Tag Archives: Assessment

Essay mills turning out high-quality essays undetected

Know your students & their writing styles

I’m not usually one to moan or highlight something that annoys me, but when I read this article this morning I had that sinking feeling and face-palm moment!

What this article totally missed, and what I’ve been saying to academics (and anyone who’ll listen) is that these online plagiarism detection systems are only as good as the people looking at the results.

The TurnItIn ‘score’ is no measure of originality, despite being called an ‘originality report’. It is a measure of what percentage of the submitted text is matched against known sources (student papers, journals, books, Internet sources, etc.). So, a paper that gets a 50% score means that 50% of the text has been used or can be found in other submitted papers to the system. It is not saying 50% is copied/plagiarised from other sources. These matches could be down to poorly referenced work, badly quoted and or badly cited work, and even popular quotes. The 50% is only an indication to the academic that further investigation is required, that they need to

This annoyed me most:

“It is clear that this type of cheating is virtually undetectable by academics when students take precautions against being caught,”

If you rely solely on something like TurnItIn then yes, I agree, it is virtually impossible to detect cheating. But these submitted papers by the student should never be viewed in isolation – the academic(s) should have other opportunities for the students to submitted written assessment, along with email evidence and even forum/online comments, so the writing style of the student can be seen. Then, when the online paper comes in the academic can see quite easily that the style, language, grammar, punctuation, etc. is different, sometimes wildly so. From here the different pieces of work can be compared and an informed opinion can be made.

“But [Dr Lisa Lines] argues that much more radical steps will be needed to combat the use of essay mills, including greater use of exams and requiring students to give oral presentations on the topic of completed essays.”

Again, no. You don’t need to add more exams or more ‘radical steps’, you just need to be more prepared to get to get to know your students, their writing styles, their use of grammar and language. I’m sure, once you know this, it’ll be far easier to spot work that is out of the ordinary, for that student, even without the reliance on TurnItIn.

TurnItIn and other systems like this are to be used as part of a wider assessment strategy. The main focus of that strategy though should be the relationship between academic/teacher and student.

The scary part of this reliance on TurnItIn [other plagiarism detection tools are available] is this – I worked with one academic (a few years ago now) who actually based the student’s grade on the TurnItIn score. Yes! They even admitted they didn’t even look at the details or report or the paper itself. Anything with 50% matched or over got 50% grade or less (but never a fail). Anything between 20-50% match got a 50-60% score, and anything less than 20% of text matched got a better/higher score over 60%.

One another related topic, this article on the Guardian website – An essay I bought online was so bad I want a refund – but the firm won’t pay up – was also worrying. But at least the piece did answer the bigger picture here. It’s not about the ethics of a refund for the paper, it’s about the integrity of the student in trying to subvert the system. And from a law student too?!

“The use of these types of websites not only raises serious questions about whether an individual is meeting the standards required, but also whether somebody has the right character to enter a profession where honesty and integrity is crucial.”

Image source: Dom Pates (CC BY 2.0)

Julie Wedgwood, EdTechBook author

Interview with Julie Wedgwood, #EdTechBook chapter author

The Really Useful #EdTechBook, David Hopkins, January 2015As part of a series of posts, I will be talking to authors of The Really Useful #EdTechBook about their work, experiences, and contribution to the book. In this eighth post I talk to Julie Wedgwood, a specialist in technology supported learning and experienced eLearning practitioner.

In the video below we talk about eLearning, what has changed since we judged the 2011 eLearning Awards, and Julie’s innovative skills audit / assessment which forms the basis for her #EdTechBook chapter:  Continue reading

Planning Your Online Course

Planning an Online Course

Whilst searching for some resources on planning and designing online courses I came across this excellent brainstorming ‘sketchnote’ (I’ll write more about these another time) from Giulia Forsythe called ‘planning your online course’.

Planning Your Online Course

Take some time to look at this in detail, there’s a lot here for you (click to enlarge it).

Image source: Planning your online course (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Turnitin iPad App

Turnitin & GradeMark App

Turnitin iPad AppTurnitin (iPad): Many have asked about an iPad App for Turnitin, and we have waited a while for it. But now it’s here, let’s see if it’s any good!

“Everything you love about grading with Turnitin® is now available on iPad, allowing educators to Grade Anywhere™. Teachers using Turnitin’s grading tools save time grading student papers while offering more meaningful feedback and ensuring their originality.”

