Tag Archives: Digital Learning

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)

Learning Technologist pt.15

What is a Learning Technologist? Pt. 15

In May 2015 I joined Warwick Business School, WBS, as an eLearning Consultant. In September the same year I was awarded the ‘highly commended’ Learning Technologist of the Year award from the Association for Learning Technology (ALT). The strange thing is, that was the last time I posted about being a Learning Technologist here. After 14 posts I stopped.

There’s no reason for it, I didn’t even realise I’d done it until a few tweets last night from Clare Thompson (@ClareThomsonQUB) and Sue Beckingham (@suebecks) reminded me about it. Yes, I’ve continued to write about work and wider reading of the industry we’re in, but this is Clare’s tweet that prompted me to write here again, about being a Learning Technologist:

In the last two years I thought of and collaborated on, edited and then self-published  The Really Useful #EdTechBook. I’ve developed, supported, mentored, facilitated, and bled/wept over the creation of two MOOCs for the University of Warwick (Big Data and Literature and Mental Health). I’ve facilitated a total of 15 runs/presentations of all five Warwick MOOCs. I’ve two other MOOCs in development at the moment, one of which took myself and colleagues to Italy recently to interview and film important individuals for case study and ‘thought’ pieces who were attending an event in Prato Centre, Monash University, Italy. Oh, and I’ve met & interviewed Sir Ian McKellen and Stephen Fry, all part of the day job!!

YouTube: Literature and Mental Health

Outside of work on MOOCs I’ve been included on the EdTech Magazine list for 2015 and 2016 lists for ‘Top 50 IT Blogs Influential Blogs in Higher Education’ and the 50 Most Influential HE Professionals Using Social Media list. I was interviewed for the published work on How has Apple transformed your classroom? Part I, the Teacher’s Practical Guide to the Flipped Classroom and wrote this article on ‘Facilitating the Unknown’ in a Special Issue: Open Facilitator Stories, based on the amazing online course BYOD4L, and been involved in multiple weekly tweet-chats from/on LTHEchat.

And these are just the thing I can remember off the top of my head. Perhaps I should be more organised and keep better notes? Oh, and I still Sketchnote.

The great thing is that I have the interest and passion to do all this, all the time. I love being connected and in a position to collaborate or share knowledge and experience. I love that I can swap roles and identities so quickly depending on what the day brings – technical support, pedagogic support, management or administration, etc. No day is the same. No email asks for the same thing. No meeting covers the same thing (well, not very often).

Like Clare I find that IRL meetings can be awkward, conferences can be draining, events can be difficult to get everything done I want and see everyone I want to see AND still have time for the event itself. I’ve been reading the Quiet Revolution, about introverts, and engaging in their regular tweet chat. Having the time to reflect on events and conversations is important, and sometimes events can be so hectic there simply isn’t the time:

Oh, one final thing .. there’s always room for Lego! Pictures of Lego, actual Lego kits, or just talking about Lego.

Image source: clement127 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Heuristic Learning & Shakespeare

Heuristic Learning & Shakespeare

I used to write about apps I used or liked as part of my work, or at least I recognised could aid me in my work, but have been remiss on this front for a while. So, with the urging of a few peeps on Twitter (thank you) I’ll start it up again.

This new app I’ve installed actually covers two loves – learning/reading and technology. In my role as eLearning Consultant at Warwick Business School I am responsible for the University of Warwick’s Shakespeare and His World MOOC. My involvement with this course and Professor Jonathan Bate has kick started my love of reading – I studied English Literature A-level. So here we have an app that’ll help me understand the use of technology (and see a fantastic new approach to tech that can aid learning) as well as the understand the Bard’s language.

Back in 2011 I wrote this post about how ebooks, even apps, could be used to greatly enhance the learning experience beyond just the basic text-and-note features the early e-readers offered. It seems it’s coming true (I wish the images in that post had survived a server & hosting service migration)?

Heuristic Shakespeare - The TempestHeuristic Shakespeare – The Tempest (iPad): Like many I find Shakespeare difficult to understand, sometimes just plain obscure. Through the MOOC mentioned above I have learned a lot more about Shakespeare’s influences in the time he wrote the plays (literary, cultural, personal, etc.) as well as the subtleties of his jokes and digs(and careful similarities) to the establishment. This app, therefore brings everything together and makes this one play, The Tempest, so much easier to understand, read, watch, and like.

“The Tempest from Heuristic Shakespeare is the first in a collection of thirty-seven separate apps. Each app is a tool for demystifying one of Shakespeare’s plays and making it more accessible to a modern audience. Sir Ian McKellen and Professor Sir Jonathan Bate take us on journey of discovery using the world-famous Arden Shakespeare texts and their extensive essays and notes. The apps function is to provide an essential aid to understanding and enjoying the plays in the theatre or on the screen.”

