Can you plagiarize chocolate?!

May 22, 2018

A recent news article last week talked about a dispute between a chocolatier and a supermarket chain in the UK. Hotel Chocolat allegedly claims that the grocery retailer, Waitrose, has plagiarized some of their chocolate bars. A photo posted by @TweetsFood shows the similarities:

chocloate.jpgThe news article published by The Week starts with the headline, “Waitrose accused of chocolate plagiarism by Hotel Chocolat”. The headline implies that “chocolate plagiarism” is actually a thing, in the same way that text plagiarism or computer code plagiarism is a thing. It begs the question: Is “chocolate plagiarism” actually a thing?

There are many definitions of plagiarism available. One of most often cited definitions comes from University of Calgary professor, Irving Hexam who has a terrific web resource dedicated to plagiarism. Hexam cites the Compact Oxford English Dictionary and talks about stealing not only text, but also designs and ideas. If this is so, then it is worth observing that the design of the bars, both of which feature curvy edges, a mix of pink and white chocolate and fruit on top, really do seem quite similar. It might also be argued that the design for the bars may have been lifted without credit. So, I think an argument could be made.

What’s interesting though, is that outside of academic contexts, plagiarism isn’t actually punishable by law in many jurisdictions (at least as far as I know). It is morally reprehensible and unethical, but not actually illegal. This begs the question: Should industry bodies include plagiarism in their code of ethics and conduct for their members? It’s an interesting question and my first reaction is: yes.

In educational and academic circles we talk about “integrity”. In business, the term “ethics” is used. One business school defines the two terms as being closely related. If we send the message that integrity matters in school, but not in industry, that’s troubling. The message that both ethics and integrity matters after graduation needs to be taken up by someone other than academic institutions. Even if legislation doesn’t criminalize the ripping off ideas and designs, it is incumbent upon the bodies that oversee various industries to ensure that ethics and integrity are upheld as industry standards. I am not sure what industry body in the UK exists among grocers and food producers, but there must be one. I’d like to hear them chime in on this debate.

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

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Academic doping and “smart drugs”: What educators need to know

May 15, 2018

 

Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When athletes use performance-enhancing drugs it is called “doping”, but the practice has moved from the locker room to the study halls, as students have taken up the practice to help them perform better on exams and in-class. The informal or slang term for these substances is “smart drugs” because students are promised that the substances will make them smarter, at least temporarily. When used for academic performance enhancement, it’s called “academic doping” or, if you prefer a more formal term, “pharmacologic cognitive enhancement” (Aikins, Zhang, & McCabe, 2017, p. 230).

What are “smart drugs”?

These substances are most often stimulants or cognitive-enhancing drugs (CEDS) (Aikins, Zhang, & McCabe, 2017). They generally fall into two categories. The first is actual prescription medications that are used for non-medical purposes, with the most popular being Adderall®, Ritalin®  and Modafinil®, which is also known as Provigil® (Aikins, 2011; Aikins, Zhang, & McCabe, 2017, Vaughan & Diver, 2018). The second category are poor quality versions of these drugs made illegally, often in Russia, India and China (Vaughan & Diver, 2018).

In terms of how students acquire them, some get a prescription. Others buy from prescription users. Still others buy their supply from the Internet, specifically, the dark web, and have the goods delivered straight to their home address (Vaughan & Diver, 2018).

Why do students engage in academic doping?

There are a few reasons why students might think that taking performance-enhancing drugs is a good idea. The first is the pressure on students to succeed (Aikins, 2011; Vaughan & Diver, 2018). Another is that some students may simply want to experiment (Aikins, 2011). Aikins (2011) offers an excellent overview of the reasons students might take illicit drugs in general, and it’s important to note that there is no single reason why students might take drugs to help them perform better in exams or other learning tasks.

How prevalent is academic doping?

Aikins, Zhang, & McCabe (2017) summarize the results of previous studies on the use of non-medical use of prescription stimulants (NMUPs) which showed that anywhere from 7% to 35.5% of students have used prescription drugs for academic performance enhancement. There seems to be very little data about how many students are using the illegally made versions of these drugs. But in any case, these rates would probably be higher than most parents, faculty members or policy makers might suspect.

Do “smart drugs” really work?

There are users who post information about how well they believe these substances work for them. Having said that, Aikins, Zhang, & McCabe (2017) found that “there is little real world data proving that” students who engage in academic doping “experience any actual academic gains” (p. 231). So basically, students who self-medicate seem to think that these drugs will give them an advantage, but there’s not much in the way of actual data to support that idea.

The bottom line is that it is important for parents, educators and higher education policy makers to understand that academic doping is real and students can sometimes make poor choices because they feel pressure to succeed. It is up to us as educators to show we care about students’ well-being and health and to send a clear message that long-term success does not come in a pill bottle.

