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Avoiding Cheating and Plagiarism in an Online Course

Devices will not save us – IP validating and web video cams.  Here is what we must do:

Embrace the 21st century in which student assignments are project based collaborative pieces and testing assessment is the open e-resource exam (akin to the open book exam).

1. Collaboration eliminates copying  as students hold each other accountable for parts of the assignment or for equal input into an assignment.  Google docs for collaborative composition and Prezi for organizing data are two Web 2.0 tools that lend themselves to these types of assignments. Discussion board postings, which synthesize ideas of the collective group,  challenge plagiarists as students cannot copy from one another — there is a thread and the posts are in plain sight (identical postings would obviously jump out at the instructor).  If teachers pose a prompt or topic thread that requires authentic thinking – see my Hamlet and Machiavelli’s The Prince example below – then the instructor is likely to get original work from students.

2. Open e-resources exams emphasize critical thinking, demonstration of skills in use of data, and analysis of readily available e-resources.  Information/data at one’s fingertips means higher level thinking skills will be engaged. The “test” has to be designed with this in mind.  Data will be absorbed more thoughtfully in application and analysis.  This will mean secondary education assessments will be more aligned with higher education assessments.

Sources of plagiarism (pun intended) sometimes rest with the instructor:  we need to rethink assignments.

My AP English 4H students are currently analyzing Prince Hamlet through a Machiavellian lens (synthesizing Machiavelli’s The Prince and Shakespeare’sHamlet).  One complexity is the assignment is inherently flawed:  I want my students to identify this flaw as they move through this assignment — on wikispaces as discussion board postings.  They will take academic risks, they will collaborate, and they will explore their authentic understandings of both texts.  This is an open e-resource exam.  I expect them to have an e-copy of Machiavelli’s text (via Project Gutenberg)  and an e-copy of Shakespeare’s text to cull evidence from as they work on this assignment.  I insist they do so because I am requiring quotes and details in support of interpretations and connections.

Let us cultivate academic risk-taking beyond mere memorization of data.

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