Heuristic Shakespeare – The Tempest $5.99 / £4.49
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/heuristic-shakespeare-tempest/id1099176816

From the outset it is clear this app brings the very best of the internet (small ‘i’ these days) and learning. Not least the range of names and successful Shakespearean actors and scholars like Sir Ian McKellen and Prof Sir Jonathan Bate (both of who I worked with on another MOOC), but the way in which multimedia has been used to enhance the text, not replace it.

For those studying Shakespeare for any level of exam or are just an avid reader or Shakespeare lover this App is as good as any book or cheat-sheet note … if not better! If you ignore the videos where the actors read/act the play for you (a massive boost to my understanding – let the actors handle the difficulty of getting the pace, language and emphasis right, I can concentrate on the words and their meanings) the rest of the features are worth getting the app on their own – Shakespeare’s timeline, productions of the play, a copy of the First Folio pages, etc.

Note: I wont review each of the subsequent 36 apps, if indeed they do get round to them all, but suffice to say this approach is a quality one, offering everything I could ever have wanted when I was 16-18 and studying Shakespeare myself.

Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 1  Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 4

Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 5

Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 2  Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 3

Now on to the actually purpose of the App .. and it being called ‘heuristic’. For me a ‘heuristic’ learning experience is all about having the freedom or opportunity to use my experiences to discover or solve something myself. I may be led to the subject, question, or the problem, but the process of learning and solving or answering the question is for me to work out. I wont use, or even know, the best or most efficient process to use to do this, I’ll no doubt flounder around while i figure out what I need to be doing, but it’ll be my decision, my design process, and my skills that’ll take me through this and towards a solution.

And this is exactly what this App offers … the ability to use/choose what version of the play I want: either the text of the play, the pages from the First Folio, actors performing the words, understanding where the play. This is amazing and there should be more opportunities for people to learn like this, Shakespeare or not.

If you’re an English Literature teacher, or a student who’s used the App please let me know what you think of it? Did it help? What aspect of the App you found most useful, interesting, distracting, good for comprehension, good for revision, etc.?

 

Video Filming David Hopkins

How ‘long’ is too ‘long’?

For a few years now I’ve been spouting the same lines when it comes to planning a video for an distance learning course or MOOC: “preferably no more than 4 minutes, definitely no more than 6.” Anything more than 6 and we’d consider splitting it at a natural point in the subject, or working with the individual and their content and seeing where a natural break can be made, or other ways to shorten the video.

This has been supported by experience (from distance learning courses I’ve supported at both Bournemouth and Leicester University’s) and the MOOCs I’ve supported and developed while at Warwick, as well as articles like this.

As with everything, there is enough evidence to be found to support and to disprove it.

Yes, I agree that if you have a ‘teaching’ resource, where the academic/teacher is speaking to camera then there is an optimum length that someone will sit and be ‘talked at’, and this is where I see the 6 minute limit coming into play. These kinds of resources are often loaded to a VLE or a MOOC and as part of a set of resources for the topic or week’s subject area.

But there are other approaches to video content where I don’t see this working. What about case studies or mini-documentaries? What about a conversation, when a short 4 minute clip just isn’t enough to get in to the details? Do you still stick to the short-is-best message? In order for these to work you will often need to make it longer so the content and ‘message’ of the case study can be put across.

Let’s not forget, the video is nothing on it’s own. It must always be put into context for the student – why are you presenting the video for them to watch, what do you expect them to think about when they watch it, is there something they need to question as a result of the video (and/or linking it to other resources to build their wider knowledge about the subject area), can they critique the resource and present their findings back to the group, etc.?
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Reading List

Reading list: November 14th, 2015

Like many in my line of work (eLearning, Educational or Learning Technology) I read. I read a lot. I read books, articles, blog posts, journals, etc. I sometimes tweet them, I sometimes print them, I sometimes actually finish them. Sometimes I bin them (those are the ones I wished I’d not started).

I’m going to try and keep a diary (a web-log, or blog, if you like) of the more important, or rather more interesting things I read, at or for work. I’ve also decided to up my game regarding my general reading habits … here is my side project of books I’m reading outside of a work setting.

So far this month I’ve been reading, in no particular order:  Continue reading

The Circular (Learning) Economy

The Circular (Learning) Economy

I recently attended an event, as part of the team filming it for colleagues, surrounding supply chains (how stuff gets to us). The speakers, Miriam Gilbert and Keith Freegard, spoke wonderfully about the need to do more to include a more circular (recycling) methodology to our manufacturing and processing industries.