References

Aikins, R. (2011). A qualitative study of the perceptions and habits of prescription stimulant–using college students. Journal of College Student Development, 52(5). doi:10.1353/csd.2011.0064

Aikins, R., Zhang, X., & McCabe, S. E. (2017). Academic doping: Institutional policies regarding nonmedical use of prescription stimulants in U.S. higher education. Journal of Academic Ethics, 15(3), 229-243. doi:10.1007/s10805-017-9291-0

Asprey, D. (n.d.). Modafinil: The rise of smart drugs.  Retrieved from https://blog.bulletproof.com/why-you-are-suffering-from-a-modafinil-deficiency/

Vaughan, R., & Diver, T. (2018). Exclusive: University students turn to dark web for performance enhancing ‘smart drugs’. iNews. Retrieved from https://inews.co.uk/news/education/university-students-turn-to-dark-web-smart-drugs/amp/

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


Writing Educational Research (EDER 603.23) – Spring 2018

May 8, 2018

Spring 2018 course (image)I am excited to be teaching one of my favourite courses coming up in the Spring 2018 semester. This is the final course for students in the Master of Education with a specialization in Teaching English as an Additional Language (TEAL).

Course description

This course will focus on examining and developing the skills associated with crafting an academic report and discussion on research data. Topics include genres and purposes of academic writing, as well as venues for presentation and publication. An academic paper is more than a compilation of relevant literature, attending information and a conclusion.

An acceptable paper, whether intended for an academic or a professional audience, and whether a report of findings or a theoretical-philosophical argument, takes a clearly defined idea, situates it in the current literature, and supports it with a well-structured discussion. The principal intentions of this course are to introduce students to the various structures of academic and professional papers and to provide support in their efforts to craft, present and potentially publish their written work.

A traditional approach to writing educational research involves first learning about writing, then learning to write. Learners first study sample texts, analyzing them and then dissecting them, examining their structure, argument and style. The next step often involves producing an original piece of writing that mimics the style, tone and structure of the sample text. The final step is to integrate elements of the student’s own voice and style with elements of the texts they have previously studied. The rationale behind this approach is that the student must first learn what counts as excellent writing by learning about writing. Only then are they prepared to write themselves.

This course takes a non-traditional approach to learning to write about research for scholarly or professional purposes. Students will focus on writing, offering feedback to peers, revising, and incorporating feedback.

Students take on three key roles during this course:

  1. Writer – Crafting an original work intended for sharing in a public forum.
  2. Reviewer – Developing your skills offering substantive and supportive feedback to peers to help them improve their writing so that they, too, are successful in sharing their work in a public forum.
  3. Reviser – Learning to consider and incorporate peer feedback thoughtfully. As scholars and professionals, we recognize that our work is stronger when we incorporate revisions from trusted colleagues whose intention is to help us succeed.

Check out this .pdf of the entire course outline.

Why I love teaching this course

I love working with students who are also professionals to show them how they can craft a research term paper into a manuscript for publication. I’ve taught this course about a dozen times before and I marvel at how students can develop competence and confidence as writers during this course.

Some students who have taken this course have gone on to publish their work and it inspires me to see them grow in this way. I am looking forward to creating opportunities for more students to become published writers!

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

 


Action Research for Graduate Program Improvements: A Response to Curriculum Mapping and Review

May 1, 2018

CJHE copy.jpgI’m excited to share news with you about a new article that’s just been released with co-authors Michele Jacobsen, Barb Brown, Marlon Simmons and Mairi McDermott. Here’s an overview:

Abstract

There is a global trend toward improving programs and student experiences in higher education through curriculum review and mapping of degree programs. This paper describes an action research approach to program improvement for a course-based MEd degree. The driver for continual program improvement came from actions and recommendations that arose from an institutionally mandated, year-long, faculty led curriculum review of professional graduate programs in education. Study findings reveal instructors’ perceptions about how they enacted the recommendations for program improvement, including

  1. developing a visual conceptualization of the program;
  2. improved connections between the courses;
  3. articulation of coherence in goals and expectations for students and instructors;
  4. an increased focus on action research;
  5. increased ethics support and scaffolding for students; and
  6. the fostering of communities of practice.

Study findings highlight strengths of the current program and course designs, action items, and research needed for continual program improvement.

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This article is the result of a two-year project with our amazing team. It has been incredible to learn with and from them as we embarked on this journey together. We are eager to share what we learned about how to improve students’ experience in our Master of Education program.

Check out the entire article in the Canadian Journal of Higher Education.

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


Who falls prey to predatory publishers?

April 24, 2018

A while back I wrote Avoiding Predatory Journals and Questionable Conferences: A Resource Guide. As I started digging into the research on the topic, I found that that the people who fall prey to these scams, basically fall into three categories. Here’s an excerpt from the report:

Those who contribute to predatory or parasitic publications or events seem to fall into three main categories: (a) those who are too naïve to know; (b) those who know, but do not mind; and (c) those pseudo-scientists who are masquerading as legitimate scholars or researchers, but are essentially quacks or charlatans themselves (Beall n.d., 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 a, b, c; Grove, 2017; McCrostie 2016, 2017; Nicholl & Chinn, 2015; Nolfi, Lockhart & Redgate, 2015;Ruben, 2016; Vinny, Vishnu & Lal, 2016; Xia, Harmon, Connolly, Donnelly, Anderson, & Howard, 2015):

The Naïve Contributor ultimately recognizes that their contribution will bring them little benefit and their reputation may even be damaged.

