why learners cheat and plariarize. Researchers now are focusing effort on identifying the root causes, rather than symptoms, of cheating. Chris Park (2004), for example, states that:

“Many students are tempted to plagiarize [and more broadly, to cheat] or do plagiarize and for them both the opportunity and the motive to do so are growing. … Students are faced with many temptations to plagiarize, because many of them now have to work part-time to support their studies, they produce coursework in large quantities and to tight deadlines and they are under mounting pressure to perform well to justify investment in studying for a degree. Students also often know that their peers engage in plagiarism, and they too are faced with moral dilemmas” (p.293).

The latter idea is echoed by Milliron and Sandoe (2008), who say that “students learn deviant strategies and adopt their peers’ techniques and behavior as they communicate and form social relationships. If students perceive a ‘culture of cheating,’ they are more likely to engage in academic dishonesty” (para 4).

According to Black, Greaser, and Dawson (2008), “various personal and environmental factors … contribute to academic dishonesty” (p.24). Among them are “(1) the number of credits taken during the semester, (2) the number of hours spent weekly on the course, (3) the perceived learning as a result of the course and (4) the perceived amount of interaction with the instructor” (Black et al, 2008, p.24).

Simkin and McLeod (2009) take a closer look at the causes of cheating in an online learning environment and identify six cheating motivators:

  1. an opportunity;
  2. the “desire to succeed”: “if ‘winning is everything,’ then cheating simply becomes a tool to use in pursuit of this higher goal’ (p.3/13);
  3. “ the small or non-existent penalties that some instructors impose for infractions’ (p.3/13);
  4. ‘the reluctance many professors now harbor to prosecute student cheaters” (p.3/13);
  5. “a growing trend to redefine what constitutes ‘cheating’” (p.3/13);
  6. lack of a moral code.

Simkin and McLeod (2009) summarize their findings in the following graph:

blog postChao, Wilhelm, and Neureuther (2009) corroborate Simkon and McLeod’s findings and identify three broader (more comprehensive) contributors to plagiarism by students: availability of high-speed Internet and access to numerous web-based resources, students’ attiude toward cheating and plagiarism, and “the lack of consistent enforcement of academic honesty policy by faculty members and university administration” (p.32), which, according to Chao, Wilhelm and Neureuther (2009) “fosters a culture of cheating” (p.32).

The deterrents that Simkin and McLeod (2009) identify – culture, moral, risk – seem to me to call for a comprehensive institution-wide strategy for overcoming cheating. I believe, an anti-cheating policy is to be implemented at three levels:

– the institutional level;

– the course design level;

– the classroom (course implementation) level.

Institutional level

Chris Park (2004) posits that “many universities now recognize the need for a broader and more cohesive institutional approach to dealing with student plagiarism, in order to protect everyone’s interests as well as the academic credibility and reputation of the institution” (p.293). Further, Park draws on the experience of Lancaster University to outline an institutional framework for dealing with academic dishonesty by students. According to Park (2004), “the framework places a strong emphasis on prevention and education, backed up by robust and transparent procedures for detecting and punishing plagiarism” (p.291).

It is the responsibility of the institution to promote the culture of academic integrity which would “underpin and inform all aspects of its teaching and learning strategy” (Park, 2004, pp.297-298), with “any initiative to raise awareness – among faculty and students alike – concerning current trends in online plagiarism” as an important first step for any ed ucational and/or training institution (Scanlon, 2003, p.163; also see Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006).

“Because academic integrity involves the development of behavior that reflects moral values, educators’ responsibility for addressing plagiarism may go beyond shielding students from copyright infringement. …educators enforce academic integrity in order to advance students moral development”

(Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006, p.3)

 One of the ways to combat cheating is offered by the proliferating plagiarism-detection software products (e.g. Turnitin.com), and computer security features (Vilic & Cini, 2006).

Cheater-detecting software is, certainly, useful to protect educational and/or training institutions against legal action that the institutions incur upon themselves if they neglect security in such areas as assessment contents, assessment environment, assessee authentication, as well as plagiarism, as the most notorious instance of cheating in both traditional face-to-face and distance educational environments that has caused a lot of concern for decades (Bradley, 2006).

However, as Scanlon (2003) points out, “although the potential deterrent effect of plagiarism-detection software may be considerable, and although it likely will sniff out the most egregious forms of plagiarism for which there is no excuse, reliance on plagiarism checkers could bring unforeseen and unwanted consequences” (p.164), among the most dangerous of which Scanlon (2003) identifies (a) “the probable motives for student plagiarism, as well as the reasons for student confusion over the nature of originality and textual appropriation” being left unaddressed, (b) the evidence of mutual distrust, and (c) the possibility of the faculty avoiding “engagement with the pedagogical and ethical issues involved” if the cheating-detection software is used “solely as policing mechanisms” (p.164). To effectively address the issue of cheating, it is necessary “to move the plagiarism discourse beyond just detection and punishment and to situate and embed it in a cohesive framework that tackles the root causes as well as the symptoms of plagiarism as a family of behaviours [sic]” (Park, 2004, p.294).

What is important is to introduce and nurture a culture of academic integrity (Laureate Education, 2010) and to create an environment, which, according to McCabe and Pavela (as cited in Milliron & Sandoe, 2008, para 1), “encourages mutual respect, fairness, trust, responsibility, and a love of learning and that is maintained by safeguards like clear expectations, fair and relevant assessments, and vigilant course management (McCabe & Pavela, as cited in Milliron & Sandoe, 2008, para 1):

“Colleges and universities should update their policies on academic honesty to include definitions and sanctions regarding cyber-plagiarism, and they should regularly publish or otherwise draw attention to these policies. Plagiarism is a problematic and widely misunderstood concept for students, and the complicating factor of the Internet, where each of acquisition too often is taken to mean common ownership, has only widened the divide between faculty and student notions of fair use” (Scanlon, 2003, p.163).

