Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cheating in online education

Cheating in online education is a concern for most instructors and institutions. Defeating the ingenuity of computer-savvy students is a huge challenge that has attracted much investment and attention in the last year (Gordon, 2013). What is being done to combat cheating?

  • Online-proctoring companies like Kryterion, Inc. can be hired to monitor students through webcams. The remote proctors watch for body language, eye movement, additional people in the room, or anything else that might indicate suspicious activity.
  • High-tech programs are being used that check students' identities using obscure biographical information.
  • Computer browsers can be locked down to prevent Internet searches.
  • Typing patterns such as how a person enters their password can be analyzed to make sure a person is who they say they are.
  • Proctors who are on-sight with students should make sure that a student has actually submitted their test and logged out before they are allowed to leave the room.
  • Instructors can generate unique exams by pulling random questions from a large inventory of questions in the question bank and randomize the order of the questions and answers so that no two students ever get the same test.
Gordon (2013) wrote that despite the suspicion that there are more occasions of cheating taking place in online courses, studies seem to show that there is not much difference in the amount of cheating that occurs in online and face-to-face classrooms. A study conducted in 2010 by the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration discovered that 32.7% of online students self-reported cheating at least once on tests, compared to 32.1% of those in face-to-face classes.

For more on cheating in online courses, visit the following links:

MOOC Teaches How to Cheat in Online Courses, with Eye to Prevention. Wired Campus

Gordon, L. (2013, May 1). Using Technology to Fight Cheating in Online Education. Los Angeles Times.

Keeping an Eye on Cheaters. Campus Technology

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Principles of Good Practice in Education

As instructors, we spend a lot of time trying to understand our students, colleagues, institutions, technology, and ourselves. The seven principles of good practice from a study supported by the American Association of Higher Education, the Education Commission of the States, and The Johnson Foundation are based on research on the way teachers teach, how students learn, how students work and play with one another, and how students and faculty talk to each other. Below is a brief summary of the Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education:

  1. Good Practice Encourages Student to Faculty Contact. Student to faculty contact and interaction in and out of class has been identified by the study as the most important factor in student motivation and involvement. 
  2. Good Practice Encourages Cooperation Among Students. According to the study, good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. The sharing of ideas and responses to others' reactions improves thinking and deepens understanding.
  3. Good Practice Encourages Active Learning. Students need to talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives in order for the knowledge to become part of themselves.
  4. Good Practice Gives Prompt Feedback. Students need help in assessing their competence, what they have learned, and what they still need to know.
  5. Good Practice Emphasizes Time on Task. Students need helping learning effective time management through the assignment and assessment of tasks.
  6. Good Practice Communicates High Expectations. Hold your students to high standards so that they will make the extra effort. "Expect more and you will get it."
  7. Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning. Give students the opportunity to show their talents and learn in ways that work for them but also push them to learn in new ways that may not come easily for them.
For more information on this study and examples of how these principles have been applied in actual learning settings visit:  Seven Principles for Good Practice

Information adapted from:
Chickering, A. & Gamson, Z. (1999). Development and adaptations of the seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 80(Winter). pp. 75-81.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Setting up Forums in Moodle

The Forum activity in Moodle ISU 2 provides students with the platform to discuss topics and answer questions related to the course content and fosters the development of student-centered learning. Effective learning requires access to social and academic networks for both study material and academic support such as the online community of learners that can be developed through participation in a forum.

Types of Forums:

  • A single simple discussion: The instructor creates a single discussion topic, to which all students can reply.  This is useful for short, focused discussions and is useful in keeping students focused on a particular subject.  
  • Each person posts one discussion: Each student can post exactly one new discussion topic (everyone can reply to all of the other discussions). This type of forum allows students a little more freedom to create their own topics, but helps keep the discussion focused by limiting the amount of topics that can be added.
  • Q & A forum: Requires the instructor to post the initial question and then the students must reply before viewing other students' responses.  After their initial posting, students can view and respond to other posts. (Note: For the instructor, the button which normally reads “Add a new discussion topic” reads “Add a new question”.  The students do not see this button.)
  • Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format: All of the discussion topics, including student replies, are displayed on one page with a Discuss this topic link that takes you to the discussion of the chosen topic. This type of forum is useful if you want to be able to read the topic message without having to enter the discussion. Students are able to post multiple topics and reply at any time.
  • Standard forum for general use: An open forum in which anyone can start any number of new discussion topics at any time and everyone can reply to one another. This is the most commonly used forum and may be useful once the online community has been established.

Subscription Options:

When you are subscribed to a forum it means that you will get an email copy of every post in the forum (emails are sent after a 30 minute editing period has passed). However, the following options are available:
  • Optional Subscription: Users can manage their subscription preferences to the forum. This is the default which leaves the choice up to each user.
  • Forced subscription: Everyone (including the teachers) will be subscribed with no option to unsubscribe. The News Forum uses this option. (Hot Tip: The News Forum is a useful tool to communicate with your entire class. Only teachers may post in the News Forum. All posts remain in the News Forum with a date and time stamp, a notice is placed in the Latest News block, and all posts are automatically emailed to all the users.)
  • Auto subscription: All current and future students will be subscribed initially but they can unsubscribe themselves at any time. This is useful to help students recognize a new forum has begun. Users still have control over their subscriptions.
  • Subscription disabled: Students cannot be subscribed to the forum.
Hot Tip: When changing the subscription options in a forum, the change will only affect future posts; it will not automatically subscribe or unsubscribe existing students/instructors.

Read Tracking:  

If Read Tracking for this Forum is enabled, students can track read and unread messages in forums and discussions. This means that students will see a notice next to the forum activity on the course page that shows the number of unread posts. Note: Users must have enabled Forum Tracking in their profile to be able to use this option. If the instructor leaves this as Optional, students can turn tracking on or off for the forum at their discretion within their profile settings. If the instructor sets it as On: Tracking is always on. If the instructor sets it as Off: Tracking is always off.

Post Threshold for Blocking:

Occasionally there are students who dominate a threaded discussion with excessive posting. Enabling thresholds for blocking allows the instructor to block this type of excessive posting with three options. 1. The instructor can define the period in which a student may create posts. After this time period, their count will reset. 2. The instructor can also set the number of posts a student can make in a time period. 3. The instructor can set the number of posts a student can make before he/she will receive a warning that they are approaching their post limit for the time period.