Category Archives: Assignments

Preventing Plagiarism – A Different Kind of Assignment

Today I read a new Faculty Focus article by Maryellen Weimer, a Penn State emeritus professor, that reviewed an assignment two accounting instructors used to teach their students about plagiarism within their discipline. They acknowledged that proper citation was taught in a previous English composition course, and they described the challenge in this way: “Most of the time, students are taught about using the material of others and crediting those sources in some sort of composition course. Then students are expected to apply what they’ve learned when they prepare written materials in subsequent courses. McGown and Lightbody felt that
students needed instruction beyond the guidelines and that they needed repeated instruction in subsequent courses, especially those courses in the major. Not all fields handle the use of sources in the same way. Once students are in a major, they need to learn the particulars of
referencing for that field.”

The instructors did not want to use class time to teach plagiarism prevention, so they had their students complete an online workshop. Then, they had them apply the plagiarism workshop  content and develop their “knowledge of a particular accounting issue” through their new assignment. I encourage you to access the Faculty Focus issue and the McGown & Lightbody article it references, available online in the Penn State University Libraries, to learn more about the assignment and the creative way they had their students actively learning about proper citation in the accounting field.

I want to remind you of the plagiarism prevention resources available at Penn State. First, be sure to visit the Plagiarism Prevention Resources web site that includes a Plagiarism Tutorial for Students, an Instructor Guide on Plagiarism and Prevention, and links for faculty and students to plagiarism policy pages, guides, quizzes, citation guidelines, and basic copyright information. There are some nice plagiarism quizzes and exercises available too, including an iStudy module on Academic Integrity that can be integrated into ANGEL. The Plagiarism Quiz Bank is available here and could be used in ANGEL or as a printed quiz. Students can work with a writing tutor in the Learning Center. Penn State Harrisburg’s Academic Integrity Policy (C-7) is available online.

I wrote a previous post on “Why students cheat and what we can do about it” where I include a few strategies you might use to prevent plagiarism in your classes. Please contact me if you would like some assistance in including some of these resources in your course(s), or want to redesign an assignment to reduce its plagiarism potential.

Blog vs. ePortfolio Consideration

During the past year, I’ve had several opportunities to work with faculty on integrating a blog and/or ePortfolio project into their courses. I’ve also been able to work with their students during a computer lab session to help them get started. Most recently, I worked with the faculty in the elementary education program to encourage the use of blogs within the ePortfolio space within the entire program.

Yesterday I had the great pleasure to work with a wonderful group of students who will be sharing quite a bit of their classwork online this semester. Thanks to a question from one of the students, we all pondered whether the semester-long project was best suited for the blog, which was our initial intent, or a webpage. Because we had been so focused on the blog initiative within the ePortfolio space, we really hadn’t considered this alternative solution. The conversation involved the students, the instructor, and me, so the students really had ownership in the final decision which was to create a new page within their ePortfolio rather than doing blog entries.

So, what considerations were taken into account? This assignment really wasn’t a reflective activity as much as a reading log, providing information about the children’s literature they are reviewing this semester. The instructor has provided the students with a template to use which they can fill in, save, and upload for each assignment, and then link to it from within their webpage. It keeps this specific coursework on a webpage separate from their other coursework, making it easy to point someone directly to it. At the end of the semester, this project will be over, so then it becomes an artifact of their undergraduate education. Perhaps they will want to “clean up” the webpage to preserve only those reading logs that represent their best work, or that best represent their learning during the course of the semester. Perhaps they will only want to preserve their best example from each genre. These pages will be easy to gather for assessment purposes using the tag provided by the instructor.

In reflecting on how I could have missed the need for this conversation, I realized that I was concentrating on learning the tool and hadn’t paid attention to the process. In the blog/ePortfolio workshop, the focus has been on the tool and how to use it. We haven’t discussed with students or faculty how to look at the ePortfolio holistically and make decisions about its overall design and placement of artifacts. We also haven’t discussed specifically how to incorporate students’ work into the assessment process, especially those efforts towards accreditation. There’s definitely more work to be done!

I appreciate the work of Dr. Mary Napoli and her EDUC 421 students to help me highlight some considerations for those working with blogs and ePortfolios!