“…there is evidence that suggests a portion of one form of academic dishonesty – plagiarism – may be unintentional”

(Chao et al, 2009, p.32).

The idea of students’ cheating because of their misunderstanding what cheating constitutes is corroborated by Black et al (2008), Jocoy and DiBiase (2006), Park (2004), and Simkin and McLeod (2009). According to the Council of Writing Program Administrators (as cited in Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006), there are “several contingencies which complicate the enforcement of academic integrity in higher education” (p.2), intentionality being one of them.

 “We consider communicating the principles of academic integrity to be one component of establishing high expectations in the classroom”

(Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006, p.8).

With the advent of online education and training, cultural differences are also to be taken into account. Vilic and Cini (2006), for instance, refer to the Chinese and Indian culture of copying as examples of cultural differences in understanding plagiarism.

Overall, research suggests that students who are “given instructions on avoiding plagiarism (including definition of plagiarism and proper documentation) and paraphrasing practice exercise along with instructor feedback” are less prone to unintentional plagiarism (Chao et al, 2009, p.39).

The course design level

To be effective, any institutional policy is to be reflected in the teaching and learning strategies employed institution-wide. Therefore, course design is critical in creating the environment necessary to discourage cheating. Engaging students and offering meaningful and authentic learning and continuous, formative assessment experiences are “the key to deterring plagiarism” (JISC InfoNet, n.d., p.10). Dr. Pratt (Laureate Education, 2011) suggests using performance assessments and multiple assessments as means to reduce cheating. This is supported by Vilic and Cini (2006), who “the need for effective instruction and authentic assessment as the strongest means of deterring and reducing the number of academic integrity violations” (p.341).

Moreover, it is desirable that links to plagiarism-avoidance resources provided by an institution’s library or writing center be made available to learners (Laureate Education, 2010).

The classroom level

“From a policy perspective, education policy, aimed at educational change, only becomes reality once it has been implemented at the micro (classroom) level” (Pitsoe & Maila, 2012, p.322).

In their research into the reasons for student cheating, Simkin and McLeod (2009) did not only focus on cheaters and their motive for cheating, but also on non-cheaters and their motives against cheating. Simkin and McLeod (2009) found that one of the most commonly mentioned deterrents to cheating was “the presence of a moral anchor in a faculty member whose opinion mattered” (p.10/13). Ultimately, it is the faculty’s position on cheating that determines whether the students will engage in cheating practices or not.

Many researchers, however, emphasize that there is little agreement among the faculty on what constitutes cheating (Black et al, 2008; Park, 2004; Scanlon, 2003; Simkin and McLeod, 2009), which contributes to “the reluctance many professors now harbor to prosecute student cheaters – a trend that again enhances the environment for such behavior” (Simkin & McLeod, 2009, p.3/13). Therefore, I see it as necessary that a shared understanding is developed among the faculty. This can be reached through a thorough professional development relying on “on broader efforts to improve teaching and learning and should be aligned with state and local standards” (Trubmull & Gerzon, 2013, p.5).

Moreover, as Jocoy and DiBiase (2006) point out, “lack of proof of intentionality may reduce the penalties for offenders” (p.2), while “the degree of culpability” (p.3) may prompt instructors to refrain from penalties for what they personally perceive as minor plagiarism.

Overall, an institution’s failure to address student cheating jeopardizes the institution’s reputation and its ultimate goal of serving the society. Addressing the issue, however, is not an easy task, but takes a conscious, coherent, and comprehensive action to be effective.

As a future ID, I feel I must address the issue, by, first of all providing students with an opportunity to build a true learning community with each student feeling him/herself a full-fledged member of a socially and cognitively valuable group – let this group become a reference one for him/her. Next, I will take care to combat potential plagiarism through a strategic assessment policy: continuous, formative, and, possibly, authentic assessments to incentivize each learner to put in genuine effort. And I insist that the faculty be provided appropriate and effective PD programs to help them develop effective feedback skills.

Challenge me here:

I do not agree with Drs Palloff and Pratt (Laureate Eduaction, 2010) when they say that when a student uses a revised version of his/her own work that he/she produced in a previous module, it is to be considered a case of plagiarism. I think, that if a person has once used multiple resources to produce a quality work and has revised it to fit the purposes of a new course, it is only fair and copyright-consistent.

Please see the highlighted parts in the articles attached (I have only started comparing the two, I am certain, more text was reused by the author):

Swan, K. (2003). Learning effectiveness: what the research tells us. In J. Bourne & J. C. Moore (Eds.) Elements of Quality Online Education, Practice and Direction. Needham, MA: Sloan Center for Online Education, 13-45.

Click here for access:

SwanK

Swan, K. (2002). Building learning communities in online courses: The importance of interation.

Click here for access:

Swan1

Are we to demand that our own students be above THAT? Above those we consider to be true scholars? Are they really wrong in using all or part of their own work?

References

Black, E.W., Greaser, J., & Dawson, K. (2008). Academic dishonesty in traditional and online classrooms: Does the ‘media equation’ hold true? Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 12(3-4), 23-30.

Bradley, B.D. (2006). Legal implications of online assessment: issues for educators. In M.Hricko, and S.L.Howell (Eds.), Online assessment and measurement: Foundations and challenges. Hershey, London, Melbourne, Singapore: Information Science Publishing.

