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}.

Setting Up An Online Learning Experience

According to Conrad & Donaldson (2011), the key to creating a positive experience in an online learning environment is to identify the students’ needs and then incorporate activities that address their various learning styles, life experiences, and expectations. In order to do this, there are two factors that must be considered. First, the instructor or designer must be proficient regarding course design and technology tools. Second, the instructor must set clear expectations for students, not only in terms of academic performance but also learning climate.
Technology Tools  MM900286755[1]

There are several learning  management systems available to create online courses. Each provides its own tools for navigation, resources, communication, and interactivity. As an instructor, it is essential that one is proficient in the use of all technology tools available and can efficiently navigate the course. If the instructor does not know how to use these tools, how can they become a personal resource for students? Although, there is always tech support, it is often a convoluted process. Rather than call in, wait for a long time, and possibly not get assistance needed; they can simply ask the instructor. It is also important that the instructor creates opportunities for students to learn how to use these tools. There are several ways for an instructor to facilitate this type of learning. Conrad & Donaldson (2011) posit that the best way for students to learn to use the online course tools is to actually use them. To that end, it is suggested that the instructor determine students’ current skill level in order to evaluate readiness. This can through a simple survey or an activity such as a scavenger hunt. In any case, these are not graded assignments, just an assessment for the instructor to ascertain where and with whom additional support may be warranted.

imagesCA4K9G0Z                                          Student Expectations

Like with any course (face-to-face or online), it is essential that the instructor set clear expectations for students in terms of academic performance and personal interactions. The most effective learning environment is one in which students
are clear about what is expected and how performing according to these expectations will ensure academic, professional, and personal success. Sheridan & Kelly (2010) posit that indicators that were most important to students dealt with making course requirements clear and being responsive to students’ needs. Students should not have to make a guess regarding learning tasks or grading. This should be made crystal clear at the very beginning of course. In addition to a syllabus, rubrics, and exemplars of
completed learning tasks; an instructor can utilize weekly teaching guides to reiterate what needs to be done and how each task should be approached. Boettcher & Conrad (2010) suggest that teaching guides in the form of a short text, audio, or video piece will introduce the goals, purposes, and activities for the week. Additionally, they will provide a rational for learning activities chosen and introduce core concepts.

Other Factors

The Quality Matters program suggests in its Quality Management Rubric (2011) that there are eight critical components of an online course that must be in alignment to create an effective online learning experience. These components: (1) Learning Objectives (2), Assessment and Measurement (3), Resources and Materials (4), Learner Engagement (5), and Course Technology (6) – work together to ensure that students achieve the desired learning outcomes. So in both the design stage as an ID and the preparation stage as an instructor, it is essential to continually check and balance elements of the course to ensure there is alignment amongst these components.

Using some of the best practices suggested by Palloff and Pratt (n.d.), the instructor can create a strong, positive, and collaborative learning environment that will assist in this alignment. A great deal of this work is done before the course even starts. During Week Zero, the instructor does all the things necessary to set the context of the learning environment. It is when they introduce themselves, icebreakers, offer words of welcome, and review available information about each student. There are specific guidelines that govern these suggested activities.


  1. Introductions: The instructor should post a narrative about him or herself and respond to student introductions by asking probing questions. Do not post a CV.
  2. Icebreaker: The instructor should utilize an activity that is non-threatening, fun, and does not require students to have specific content knowledge to complete. The most effective icebreakers are those that will provide continual dialogue.
  3. Welcome: The instructor should not only post a welcome message but reach out to students individually in Week Zero or One to set the tone for instructor/student interaction.
  4. Review Student Information: Instructor should use information that was provided about the student from the school/organization as well as student biography to learn about each student.
  5. To-Do-List: The instructor should create a to-do-list or course preparation checklist to ensure that he or she has met all the expectations for setting up the course. Additionally, the instructor should create another checklist to utilize throughout the course to ensure they are participating actively in the learning through weekly prompts, feedback, discussion responses, student questions, and grading.

By doing all these things, the instructor will create a climate that is interactive and supportive. While it is important to explore and learn content, “we don’t want education to be deadly serious…engagement should be fun” (Palloff and Pratt, n.d.).