And this got me thinking. What are we doing, if anything, about this with our learning? Can we show a similar approach, good or bad, in how we generate, connect, create, collaborate, communicate, curate? (sound familiar?)

But first … what is a circular economy? The Ellen MacArthur Foundation describes it as “a global economic model that decouples economic growth and development from the consumption of finite resources” and that it “provides new opportunities for innovation across fields such as product design, service and business models, food, farming, biological feedstocks and products.” In essence it’s the ability to re-use materials in the manufacturing of new ones. Nothing new, but the processes involved are often ground-breaking and at the forefront of cutting-edge technology.  Continue reading

ALTC 2015

Day 1 #ALTC 2015

This 10th ALT Conference is possibly the largest yet, hosted at the Universty of Manchester, over 3 days with 4 invited keynote speakers, 185 sessions (although some look to have been cancelled), and over 500 expected delegates.

Kicking us off today was an impressive session from Steve Wheeler and two of his students; Becca Smallshaw and Kate Bartlett. Steve covered the kinds of subjects I’ve heard him speak about before, but he stopped short of the usual keynote and handed it over to Becca and Kate. Using the time with them to talk about the expectations and experiences of students, they both handed the alien, and probably quite nerve wracking, experience of 500+ people hanging on their every word extremely well.

I spoke with Steve afterwards and he took great pains to explain that this part of the keynote was not scripted or rehearsed, that Becca and Kate knew very little of his slides; they kind of knew what he might ask them, but not in details. They were free to answer openly and honestly, which for me makes their performance and answers all the more credible and insightful. huge respect to them both for standing there today in front of us!   Continue reading

How Twitter can be used for informal personal learning?

How Twitter can be used for informal personal learning?

I joined Twitter in January 2008 and in the last 6 years, 4 months, and 7 days since my first tweet I have made or posted nearly 33,000 tweets! As I highlighted in my post from last year I have found Twitter the single most important source of information, events, research, back-channel, inspiration, and motivation I have ever come across.

Of course it’s not actually Twitter that does this; it’s the individuals I have connected with in those 6 year, from all corners of this wonderful world and from all walks of life and cultures. These people, who I’ve built my Personal Learning Network (PLN) around, have made me laugh, cry, think, reflect, criticise, critique, avoid, seek out, and generally strive to know more about myself.

The great thing is that you/they had no idea they were doing it, or even part of it. That’s because that’s what I use Twitter for. You might use Twitter for something else; running buddies, charity auctions, account complaints, celebrity stalking, coffee-shop cake comparisons. We each have our own version of the same system that offers our own unique answers or destinations.  Continue reading

Netflix

Learning the Netflix way

I’ve just read the post by Donald Clark called ‘What does ‘learning’ have to learn from Netflix?’ which has resonated with much of my own thinking from recent work and discussions I’ve been having on Twitter.

I signed up for one of the free 1 month trials of Netflix when it was first available in the UK. I enjoyed it, then cancelled it. I’d got what I wanted. Then I realised I wanted access to the binge-watching phenomenons like House of Cards, Breaking Bad, and the one that started them all, 24. But more than this, as Donald mentions in his post, I wanted access to the kind of programmes I like and at my convenience. I am not always available at 9PM every Thursday to watch the latest instalment of my favourite show(s), just like I don’t actually want to wait a full week for the next episode. I first watched 24 on DVD, not Sky, so I did binge-watch the show, usually 4 full episodes a night (or 1 DVD) and went to bed wired for the next marathon 24-fest.

So, if we’re changing our viewing habits, are we changing our learning habits (as pointed out by Donald)?

Yes. Consider Donald’s points:  Continue reading

Vinyl LP Collection

Maybe digital isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

So much of what I do these days, and what I produce, is digital. Tweets, status updates, audio & video files, documents, reports, etc. Less than 1% gets to where it needs to get to in any other way than by electronic transfer – money to friends (bank transfer), documents to colleagues (emails, networks, Dropbox), sharing (tweets, blog posts, status updates, etc.). Hell, even a message home to say I’ll be late will be a Facebook message instead of a phone call!

For my 40th birthday my brother bought my a USB turntable (Denon DP-200USB), something I (we) could use to rip our extensive collection of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s vinyl collection of rock, metal, and various dubious listening pleasures. So, the past few winter’s I’ve been holed up in the spare room with 300+ vinyl records (I’m sure we had more) and the turntable, ripping them, adding to iTunes, loading cover art and track listings, transferring to my iPod and listening to my childhood and teenage years in the car during the daily commute.

Even my two boys (ages 4 and 5) are getting in on it, asking for certain tracks or bands in the car with me, looking over the vinyl covers, reading the lyrics, laughing at the band photos (it’s the hair!), and not quite understanding just ‘how’ the sound works! Continue reading