Chao, C.-A., Wilhelm, W.J., & Neureuther, B.D. (2009). A study of electronic detection and pedagogical approaches for reducing plagiarism. The Delta Phi Epsilon Journal, LI(1), 31-42.

JISC InfoNet. (n.d.). Effective use of VLEs: E-assessment. Retrieved from http://tools.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/downloads/vle/eassessment-printable.pdf.

Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by adult learners online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15).

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Plagiarism and cheating [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Design considerations for assessments in online environments [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Milliron, V., & Sandoe, K. (2008). The net generation cheating challenge. Innovate, 4(6). Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=11B1046C18C8BCE73A6393BC55713344?doi=10.1.1.186.3630&rep=rep1&type=pdf

McCann, A.L. (2010). Factors affecting the adoption of an e-assessment system. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(7), 799-818. DOI:10.1080/02602930902981139.

Park, C. (2004). Rebels without a clause: Towards an institutional framework for dealing with plagiarism by students. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 28 (3), 291-306.

Pitsoe, V.J., & Maila, W.M. (2012). Towards constructivist teacher professional development. Journal of Social Sciences, 8(3), 318-324.

Scanlon, P.M. (2003). Student online plagiarism: How do we respond? College Teaching, 51(4), 161-165.

Simkin, M.G.,& McLeod, A. (2009). Why do college students cheat? Journal of Business Ethics, 09 December 2009. doi: 10.1007/s10551-009-0275-x (Published online).

Trumbull, E., & Gerzon, N. (2013). Professional development on formative assessment: Insights from research and practice. San Francisco: WestEd.

Vilic, B., & Cini, M.A. (2006). User authentication and academic integrity in online assessment. In M.Hricko, and S.L.Howell (Eds.), Online assessment and measurement: Foundations and challenges. Hershey, London, Melbourne, Singapore: Information Science Publishing.

EIDT-6510-2: WK5 Application (part 2)

Impact of Technology and Multimedia

What impact does technology and multimedia have on online learning environments? What are the most important considerations an online instructor should make before implementing technology?

Technology is the primary, if not exclusive, vehicle, means, and facilitator of all the interactions that a student experiences in an online learning environment: student-content interaction, student-instructor interaction, and student-student interaction (Simonson et al, 2012). This being said, the importance of utilizing technology judiciously and appropriately cannot be overestimated (Laureate Education, 2010). It is only when there is sound pedagogical reason for using a technology or multimedia that they serve to enhance an online learning experience and engage the learner. However, incorporating a tool – however popular and widespread outside the learning environment – just because it is available, “is not a good way to go” (Laureate Education, 2010). The use of any tool should support the learning objectives and outcomes, otherwise, its use in the course will confuse the learners, impede learning, and reduce learner satisfaction and learning effectiveness.

What technology tools are most appealing to you for online teaching as you move forward in your career in instructional design?

I would not say that I have any particular favorites among the many technology tools available for an instructional designer. However, I increasingly appreciate a mix of synchronous and asynchronous tools for communication and collaboration. I used to lean towards the asynchronous-only learning environment as I saw an online learning setting as very distant from any same-time interaction. Boetcher and Conrad (2010), however, point out that “synchronous gatherings support constructivist and social learning strategies” as well as “the social, teaching, and cognitive presences that combine to make learning effective and satisfying” as they meet the students’ need “to be socially active and related while learning” (p.137). However, as if to check my newly-developed enthusiasm for synchronous tools, Burgstahler (2006) warns that such a tendency is dangerous if and ID gets carried away with it as synchronous tools are among those that can create accessibility barriers for students with disabilities.

What implications do usability and accessibility of technology tools have for online teaching?

A very important issue was raised in some of this week’s learning resources – that of accessibility and usability of online learning tools and online course materials. Accessibility is defined as “the ability of the learning environment to adjust to the needs of all learners” (IMS Global Learning Consortium, as cited in Cooper et al, 2007, p.232) and is “determined by the flexibility of the e-learning system or learning resource to meet the needs and preferences of all users” (p.232). An e-learning system’s accessibility is intertwined with its usability described by Cooper, Colwell, and Jelfs (2007) as “the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which users can achieve specified learning (or learning related) goals in a particular environment or with a particular tool or learning resource. We have often discussed accessibility and usability in the context of different learning styles, learner readiness for an online learning experience, learner engagement, or learner needs related to the bandwidth, location (time zone), availability of a technology. However, this week, a new dimension was added to the issue – that of meeting the needs of learners with disabilities so often overlooked in the design of online courses (Burgstahler, 2006).

Although “legislation mandates that programs be accessible to qualified people with disabilities” (Burgstahler, 2006, p.80), and although “some claim online learning will bring education to anyone anywhere at anytime, this goal cannot be realized unless distance-learning programs offer courses that are accessible to all potential students, including those with disabilities” (p.80, original emphasis).

As Cooper et al (2007) point out, “accessibility and usability impact directly on the pedagogical effectiveness of e-learning systems or resources for all learners, but particularly for disabled learners”, which “should be reason enough for them to be addressed in all e-learning projects” from the earliest stages of design and development and all through the projects’ lifecycles (p.233). Early attention to the accessibility and usability of an e-learning system “is far more cost-effective than any retrospective accessibility response and is usually less costly and better pedagogically than the provision of an alternative but comparable learning experience for disabled students” (Cooper et al, 2007, p.233).

“Use of an ‘ad hoc’ or ‘as needed’ approach to IT accessibility will result in barriers for persons with disabilities. A much better approach is to integrate accessibility reviews into the earliest stages of design, development, and procurement of IT”

(US Department of Justice, as quoted in Burgstahler, 2006, p.83).