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.

MarylandOnline. (2010). The Quality Matters program rubric. Retrieved from

Palloff, R. & Pratt, K. (n.d.). Launching the Online Learning Experience. {Video Presentation}.

Sheridan, K. & Kelly, M.A. (2010). The indicators of instructor presence that are important to students in online courses. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(4).


This entry was posted on January 27, 2013. 6 Comments

Online Learning Communities

Dr. Palloff defines a learning community as one in which students and faculty explore content together to construct meaning and knowledge about that content. If we use this definition as a foundation, it helps us to clearly understand how this type of environment can impact both student learning and student satisfaction. Literature on learning theory suggests that one of the most significant factors for knowledge acquisition is that social interaction. One such theory, constructivism, suggests that the most significant learning occurs when students have the opportunity to “study a topic from multiple perspectives’ (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2008, p 185). Instruction in an online environment supports this learning model because being open-minded, being exposed to multiple points of view, and providing analytical feedback on a topic is mandatory. Thus, the very structure of this environment provides a platform for students to engage in and benefit from opportunities of social learning. In other words, it creates a learning community. This learning community, in turn, impacts student satisfaction. The very nature of the learning environment requires the instructor to not only set up an environment that is safe, welcoming, and supportive, but also one that allows opportunities for students to be challenged, yet successful. Ormrod (n.d.), suggests that people have a basic need for competence, a need to feel that one has done something well. A well structured learning community in an online environment will allow for interaction, feedback, and support that will motivate students simply because they have continuous opportunities to demonstrate their success and learning and have it be acknowledged by others.

In order to create an online learning community, certain elements must be present. There are elements that the course itself must possess and then there are elements that the instructor must implement. In terms of design, the course must include learning activities that actually promote a learning community. Specifically, there must be opportunities for knowledge acquisition, content linking, and performance development. As students are interacting with contact, as suggested by Pratt and Palloff (n.d.), they should also be interacting with classmates. If the students are not supporting one another, challenging each other, drawing information from one another, or providing critical feedback, then they have missed an opportunity to master and apply content through social learning.  The instructor basically makes all of this happen. His or her job is to create a risk-free and welcoming environment. How the instructor introduces his or herself and sets up the technical tools for learning is critical. It is important for the instructor to be creative and structure tools, resources, and supports in such a way that epitomizes learning community.


A central component of a learning community is that students and the instructor essentially explore content together in order to construct meaning and make it applicable to their own lives. Siemens (2009) contends that in order to truly learn, we must connect with the material. With adults more so then children, it is necessary to provide information on future trends that we can build our educational systems and from that be able to explain what’s occurring in the world today. Specifically, if we do not experience a sense of connectivness with the content, no significant learning will occur. Thus, not only must the learning structure be consistent, it must also have some direct connection with the learner’s prior knowledge and/or experiences. I believe by keeping this in mind and continuing to create opportunities for students to identify connections and recognize relevance, learning communities can be sustained. As the facilitator, it is up to the instructor to provide such opportunities.


According to Boettcher and Conrad (2010), online learning is comprised of three elements: the learner, the mentor or faculty member, and the knowledge/content. Thus, it is the way in which these three elements interact with one another that will foster or hinder the development of a learning community. In an online environment, learning often becomes a team effort. Through dialogue, project development, and group seminars one is able to build their own base of knowledge by being exposed to multiple perspectives and interpretations. This type of knowledge acquisition requires trust and open-mindedness that cannot be achieved outside of a learning community.


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

Ormrod, J.E.; Schunk, D. H., & Gredler, M. (2008). Learning theories and instruction. New York: Laureate Education, Inc.

Ormrod, J. (n.d.). Motivation in learning. {Video Presentation}

Pratt, K. & Palloff, R. (n.d.). Online learning communities. {Video Presentation}

This entry was posted on January 13, 2013. 3 Comments

Group or Individual Scoring of Collaborative Assessments?

Assessing Collaborative Projects: Group or Individual Scoring?

In Chapter 14: Managing Assessment of Interaction and Collaboration, Oosterhof, Conrad, & Ely (2008) discuss the challenges associated with evaluating collaborative projects. There is a great deal of research surrounding this topic and best practices for instructors in terms of creation, management and assessment. For this week’s discussion, you will pose an argument for group scoring or individual scoring based upon your discussion group. Be sure to use include information gained from the other learning resources highlighted this week.


