Archive | February 2013

Plagarism Detection and Prevention


A growing challenge in distance learning is maintaining a rich educational experience for learners, in which academic excellence and integrity are the norm.  There exists a great body of research devoted to plagiarism and cheating and their impact on distance learning. While some researchers feel that the distant learning environment does not promote more student dishonesty and cheating; others feel that as more courses are offered in this manner, more students will cheat. According to Jocoy & DiBiase, (2006), one approach to prevent plagiarism and cheating is by creating a protocol that will ensure detection and remediation of specific violations.


Detection Software

Experts in this area suggest that administrators and instructors use detection software to combat this problem. There are several plagiarism detection software programs available on the market. The one I am most familiar with is Turnitin because it is used at my current university. The Turniitin software is a database that stores millions of academic writing. By conducting a search via the database, it will compare percentage of content already written with the submitted piece. A second technology tool for detecting plagiarism is simply conducting a Google search on parts of the submitted assignment. This will help instructors see where the information presented came from (if not original) and how often it was cited. 




Carefully Designed Assessments and Facilitation

A performance assessment is probably the most effective assessment to prevent plagiarism and cheating. When students are required to apply learned knowledge to create and/or complete a specific task, it is almost impossible to cheat. Additionally, “some courses have content that supports a uniquely individualized project within the class such as changing the behavior of a subject in a psychology class” (Brown, Jordan, Rubin, & Arome, 2010).


Be sure to clearly explain policies and academic expectations. Some studies suggest that plagiarism occurs frequently due to ignorance rather than some malicious act. Sometimes, students are just unclear as to what plagiarism is. For example, Chao, Wilhelm, & Neureuther (2009) posit that when students were asked to complete papers that required different documentation styles, some students may become so confused

by the idiosyncrasies in each style that they cited information incorrectly in their

reports. Another example is provided by Palloff and Pratt (n.d.). They mention that students plagiarize off of themselves by turning in all or large portions of writing they used for a different course. This too, is an example of cheating.


Additional Considerations

Some do not use such detection software simply because they feel as if they can detect plagiarism on their own. Another issue is that just like with any technology tool, the user may have navigation challenges that prevent consistent usage. Brown, Jordan, Rubin, & Arome (2010) have identified reasons such as: inaccurate reporting of originality, program catching plagiarism from secondary sources, difficultly in using the program, papers could only be submitted electronically, technology savvy students have found ways to circumvent the service, to explain why administrators and instructors are not totally supportive with Turnitin and similar digital plagiarism detection software.


I believe that one of the best methods to prevent plagiarism and cheating is to have a clear academic integrity policy. It should be written in student friendly language and provide specific examples. Instructors should integrate mini-lessons throughout the course that will require students to check this policy and have tasks serve as teachable moments and coaching tools.


Brown, V., Jordan, R., Rubin, N., & Arome, G. (2010). Strengths and weaknesses of plagiarism detection software. Journal of Literacy and Technology11(1/2), 110-131.

Chao, C., Wilhelm, W., & Neureuther, B. (2009). A study of electronic detection and pedagogical approaches for reducing plagiarism. Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 51(1), 31-42.


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. & Platt, S. (n.d.). Plagarism and cheating. {Video Presentation}.


Impact of Technology and Multimedia on Online Learning

Impact of Technology and Multimedia

The Role of Technology in Online Learning

Technology is one of the primary components of online learning. Online learning is not just about the delivery of content; it must also integrate technologies that enhance the overall experience. Technology tools can make or break the educational experience of learners. As posited by Palloff and Pratt (n.d.), the effective integration of various technologies need to ultimately serve to enhance the learner experience and provide opportunities for a deeper level of content development.

Similarly, the universal design of learning is ‘applied when curriculum designers create products to meet the needs of students with a wide range of abilities and learning styles and preferences” (Burgstahler, S. 2008). According to the UDL curriculum, the following three components are essential. They are (a) multiple means of representation- to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge; (b) multiple means of expression- to provide learners alternatives for demonstration of what they know; and (c) multiple means of engagement- to tap into learners’ interests, offer appropriate challenges, and increase motivation. It is essential for software and web developers to create programs that not only gain the interests of learners on a visual level, but also provide opportunities for learners to directly interact with the content through various learning activities.


There is a great deal of discussion regarding how interactivity leads to deeper learning and comprehension of content. Moreno & Mayer (2007) contend that it is the quality of the interaction not the quality of content that determines whether real learning takes place. Palloff & Pratt (n.d.) warn that it is essential to be judicious in technology selections. No tool should be used simply because it is available. Tools should only be used to help learners attain learner objectives. One way to ensure this is to allow students a choice in the types of tools they will use. By providing examples of technology resources, students can select those in which they are most familiar and comfortable. Again, these tools must be purposeful and significant so that they not only correlate with learning goals but allow students to demonstrate some level of content mastery.

Web 2.0 technology has helped to enhance learner participation through strategically designed opportunities for interaction and collaboration. For example, there are hosts of tools that allow for user generated content. Such examples include Wiki Pages, Blogs, Skype, and discussion boards.

Usability and Accessibility

It is important that selected technology tools are easily navigated by students. Unless a student is working on courses in the area of instructional technology or advanced computer science, they should not need to have an advanced technical skill set in order to navigate selected technology tools. Palloff and Pratt (n.d.) also warn that instructional facilitators have to remember that a benefit of online learning- attending class from anywhere; can also be a challenge. There are some students, depending on geographical location that may not be able to access technology tools with a level of speed or accuracy that is necessary. For example, a person located in a rural area may only be offered dial-up services. In this case, most Web 2.0 technologies that are integrated in online courses will be so slow that they will come a deterant for students rather than the intended enhancements.

Final Thoughts

I recognize that technology will continue to have a significant role on teaching and learning. Specifically, I am reminded of theories centering on social learning. These theories go beyond what students learn…they consider how students learn. Brown and Adler (2008) posit that our understanding of content is socially constructed through conversations about that content and through grounded interactions, especially with others, around problems or actions. Thus, both instructional designers and facilitators must incorporate strategies that allow for social learning in order to lead to deeper content development.

Brown, J. S., & Adler, R. P. (2008). Minds on fire: Open education, the long tail, and learning

2.0. EDUCAUSE Review, 43(1), 16–32.

Burgstahler, S. (2008). Universal design in education: Principles and application. Retrieved from

Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. (2007). Interactive multimodal learning environments. Educational Psychology Review, 19(3), 309–326.

Palloff, R. & Pratt, K. (n.d.). Enhancing the online experience. {Video Presentation}.