Burgstahler (2006) calls for Instructional Designers to take the Universal Design (UD) perspective to online course design and development. The concept of UD is described by the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design” (Burgstahler, 2006, p.81). Figuratively speaking, an online course should have a sound wheelchair ramp built in”.

“…distance-learning courses that incorporate UD features can be accessed by students with diverse characteristics, including those defined by age, race, ethnicity, gender, native language, and level of ability to hear, see, move and speak”

(Burgstahler, 2006, p.82).

What did you learn that would help you implement effective online instructional strategies in the future?

Most of all, I was struck by Cooper et al’s (2007) and Burgstahler’s (2006) rationale for considering the needs of disabled students from the early ADDIE stages. I confess, before I read the researchers’ ideas on the topic, I had viewed a course’s accessibility and usability for disabled students as a logical last-minute add-on to a ready course. The concept of Universal Design, as applied by Burgstahler (2006) to the context of instructional design, came to me as almost a revelation: although it seems so natural and reasonable, it had escaped me before Burgstahler (2006) introduced me to it this week – people often tend to overlook important things just because they seem so simple and a matter of course.

References

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

Burgstahler, S. (2006). The development of accessibility indicators for distance learning programs. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 14(1), 79-102.

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.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Enhancing the online experience [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

EIDT-6510-2: WK3 Application

Setting Up An Online Learning Experience

What is the significance of knowing the technology available to you?

“…a critical understanding of what we use in today’s classroom, and why we use it, is the foundation on which teaching and learning in the 21st century must be predicated”

(Burke, 2013, p.57).

The capacity of information and communication technologies to enhance learning and assessment is ever increasing as ICTs offer more and more “opportunities for sharing information, resources and expertise, as well as for networking with student peers and teachers” (Dunn et al, 2005, p.41). According to Dunn et al (2005), ICTs have transformed the nature of distance education because “no longer do students have to learn in isolation from others in their cohort” (p.41), with online discussions and interaction through a range of learning and assessment tasks … much in demand by students in both distance and face-to-face teaching settings” (p.41).

Given the technology-dependence of delivering online course, it is especially important that online instructors know what technology is available to them, so that they can explore ways to improve, enrich, and diversify the overall experience for online students (Paul & Cochran, 2013).

Technology is often described as “essentially a double-edged sword, bringing great benefits to students while potentially introducing increased risks for misuse” (Paul & Cochran, 2013, p.53); therefore, it is of paramount importance that online instructors take a critical view of technology and “its profound and life-changing effects on learners today is necessary and essential if we are to provide the very best educational opportunities and experiences …” (Burke, 2013, p.58).

“…it is not technology and media per se that drive student behaviour [sic] but the way they are used to support teaching and learning. Although technologies potentially offer a vast range of opportunities to enhance distance learning and support…, they need to be ‘constructively aligned’, that is, carefully integrated into programme design and assessment”

(Rogerson-Revell, 2015, pp.129-130).

Thus, it is important for the instructor/course designer to pick and choose so as to capitalize on the benefits of new technologies and to ensure the integration of technology, pedagogy, and quality. Johnson (2014) suggests that in their choice of technology instructors/course designers be guided by the seven principles of good practice developed by Chikering and Gamson:

Technology becomes an instructional lever if it:

  • Encourages contact between students and faculty;
  • Helps develop reciprocity and cooperation among students;
  • Promotes active learning;
  • Helps provide prompt feedback;
  • Facilitates time management for the students and the instructor;
  • Provides opportunities for authentic learning;
  • Allows to present learning materials in ways consistent with different learning styles.

However, to be able to evaluate a technology as an effective instructional lever, it is necessary for the instructor/course designer to be familiar with the technology.

When familiarizing themselves with technology, instructors/course designers should start with the CMS/LMS in place at their institution(s) (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). If possible, it is a good idea to stay within the CMS/LMS as going outside the CMS/LMS may introduce extra challenges (e.g. access, extra expense) for both instructors and students (Laureate Education, 2011).

Another point to consider is the technical skills of the students and “her or his comfort with the online environment” (Conrad & Donaldson, 211, p.39). “While students have different skill level with technology, success of an online student nonetheless depends to a considerable extent not only on learning and assessment, but also on these technological skills” (Paul & Cochran, 2013, p.53). Paul and Cochran (2013) insist that technologies selected for a course should be “intuitive for students to use and have an effective and accessible help system” (p.53).

“While there is an obvious relationship between the student and the technologies they must utilize in an online class, there is much variability in the satisfaction of the students with this relationship. Some students will find the technology requirements for online courses to be rather elementary, while others (often nontraditional students) may have more struggles and frustrations. As a result, online programs should take some steps to improve the relationship between students and technology required for the online courses”

(Paul & Cochran, 2013, pp.52-53).

Another very practical consideration in favor of instructor-technology familiarity is that “technically prepared faculty have been found to spend more time on actual teaching than on the technical aspects as compared to less prepared faculty since the technology presumably becomes second nature with more understanding” (Paul & Cochran, 2013, p.55).

Why is it essential to communicate clear expectations to learners?

“Setting expectations is an important step for a faculty member to make in an online course. These expectations should not only communicate the deliverables for the course, but also the nature of the interaction between faculty and students and between the students. This is more critical … since self-motivation can be more difficult in an online environment. Expecting students to perform well has been found to be a self-fulfilling prophecy”

(Paul & Cochran, 2013, p.52).

As Rogerson-Revell (2015) put it, “it can be difficult in distance learning, without face-to-face interaction, to convey the teaching and learning ethos adopted within a particular programme” (p.130), which may result in a mismatch in expectations held by the instructor and the students. For this reason, it is essential that the instructor be explicit in his/her “explanations to students of the purpose of online work and [his/her] expectations of the activities they will undertake” (Sharpe & Benfield, as quoted in Rogerson-Revell, 2015, p.130).

