Guest Blog Post from Kimberly Seeber. Kimberly lives in Bloomington, Indiana, US. She is a licensed elementary teacher and a graduate student in the Instructional Systems Technology residential master’s program at Indiana University. Her interests include technology integration in the K-12 environment and online learning. Kimberly is sharing the wealth of knowledge from Week 4 of the Designing an Exemplary Course MOOC.

The last week of the Designing an Exemplary Course MOOC concluded with a valuable discussion about how instructors can support students in an online environment. The discussion began with sharing strategies that promote academic integrity and ended with strategies that support students’ use of technology tools that are not integrated into the course management system.


Students are not the only ones caught plagiarizing.  In fact, a professor from the University of California at Berkeley is currently under investigation for allegedly borrowing ideas without proper citations, reports the Inside Higher Ed news publication.  Do YOU have adequate measures in place to promote academic integrity in your institution?

This week instructors exchanged a plethora of ideas that prevent students from deliberately or even mistakenly misusing published work.  Online courses should present the institution’s plagiarism policy in the syllabus or other prominent space.  The policy should explain both the expectations of academic writing and the consequences of plagiarism.  Some instructors choose to require students to sign an academic integrity agreement while others may host a workshop or information session.  Likewise, an honor code statement might state that students will produce original work and not collaborate with other individuals.  Forming an academic integrity committee would provide expert resources for both instructors and students who may have questions and need support.

Plagiarism Prevention Activities

This plagiarism simulation provides students with an eye-opening experience and encourages them to think twice before claiming someone else’s idea as their own.  Most institutions provide an extensive knowledge base of information like this one developed by Villanova University.  Requiring students to master a quiz is one way to verify that students understand what plagiarism is.  Three examples of tutorials you might check out are Recognizing and Avoiding Plagiarism, How to Recognize Plagiarism and the Plagiarism game.

One way to assess students’ knowledge and beliefs about plagiarism is to assign a discussion forum thread for students to distinguish the difference between summarizing, paraphrasing and quoting sources.  Providing links for writing guides such as Citing Your Sources- Citation, Style & Writing Guides and Purdue Online Writing Lab provide invaluable resources for students to refer to while writing academic papers. Oswego State University provides a detailed website that guides students through the research process.

Deterring Plagiarism

For large face-to-face classes, instructors can verify identities with photo IDs during high stakes exams.  Online instructors may require proctored testing.  Proctor U is one online option.  The service connects with the student via webcam and video chat in order to verify the student’s identity before beginning the online exam.  Envigilator is another proctoring service that was recommended because instructors can view a student’s work in real-time from remote locations and gain insight into a student’s thought process by examining what he or she opens and closes.  Securexam Remote Proctor System is one more example of an online proctoring service.

Instructors employ a variety of strategies that discourage cheating.  Randomizing questions, setting a time limit per question, prohibiting back-tracking, and allowing only one attempt are all creative tactics to use when students take online assessments.

Requiring students to submit work in stages, mandating references to specific class readings and discussions also provide evidence of student’s authentic work.  Students completing group projects can keep minutes to track individual participation.  Peer assessment also provides evidence of individual’s work.  Alternative assignments that require creativity and higher-order thinking skills such as presentations, journals, discussion boards, research papers, and performance tasks make it difficult for students to copy/paste someone else’s work and claim it as their own. One instructor emphasized the importance of creating application questions that measure higher-order thinking skills as opposed to “google-able” questions that measure lower-order thinking skills.  Another instructor spot-checks unusual phrases by searching for it in a search engine.

Detecting Plagiarism

An instructor pointed out an important reason to use tools to detect plagiarism.  The instructor said that it is important to have evidence to prove the student has plagiarized if the student’s work is suspicious. Some common technology tools used in institutions that detect plagiarism are Respondus LockDown Browser, TurnitinBiometric Signature ID, Acxiom, and SafeAssign.  SafeAssign detects unoriginal content in a student paper and is available to Blackboard clients at no additional cost.

Technology Support

This week’s live session informed instructors of multiple ways to comply with Section 508 and the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) in their online courses.  An extensive knowledge base of strategies, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), is available from the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). The way an instructor designs his or her course affects the way students with disabilities experience it. For example, it is recommended that instructors familiarize themselves with how a student might rely on a JAWS screen reader to deliver instruction.

In the discussion board, the instructors discussed ways to support students with technologies that may not be a part of their course management system.  One simple example is to embed the code in the course management system when it is possible.  Dynamic presentation tools such as screencasts, videos, and modules allow instructors to guide students step-by-step.  Job aids with screenshots are a solution for learners who prefer text-based instructions. A question and answer discussion board thread provides a space for students to ask questions which may be answered by the instructor or by other students.  Displaying IT support contact information in a prominent place is useful for students who might be having issues with technology that is supported by the institution.  In addition, providing links to publisher’s websites is useful for students who might be having issues with online textbook technology.  Providing students with the file formats, .pdf, and .rtf, support screen reader technologies.  Providing multiple formats also provides options for students who have mobile devices.  Blackboard offers a document, Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, which details how Blackboard is in compliance with accessibility standards. Miscellaneous favorite technologies include Doodle, Survey Monkey, SnagIt, Articulate Suite, Kaltura, Basic LTI Building Blocks, and Tegrity.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Designing an Exemplary Course MOOC and good luck to everyone who is submitting a course!



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