Last names A-M will post in forum #1 (for group scoring); last names N – Z will post in forum #2 (for individual scoring)

For additonal information, you may click on the link provided to view a short video from a student’s perspective regarding collaboaritive planning. The video can be viewed by selecting:

You will be evaluated based upon the discussion rubric attached: Rubric for Discussion Board Wk7 Assignment


If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please see me as soon as possible!!


Dr. Spikes



This entry was posted on October 20, 2012. 3 Comments

My Final Reflection On My E-Learning Experience

What I enjoyed most about the concepts covered in this course was that many were covered from multiple perspectives. While I did not learn anything that could be considered new, I can say that I learned to view information from several lenses. With each unit, information was presented in a very structured and concise manner which provided an opportunity to explore some of these theories and concepts in a critical manner. One of the topics that interested me most was the information discussed in Learning Theories and Instruction (2008, p. 213) regarding APA Learner-Centered Principles. According to this theory, factors that impact student learning are grouped into four categories: (a) cognitive and metacognitive; (b) motivational and affective; development and social; and individual differences. These categories essentially provide a framework for learning that should be consulted as educators go about the process of instructional design.  As an educational leader, I know that I will be able to use these principles as an additional resource to support the need for differentiated learning.

I have given a great deal of thought regarding how I learn. Specifically, I have always been concerned about how I process and apply information. I am very intrigued with the research that centers on multiple intelligences and learning styles. According to Howard Gardner (2003), your learning style dictates how you process information while your intelligence determines what product, strategy, and/or activity best fit your particular intelligence. With this belief in mind, I would contend that the cognitive and constructivist theories are most aligned with my personal approach to learning. With the cognitive approach, I am ‘thinking about my own thinking’. I am actively exploring the manner(s) in which I process information. On the constructivist level, I am looking for opportunities to apply information and use in a real-world situation.

My challenge in terms of learning has always been to retain information for a time period that extends beyond ‘the test’. Whether I cram or study and practice information over a period of time, I always tend to forget the information when it is no longer immediately needed. One concept I was able to learn more about is elaboration. Elaboration is defined as the process of adding to information being learned in the form of examples, details, inferences, or anything that serves to link new and old information. (Laureate Education, Inc. 2008). In my experiences, I have found that when I take the time to link content and create my own examples and/or draw from previous experiences, I retain information for a longer period than I would otherwise.

What I have learned regarding learning theories, learning styles, technology, and motivation is that all four concepts are deeply connected. As stated by Ormond, Schunk, and Gredler (2008), learning theory allows for the development of instructional guidelines that are reflective of a coherent set of assumptions about aspects of the learning process. With that in mind, the learning style provides a guide for the way one processes information based on skills and interests. Technology becomes a tool in which these instructional strategies can be funneled. Motivation comes into play in that we are using the theory to develop lessons and link content that will appeal to the experience and circumstance of the learner. By understanding how students learn, we are motivating them simply because we are ensuring that their psychological needs are being met through our instructional delivery.

As stated initially, the content in this course has allowed me to explore several concepts on a deeper level. Thus, the experience will help me be more reflective about how I design and deliver instruction. One practice I am committed to doing is using the learning theory matrix to evaluate instructional strategies. This matrix along with one that I am using to ensure rigorous instruction and higher order thinking will help me design lessons that are appropriate to my learners. I also enjoyed the introduction and experience with utilizing blogs to support instruction. I was not familiar blogs and have already set up a blog that is aimed at supporting my first term college students. I have gotten a great deal of positive feedback about our blog and how they appreciate an additional forum that supports their academic growth and development.

Overall, I enjoyed this course and how the content flowed through each unit. I believe that using some of the tools presented, I will provide my future students with a rich and significant learning experience.

Gardner, H. (2003). Multiple intelligences after 20 years. Retrieved on October 6, 2010 from

Ormrod, J.E.; Schunk, D. H., & Gredler, M. (2008). Learning theories and instruction. New York: Laureate Education, Inc.