Communicating clear expectations to learners is imperative for creating effective online experiences since the majority of distance learners are “time limited and trying to fit their studies in alongside work and personal commitments” (Rogerson-Revell, 2-15, p.131). Setting clear expectations allows the learners to manage their time more efficiently, which greatly facilitates the learning process and significantly contributes to online learner satisfaction (Boettcher & Conrad, 2011).

What additional considerations should the instructor take into account when setting up an online learning experience?

Better safe than sorry

As Boettcher and Conrad (2010) have it, “there is much to do before your students arrive at your course” (p.55), and there are quite a few considerations for the instructor to take into account when setting up an online learning experience. Out of the ten tips for course beginnings developed by Boettcher and Conrad (2010), I would like emphasize the following:

  • Ensuring that the course site is ready for the students to use;
  • Ensuring that the essential course elements, such as the syllabus, the weekly plans and discussion postings for the first weeks, have been fully developed and/or adapted to the online environment;
  • Ensuring that personnel have been assigned “to help student in the areas of technical support, student services, and library resources” and that the students have received “a list of contact numbers and descriptions of the people and resources available” to them (p.70);
  • Evaluating the course for quality;
  • “Launching your social presence in your course” (p.75) and encouraging the students to launch theirs;
  • Getting to know the students’ zones of proximal development through getting-acquainted-cognitively postings.

This may sound like a lot of work, which it surely is, but this work is manageable (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010) and, when thoroughly done, will yield fruit in terms of student satisfaction, student retention, and better learning outcomes.

References

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

Burke, L. (2013). Educational and online technologies and the way we learn. International Schools Journal, 32(2), 57-65.

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

Dunn, L., Morgan, C., Parry, S., & O’Reilly, M. (2005). The student assessment handbook: New directions in traditional & online assessment. London, NY: Routledge Falmer (Taylor & Francis Group).

Johnson, S. (2014). Applying the seven principles of good practice: Technology as a lever – in an online research course. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 13(2), 41-50.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Performance assessments in online environments [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu.

Paul, J.A., & Cochran, J.D. (2013). Key interactions for online programs between faculty, students, technologies, and educational institutions: A holistic framework. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 14 (1), 49-62.

Rogerson-Revell, P. (2015)/ Constructively aligning technologies with learning and assessment in a distance education master’s programme. Distance Education, 36(1), 129-147.

EIDT-6510-2: WK1 Application

Much research has been done into the impact that learning communities have on online students’ learning and satisfaction, with many researchers concluding that active participation in a learning community helps online students develop metacognitive skills, a sense of ownership of and responsibility for the learning process and the learning outcomes (Simonson et al, 2012), become more self-directed and reflective, as well as develop their own, independent position on the topics studied (Laureate education, 2010). In a nutshell, being an active participant of a learning community is, perhaps, the shortest way to developing the skills and attitudes that characterize a lifelong learner.

Trying to find at least one example of how participation in an online learning community contributes to a student’s learning, I remembered what research says about each learner grounding his/her perception of a topic in his/her background:

“No two learners are identical even though they may have similar needs and share common experiences. Learners construct reality in terms of their prior experiences, their conceptual knowledge, their procedural schemas, their values, their attitudes, and their preferred way of knowing” (Jenkins, 2006, para.5).

This essentially means that a learner’s own initial perception of a topic is limited by his/her inherent or acquired perception selectivity. Moreover, this limited perspective of the topic will stay with the student unless he/she is introduced to and ponders on the perspectives of others.

“By learning together in a learning community, students have the opportunity to extend and deepen their earning experience, test out new ideas by sharing them with a supportive group, and receive critical and constructive feedback” (Palloff & Pratt, 2007 p.157).

It is through communication with peers and instructors that we, as online students, can overcome what Kuhn refers to as a paradigm paralysis and attempt at a paradigm shift. It is thanks to sharing ideas and perspectives that learners start seeing the rabbit behind the duck (or the duck behind the rabbit).

Rabbit_Duck-800x564

We need to have a multi-perspective view of things relevant to our profession (and, hopefully, beyond the profession) to be able to serve a diverse customer population. The images that follow demonstrate the selective character of human perception. Although these are but simple tests while real life situations are a lot more complex, do you think you can always grasp all the dimensions and unravel all the mysteries  on your own?

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An online learning community is also a potent tool for addressing a learner’s affective domain, i.e. a learner’s emotions and attitudes. Ormrod, Schunk, and Gredler (2009) state that “learning is – and should be – an affective as well [as] cognitive enterprise” (p.259) – learners develop “feelings about the things they study” (p.259), “affect is clearly intermingled with learning and cognition” (p.246):

“As we are thinking about, learning, or remembering something, our very thoughts and memories may have emotional overtones – a phenomenon known as hot cognition. Often the nature of the material we are trying to learn induces hot cognition and, as a result, affects cognitive processing. … The emotional nature of what we have stored in long-term memory may influence our ability to retrieve it later on” (p.247).

I daresay, it is not only what the students learn but also how they learn it that contributes to the affective side of a learning experience, “the context becomes an important part of the knowledge associated with the learning” (Jenkins, 2006, para.31). As Boettcher and Conrad (2010) concisely put it, “we shape our tools and our tools shape us” (p.34). The importance of relationship-building is emphasized in most distance learning theories, according to Holmberg, for example, “personal relations, study pleasure, and empathy between students and those supporting them (tutors, counselors, etc.) are central to learning in distance education” (Simonson et al, 2012, p.49).

