A 2012 article in Forbes titled “Are they Learning or Cheating? Online Teaching’s Dilemma” by George Anders suggests that online learning environments are vulnerable to plagiarism. While it is true that students might be especially tempted to plagiarize in an online learning environment, the article notes reasoning that is likely familiar: students might not even realize they are plagiarizing and the assignments they are completing aren’t specialized to discourage cheating.
While I have not polled other CO150 Online instructors on this issue, I have personally found that when taking the appropriate steps to prevent plagiarism, the main culprits of plagiarism can be reduced. While it is likely that students could still plagiarize, and it is important to have a clear policy on plagiarism, working to prevent these problems goes a long way.
For this reason, I suggest the following ways to prevent plagiarism in CO150 Online:
1. Get to know your student’s voices early. In an online learning environment, you should get to know your student’s voices very early on–that is, if you are asking them to write something for you frequently enough. It is also important that you respond to their voices. As noted elsewhere on this blog, it is essential in online education that students feel there is an instructor on the other end who is not only listening to them but who expects quality work from them.
2. Have a discussion about plagiarism early in the semester. I make plagiarism a topic of discussion early in the semester when teaching MLA format. I try to make students interested in it by asking them why they think plagiarizing is on the rise. Is their generation of student inherently a group of cheaters? Or is there another reason why plagiarism has become such a big issue on college campuses? I tell cautionary tales of students who plagiarized and pair this with a homework assignment that is a draft of a summary and will require a great deal of citing. I grade the summary looking at the MLA format and if students make too many mistakes, they have to revise the summary. I tell students that by the end of this conversation, it is expected that they know the rules on citing and can no longer claim ignorance if caught plagiarizing.
3. Create and collect process work for individualized assignments. This is likely part of your CO150 teaching anyway and this practice should continue online.
4. Ask students to record a screen-cast of themselves in which they ask you a question about their assignment and screen-cast your response.
5. Familiarize students with the CSU Honor’s Pledge and have them sign their papers with it.