Turnitin (free): https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/turnitin/id657602524

The App offers the same functionality we use and enjoy through a browser but in an App-environment. It does take a while to get used to, especially the subtlety when including and adding QuickMarks or comments to the text.

Continue reading

OCTEL: Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning

Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning #ocTEL

“Poor use of technology is a significant waster of time and money in the public sector. UK Higher Education is not exempt from this problem. This course will help those planning and delivering teaching in HE to make the best use of technology in their work and avoid pitfalls and hiccups.”

OCTEL: Open Course in Technology Enhanced LearningI’ve just signed up for yet another MOOC, this one provided by ALT (the Association for Learning Technology) called the “Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning”.

Starting in April 2013, and running for 10 weeks, the online course will “help those planning and delivering teaching in HE to make the best use of technology in their work and avoid pitfalls and hiccups”.

  • You can follow the course, and the run up to it, on Twitter with the hashtag #ocTEL and Twitter account @ALTocTEL

The course will cover aspects of (and is not limited to … nor is it finalised yet either):

  • Induction: how this course works, who can help
  • Openness and standards
  • Options for the material, sizing effort, lead times, hardware and software needs, costs
  • On line assessment
  • Accessibility
  • Students in transition between sectors
  • Environments and administration
  • Using social media and games
  • Continue reading

Why is plagiarism such a big deal in our universities?

I admit, I’ve been guilty of this too – reinforce the consequences of copying and plagiarism without fully explaining about information literacy and how to correctly reference and cite work. Which is why this video from Tara Brabazonis a timely reminder about what the student thinks.Tara asks her students how they feel about plagiarism and why it has become such an issue in the contemporary university.

YouTube: Why is plagiarism such a big deal in our universities?

Here are two interesting quotes from a student in the video:

“I think plagiarism is such a big deal because none of us actually have original ideas, we’ve become too lazy to think of anything ourselves: we rely on other people to think of something for us.”

I hope not – I hope that these students (16 year olds?) have not had imagination and creativity beaten out of them, they are the future and should still be thinking, planning, scheming, and dreaming. Do students really think they can’t try and be original, where would we be without original thoughts?

Another student:

“I think, today, the definition of many fundamental words are questionable, such as ‘imagination’ and ‘originality’, and I think it’s time we have to explore the true meaning of these words and try to figure out what the hell is going on. So it’s time to think of fresh ideas and plagiarism, you know copying other peoples ideas, is probably the reason for this big mess.”

Plagiarism or copying could, for some, be the easy way out of a difficult situation, but hard work or creativity can produce wonders – just look at the impact the first Apple iPod or iPhone had on their respective markets.

How do you introduce digital and information literacy to students? What steps do you go through, and ask your students to go through, to work with referencing and citation to prevent academic infringements? Care to share any resources with us?

Exploring eAssessment, Lancaster #lancseassess

Today I attended the JISC RSC (Regional Support Centre) North West and eAssessment Association event ‘Exploring eAssessment‘ in the lovely setting of Lancaster House Hotel.

With the event was billed as:

“With the pressure to show impact of e-Assessment in our institutions, it’s important to know that the technology is being applied in the most effective way. We have brought together speakers from near and far to share their experiences of how you can make a difference with e-Assessment within your own organisations.”

the schedule covered aspect of assessment such as ‘developing flexible e-Assessment spaces’, ‘quick wins for learner assessment’, ‘importance of learner tracking as a motivational tool’, as well as how to use QR Codes to “deliver assessment tasks in authentic spaces, allowing learners to interact with physical spaces while recording their actions”. Continue reading


Familiarisation is key #eLearning #edtech

So, we’ve moved! We have our lives in boxes all over the house, someone else’s wallpaper and really strange built-in furniture in every room – it’s worse than a holiday cottage! Thankfully we’ll be ripping all that out and decorating and furnishing it with our tastes and ‘stuff’ in due course.

This post is part 7 in my series of ‘What is a Learning Technologist’. Read the others in the series on my blogs ‘about’ page.

But this is why I’m writing … we did our first weekly big shop at the weekend, in a different and much larger supermarket than we’re used to (Asda, not Tesco). We all know that different stores of the same company use roughly the same layout, but changing store means a different ‘thinking’ to presenting the aisles and products – I’m used to walking up and down each aisle and knowing what I need based on where I am in the store. The trolley fills up in a certain order so when I get to the checkout I unload and then bag, in another order which makes the unloading and shelving at home easy.