But how is it possible to create an effective and productive learning community online? This task is a responsibility that is shared by the learners and the course instructor (Laureate Education, 2010) – as Scott Fitzgerald has it in The Great Gatsby, “It takes two to make an accident”. However, it is primarily the responsibility of the instructor to induct the students into the social constructivist learning. First of all, the students need to be acculturated to the online collaborative learning environment through a thorough orientation course (Laureate Education, 2010). It is also important to create and maintain an area within the CMS used for the course that would give the learners an opportunity to engage in safe, ungraded, personal, and informal communication (Laureate education, 2010). To engage the learners, a dedicated instructor will model the behavior appropriate for a learning community (Laureate education, 2010) and practice activities that help bring the students together in an environment created in accordance with their own vision of mutual responsibility and accountability, expectations, and productive routine (Laureate education, 2010).

The phases of student induction and monitoring, as well as the activities appropriate for each stage, are well described by Conrad and Donaldson (2011):

Phase 1: instructor as a social negotiator who provides activities that “help learners get to know one another”, sets orientation for the course, and keeps the learners “on track” through ice-breaking activities and “discussions concerning community issues” (p.9);

Phase 2: instructor as a structural engineer who “forms dyads of learners and provides activities that require critical thinking, reflection, and sharing of ideas” (p.9);

Phase 3: instructor as a facilitator who “provides activities that require small group to collaborate, solve problems, reflect on experiences” (p.9);

Phase 4: Instructor as a challenging community member who welcomes learner-designed or leaner-led activities.

Dr.Pratt (Laureate Education, 2010) astutely remarks that it is necessary for an online instructor to consistently observe all the stages of a learning community building – the instructor is never on vacation even when he/she feels that an effective learning community I being formed.

Moreover, a learning community helps to reduce the distance an online learner may feel and to break the feeling of isolation and abandonment that so many online learners are likely to suffer from if they do not identify themselves as valuable members of a community (aureate Education, 2010).

As a future online instructor I have come to realize the importance of student induction and the instructor’s continuous presence on course site (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). I feel it of paramount importance to communicate with the students about the office hours and coming absences (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). I have come to see and value the progression of the community building process and the imperative to always be there for the students so that they feel they are not alone.

I thank my classmates for the many insight and personal experiences they have shared this week. Without the learning community I am currently a member of, my own perspective would much impoverished.

References

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.

Jenkins, J. (2006). Constructivism. In Encyclopedia of educational leadership and administration. Retrieved from http://knowledge.sagepub.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/view/edleadership/n121.xml

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Online learning communities [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

WELCOME TO EIDT-6510-2

Constructivism in practice or a buzz-word???

Constructivism, with its emphasis on learning as “an individual matter” and learners constructing “reality in terms of their prior experiences, their conceptual knowledge, their procedural schemas, their values, their attitudes, and their preferred ways of knowing” (Jenkins, 2006, para.5), has been increasingly seen by educators and learning theorists as best suiting the on-line learning environment, which “allows learning to be place and time independent” (Huang, 2002, p.28) and thus relies heavily on a learner’s / a group of learners’ autonomy (Beaudoin, 2002; Schunk, 2012).

On-line courses are gaining popularity in the community (Marque, 2010), and a lot of adults “can benefit from this second chance to educate themselves (Huang, 2002, p.28). The flexible, “non linear nature of the internet” affords learners an opportunity to follow their own unique “learning paths” and, in this way, to create “a natural learning environment”, with learners taking responsibility for “actively seeking and focusing on material of interest” (Marque, 2010, para. 6-8). On-line learning has a lot of potential in taking the learning process away from the teacher-centered to learner-centered practices, an objective “which has been seemingly unattainable by traditional linear approaches” (Marque, 2010, para.11).

The operational merits of online learning are numerous: they “can reach a greater number of people more easily and efficiently”, they arguably “provide an avenue to circumvent the financial barriers . . . that have restricted some students access to universities in the past” (Schell & Janicki, 2012, p.27), and “learners can arrange their learning around their everyday lives” (Huang, 2002, p.28). However, as Schell and Janicki claim, these are arguments to “efficiency”, not to “effectiveness” (Schell & Janicki, 2012, p.27). In their view, the effectiveness of an on-line course is determined by the appropriateness of the learning theories that lie at its core.

The constructivist learning model is seen as better serving the purpose of online learning (and ideally all types of adult learning) than the objectivist learning model traditionally employed in formal educational environment. The constructivist approach transforms the teacher’s role from that of “an expert model” to that of “a facilitator/guide”, allows learners to go beyond the textbook and use “a variety of sources / media”, focuses learning on questions rather than facts, and “discovering” rather than “packing” information (Schell & Janicki, 2012). These intrinsic features of constructivism bring learning closer to the environment that the student will encounter after the university experience, when “there will not be a professor to guide him/her through a problem” (Schell & Janicki, 2012, p.34), in other words, providing “value beyond school” (Jenkins, 2006, para.25).

However, developing an online course that promotes constructivist learning is fraught with a number of problems, such as organizing the course in compliance with the security and copyright regulations, appropriate use of information technology, and the true cost of course delivery (Schell & Janicki, 2012).

Moreover, on-line learning, however constructivism-friendly it may seem and be claimed to be by universities offering on-line courses to the community, is currently far from being truly constructivist. Shalni Gulati (2004) insists that the “normative” linear objectivist learning model that formal education has traditionally relied on is being transferred onto on-line education, allowing “limited recognition to diverse preferences of learning” (Gulati, 2004, para.2-3). Gulati further argues that the highest-achieving on-line learners are objective teaching oriented.

Among the greatest drawbacks of current on-line education, Gulati (2004) identifies “observable participation” in discussions on “teacher-identified topics”, which, in her view, promotes behaviorist practices. Gulati claims that “the requirement to make . . . learning explicit and externalise [sic] . . . . enforcing requirements over participation by defining what is to be discussed and by controlling the time-scale of discussion, formal education remains situated in the objectivist worldview”, it rewards participatory behavior [sic]” and punishes “silent online behavior” by deduction of the final mark (para.33). Gulati insists that educators should review their attitude to the rate of participation if the constructivist assumption of individual learning is to be observed. Low-profile participation, or “lurking”, does not mean that the learner “is less engaged in meaningful learning”, moreover, “it could be argued that the ‘overactive’ online students (i.e., those who are constantly inputting words) do so at the expense of a more reflective, but less visible learning process in which their silent peers are actually more fully engaged” (Beaudoin, 2002, p.8). Gulati (2004) cites Nonnecke and Preece, who found that one of the greatest contributors to “lurking activities” was “the surveillance and disciplinary power of the teacher” (para.49).

Further, Gulati (2004) challenges a pre-set syllabus providing “a chain-line sequence of learning events” prescribing learning materials and focusing on “predicting results” (para.19) as going counter to the constructivist assumptions of learning revolving around and relying upon a learner’s prior knowledge and individual experience, as well as letting a learner take control of how and what he / she learns. Moreover, Gulati (2004) argues that “in a constructivist paradigm, errors are a positive part of learning”, and calls for on-line instructors “to enable informal and trustworthy learning spaces, where learners feel confident and supported” (para.63).

Thus, critics of current online education generally recommend that formal education take on a more informal character to enable true constructivism.

As for my own experience, I need and feel comfortable with the instructor’s supervision. I fully understand that an educational degree must meet state standards and be completed in a certain period of time. Instructors’ guidance spares me a lot of trouble I would be in for trying to find my own individual idiosyncratic learning path. I do not think a purely constructivist approach can be implemented in formal education, it is rather a viable option for non-degree learning, which has no (or flexible) standards to comply with and does not involve many people who are supposed to keep common pace in order to interact productively and efficiently in the course of learning.

References

Beaudoin, M. (2002) Learning or lurking? Tracking the “invisible” online student”. The Internet and Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.c3l.uni-oldenburg.de/cde/series/mbfin.pdf

Gulati, S. (2004). Constructivism and emerging online learning pedagogy: a discussion for formal to acknowledge and promote the informal. Retrieved from http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/00003562.htm

Huang, H.-M. (2002). Towards constructivism for adult learners in online learning environments. British Journal of Educational Technology. 33(1), 27-37. Retrieved from http://www.umsl.edu/~wilmarthp/modla-links-2011/Toward-a-constructivism-for-adult-learners–in-online-learning-environments.pdf

Jenkins, J. (2006). Constructivism. Encyclopedia of educational leadership and administration. Retrieved from http://knowledge.sagepub.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/view/edleadership/n121.xml

Marque. S. (2010, March 20). Constructivist learning in online courses. [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.brighthub.com/education/online-learning/articles/38850.aspx

Schell, G., & Janicki, T. (2012). Online course pedagogy and the constructivist learning model. Journal of the Southern Association for Information Systems. 1(1). 26-36. Retrieved from http://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jsais/11880084.0001.104?view=text;rgn=main

Schunk, D.H. (2012). Learning theories: An educational perspective. (6th ed.). Pearson education, Inc.

EDUC-6145-1: WK5 – Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources

Dear All,

In this post I would like to share links to a few resources that an ID may find useful when assigned to perform project management tasks.

  • A) http://www.hourlysalaries.com/salaryhourly.php and B) http://www.dollarsperhour.com/ are online calculators that allow the user A) to convert a salary (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly) to an equivalent hourly wage, and B) to calculate weekly gross earnings with overtime. Although such options as deduction of taxes, Social Security, Medicare, health insurance and retirement savings from the paycheck are beyond the scope of these calculators, they are a quick way to receive raw salary figures.

  • http://pm4id.org/ is an online version of Project Management for Instructional Designers (PM4ID), a book about project management as tailored specifically for instructional designers. The book is offered under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license, which, basically, implies that you are free to copy, distribute, transmit, adapt, revise, improve the book if you agree to attribute the work in the manner specified by the author / licensor, not to use the work for commercial purposes, and, if you alter, transform, or build upon the work, to distribute the altered/transformed work under the same or similar license to the one used by the original author. The website offers such options as online reading of a selected chapter, a selected chapter or the whole book download as text, or download in the MP3 format!

I hope at least one of the above resources will save you some time and effort in your PM endeavors.

Marina

EDUC-6145-1: WK 3 – Communicating Effectively

What puzzles me about the task set us this week is why the same language is used for all the three communication formats. Following prominent linguistic thought of the 20th century, I suggested in my EDUC-6135-1 Week4 discussion post that speaking and writing belong to different varieties of language-in-use (Bakhtin’s [2010] term speech genres may be more familiar to you). “The actual situation of the communication has evolved two varieties of language: the spoken and the written. . . . Each of these varieties has developed its own features and qualities which in many ways may be regarded as opposed to each other” (Galperin, 2012, p.35).

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To put it in very general terms, the difference between the two varieties of language is as follows:

“The situation in which the spoken variety of language is used and in which it develops, can be described concisely as the presence of an interlocutor. The written variety, on the contrary, presupposes the absence of an interlocutor. The spoken language is maintained in the form of a dialogue, the written in the form of a monologue. The spoken language has a considerable advantage over written, in that the human voice comes into play. This is a powerful means of modulating the utterance, as are all kinds of gestures, which, together with the intonation, give additional information. / The written language has to seek means to compensate for what it lacks. Therefore the written utterance will inevitably be more diffuse, more explanatory. In other words, it has to produce an enlarged representation of the communication in order to be explicit enough” (Galperin, 2012, p. 35).