I have become familiar (stale?) in my shopping habits based on my ‘usual’weekkly visit. Here are the ‘issues’ I encountered at the weekend, and I’ll relate them to what a student may feel when accessing learning materials online, becoming too familiar with a structure or approach, and how change can be positive or negative experience for them.

  • The way I shop dictates the way I bag the items at the till – different layout meant different (confusing?) bagging technique needed, less logical presentation considering habit and background,
  • Price tickets are harder to understand, based on only being in a different presentation style and position,
  • Smaller trolleys,
  • Smaller bags,
  • Wider aisles,
  • The till was smaller and therefore I had to bag quicker than I’m used to to keep up with the much faster processing of items,
  • The till didn’t show the tally of purchase … so a shop I was expecting of about £80-£90 stunned me when it came in at over £120!
  • I’m not going to mention the car park and other people’s parking habits … !

All of this is enough to throw you off balance and disorientate you, and can be very disconcerting in an unfamiliar environment (even worse with two ‘noisy’ children in tow).

So here’s the rub … how do you think a student feels when they access one Unit/Course and one style of presentation to then start another with a whole new set of design, structure, navigation, etc? It’s even worse if there are several of one style (therefore they’ve gotten used to it) and some more with completely different and individual approaches. This is not about the tools used, as these should be used appropriately and only if they meet the learning outcome and/or need of the subject. This is about how the learning materials are presented in the VLE, this is about having a ‘template’ (whether defined or as a ‘guide’) for the main headings so the student:

  • can easily find the Course and tutor/admin contact details – if they’re in the same place in each Course then the student will not have to hunt for them,
  • can easily find announcements and important course information (handbook, forms, time table, events diary, etc),
  • knows where to look for assignment details, past papers, submission boxes, etc,
  • knows which area to ook in for which topic or activity or week’s reading materials,
  • knows how to access gradesor online(audio?) feedback,

I know not everyone agrees with a formulated structure, and I am open to criticism about this – I am happy to agree that there should be flexibility in presentation and structure of learning materials (comments welcome). But the students, especially online and distance learners, need to have a sense of familiarity for the basic information in order to gain confidence in working in a digital world. Especially if they’re not all that comfortable, and thefore confident, in the first place.

Image source: Violentz on Flickr

Formative or Summative Assessment – what’s the difference?

These definitiona were originally posted on the CME.edu website – I’ve reproduced it here for all those (like me) who need to keep looking back on things to check they’re doing it right, or advising the right approach for the Intended Learning Outcome (ILO). I found it when searching for some Turnitin resources, and have found it useful in relation to on-going discussions with colleagues about assessment strategies.

Formative Assessment – The goal of Formative Assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback [feed-forward?] that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. More specifically, formative assessments:

  • help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work
  • help faculty recognize where students are struggling and address problems immediately

Formative assessments are generally low stakes, which means that they have low or no point value. Examples of formative assessments include asking students to:

  • draw a concept map in class to represent their understanding of a topic
  • submit one or two sentences identifying the main point of a lecture
  • turn in a research proposal for early feedback

Summative Assessment – The goal of Summative Assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark. Summative assessments are often high stakes, which means that they have a high point value. Examples of summative assessments include:

  • a midterm exam
  • a final project
  • a paper
  • a senior recital

Information from summative assessments can be used formatively when students or faculty use it to guide their efforts and activities in subsequent courses.

Other resources worthy of your attention are:

What are your preferred or tried-and tested methods of assessment, and for what purpose (learning outcome)?

Video: Dan Pink “The surprising truth about what motivates us” (RSAnimate)

From watching the great talk from Sir Ken Robinson on “Changing Education Paradigms” I recently found this talk from Dan Pink that “illustrates the hidden truths behind what really motivates us at home and in the workplace.”

Watching this helped me realise a similarity between the reward mechanism that is sometimes offered to employees and the reward (grade) offered to students from their assessment. Dan uses the example of Atlassian, an Australian software company, that ‘releases’ their employees one day every quarter to work on anything they want, the only proviso (assessment) is that they show the results of this work or collaboration (see time-stamp in video above – from 5:50).

What if we could get students working like this? Let them produce anything, within a given framework (Atlassian define the business need as this criteria) and. I’m sure there would be huge issues when you bring things into the mix like marking criteria, assessment policies, etc, but could we let students shine in their own style and not ours? Can we make the marking criteria and/or policies surrounding assessment flexible enough to allow or encourage personal assessment? Can students be motivated not by grade but by achievement?