Any utterance / message, if it is to sound natural and to be effective, should clearly demonstrate the characteristics that set it as belonging to either the spoken or the written variety. No one can make it belong to both. The context and format of communication determines one’s choice and sue of both linguistic and extralinguistic means.

Therefore, in this week’s assignment, at least one of the three communications is doomed to a resounding failure.

E-mail

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Communication through e-mail messages is purely written and puts constraints to bear on the message-sender and the message-recipient, the major constraints being that you cannot see the interlocutor, you cannot hear them, nor can you talk to them “to clarify the content, meaning, and implication of the message being sent” (Portny et al, 2008).

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The e-mail we are to analyze in terms of its effectiveness as a piece of communication is a short informal message, presumably, sent by one project team member to another. Although Jane, the message sender, seems to try to persuade Mark, the message recipient, to find time and invest some effort to provide her with the data she needs (as her own task depends on Mark’s task for completion), Jane does so in a most ineffective manner; her message is not informative: for example, it is not specific as to the time Mark still has to work on Jane’s request (she should have included a reference to the project timeline); moreover, Mark may be working on a few projects simultaneously, therefore, Jane should have included the name of the project and a reference to the task that she herself is engaged in. As Portny et al (2008) have it, “be specific”, “the clearer a request, the easier it is for the person to estimate the effort needed to respond to the request and to produce the right results the first time” (p.300).

Dr. Stolovitch (Laureate Education, n.d.a) specifically states that written communications should begin with a clear purpose, state the situation, include possible solutions, specify a response and avoid ambiguity – “communication that is clear, concise, and focused helps everyone stay on target and get the job done”.

As it is, Mark will have to contact Jane (that is if he chooses to do so) to clarify quite a few important points that she failed to include in her initial e-mail.

Jane does seem to be a poor diplomat when she expresses herself in writing. A piece of advice that I would offer Jane is not to rely on the first person singular that much, the use of “we” (the team) creates a greater sense of urgency and importance, as well as accountability. She should have let Mark feel that she is addressing him on behalf of the team, and that she is not really asking him to do anything beyond what he agreed to do. She should have implicitly let him understand that she is not asking him for a personal favor, but that the message is a routine reminder of the project timeline.

An ill-written message may, and often does, result in miscommunication.

Voice mail

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Considering that voicemail is still one-way communication, it should largely comply with the requirements for effective written communication in that it is to be highly explanatory, with the content carefully sequenced and worded. Therefore, all the critical comments I made on the e-mail transfer on the voicemail.

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However, all things equal, the voicemail seems to be more effective because, besides lexical, grammatical, and syntactical means, the sender has prosody to support the illocutionary force of the message and to achieve its pragmatic end (the perlocutionary act – the effect on the addressee) (Nayer, 2002). Tonality, intonation, pauses, tempo, sentence stress, variations in pitch all serve to help the sender encode and the recipient to decode the pragmatic implications of the message, making it easier to interpret (prosody is frequently used for signaling purposes to focus the listener’s attention on the most important information and, thus, building a better representation of the content [Mayer, 2008]), more informative, context enriching, and more personal.

Face-to-Face

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Face-to-face communication allows the addresser the widest choice of communication tools possible, making it the preferred means of communication for a vast majority of people. Although it is the most economical in terms of time needed and the language means employed, it has the greatest potential for transmitting a message effectively and for ensuring it is decoded correctly. No wonder, the third format of communication in this week’s task – a face-to-face conversation – would come to many of those watching it as the most natural and effective of the three.

As Dr. Stolovich (Laureate Education, n.d.a) has it, communication is not just words – your spirit, attitude, tonality and body language, as well as timing, are even more important than the words you use. The use of body language is what primarily differentiated face-to-face communication from purely written or purely auditory messages.

“Body language is a kind of nonverbal communication, where thoughts, intentions, or feelings are expressed by physical behaviors, such as facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye movement, touch and the use of space” (Wikipedia, n.d.).

Moreover, what makes face-to-face communication the most effective of the three dealt with in this week’s task is the use of dual coding as defined in the Multimedia Theory of Learning. The audio and visual inputs are the most natural way we communicate as human beings. Face-to-face communication is easiest to bring in alignment with such important principles of the Multimedia Theory of Learning as the Modality Principle, the Multimedia Principle, and the Personalization Principle (Mayer, 2008).

This week’s assignment offers a vivid illustration of what can foster or impede effective communication in different communication environments. It is important to mind the strengths and weaknesses of different modes of communication to be able to capitalize on the advantages that each of them offers and to reduce or minimize the communication deficiencies that waylay a unadept one.

Considering the fact that communication strategies should be tailored to fit the specific needs of a variety of stakeholder audiences (Laureate Education, n.d.b), a PM must be proficient in using any communication format that a particular stakeholder audience finds most convenient to use.

References

Bakhtin, M.M. (2010). Speech genre and other later essays (12th ed.). USA: University of Texas Press.

Galperin, I.R.(2012). English stylistics (4th ed.). Moscow: URSS.

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.a). Communicating with stakeholders [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.b). Practitioner voices: Strategies for working with stakeholders [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Mayer, R. E. (2008). Applying the science of learning: Evidence-based principles for the design of multimedia instruction. American Psychologist, 63(8), 760-769. doi:10.1037/0003

Nayer, V.L. (2002). Stylistics and pragmatics. Moscow: Moscow State Linguistic University

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Body language. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_language