The Cognizant Contributor has a more symbiotic relationship with the parasitical publication or conference because they perceive some benefit to their own advancement.

Like the Cognizant Contributor, the Pseudo-Scientist also receives (or at least perceives) benefit because questionable conferences or publications give them a venue to proclaim their own expertise, unproven results or absurd theories. (p. 10).

Here’s an infographic:

Who falls prey to predatory publishers_.jpg

The full report contains a full reference list and much more content. You can check it out here: Avoiding Predatory Journals and Questionable Conferences: A Resource Guide

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

 


Website Hijacking by Contract Cheating Companies

April 17, 2018

For a while now I’ve been working on projects related to preventing and addressing violations of academic integrity such as plagiarism and contract cheating. Contract cheating is a complex form of cheating, but it basically boils down to someone else doing the work on behalf of a student. The term “contract cheating” was coined more than a decade ago, in 2006, by Clarke and Lancaster in the U.K.

There are companies whose entire business model is focused on helping students cheat. They can go by different names depending on the services they offer. They have been called “essay mills”, “paper mills” or “homework completion services”. The companies make their money in different ways. They might charge by the page or charge a flat fee for an entire assignment.

To the surprise of many teachers and educational administrators, contract cheating is big business. Studies have found that this industry is likely worth a minimum of $100 Million USD in the United States (Owings and Nelson, 2014). Studies in the UK and New Zealand also estimate the contract cheating industry to be worth millions in those countries, too (Draper & Newton, 2017; Yorke, 2017).

These companies lure in students with offers of “help” and promises of making their lives easier. Their rhetoric is that of persuasion and manipulation. They try to trick students into believing that there is nothing wrong with paying a company to do academic work on their behalf when nothing could be further from the truth. The language contract cheating companies use in their advertising seems benevolent, but the primary focus is for them to make money, not to help students. These companies are driven by profit first and foremost. They have sophisticated marketing methods that can be both aggressive, insidious, and sometimes, even illegal.

I had heard anecdotally that contract cheating companies sometimes hijack other websites, putting their own ads on the site. Presumably, it is cheaper for them to hire a hacker to get into a less secure site than to pay to have their ads posted legitimately online. Last week, I accidentally found one such website. The website seemed to belong to a small, well-meaning community organization in the United States.

I have redacted the information to avoid the possibility of legal action, but here is a screen shot showing what it looked like:

Contract cheating website hack

Figure 1: Screen shot of redacted webpage compromised by a contract cheating company.

Upon analyzing the situation more deeply, it looked like the hijackers had gone into the organization’s web site and created several sub-pages. The original pages of the organization such as the home page and sub-pages created by the legitimate website owner were completely intact and untouched. It looked to me as if the hijackers had gone into the background of the site and created additional, publicly available sub-pages where they then posted ads for a contract cheating company, complete with links that re-directed to the contract cheating company’s website. Upon inspecting the website further, I found that the metadata of the page had been populated hidden keywords such as “essay writing”, “plagiarism-free” and “thesis assistance”. This means that students searching for those terms might be led to the advertisement on the newly-created sub-pages, which they would then click on to be re-directed to the contract cheating website. If that was the case, then this an unsuspecting community organization might not have found the newly-created sub-pages for some time.

Small non-profits and community organizations often lack awareness and resources about how companies like this can compromise their websites. In an excellent article on nonprofit cybersecurity, Sheela Nimishakavi (2018) notes “all nonprofits need to implement appropriate security measures”. Julie Campbell (2018) offers some excellent tips on how nonprofits can fight cyber-attacks. Here are a couple of Campbell’s recommendations:

  1. Upgrade your computers and software.
  2. Train and inform employees and volunteers.
  3. Focus on passwords.

A website owner, whether they are an individual or an organization, may be completely unaware when a contract cheating company compromises their site. If you see an ad for a contract cheating company, look at the website address. If it looks like it might belong to a person or an organization who is not at all affiliated with exploiting students, contact the website owner to let them know. In this case, I found the contact information for the website owner and e-mailed them to let them know their site had been compromised.

References

Campbell, J. (2018). 8 ways nonprofits can fight cyber attacks. The Balance. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/better-nonprofit-cyber-security-2502537

Clarke, R., & Lancaster, T. (2006, June). Eliminating the successor to plagiarism: Identifying the usage of contract cheating sites. Paper presented at the Second International Plagiarism Conference, Gateshead, United Kingdom.

Draper, M. J., & Newton, P. M. (2017). A legal approach to tackling contract cheating? International Journal for Educational Integrity, 13(1), 1-16. doi:10.1007/s40979-017-0022-5

Nimishakavi, S. (2018). It’s 2018: Do you know where your nonprofit’s cybersecurity is? Nonprofit Quarterly. Retrieved from https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2018/01/26/2018-know-nonprofits-cybersecurity/

Owings, S., & Nelson, J. (2014). The essay industry. Mountain Plains Journal of Business and Economics, 15, 1-21. Retrieved from http://www.mountainplains.org/articles/2014/General%20Research/Mountain_Plains_Journal_of_Business_and_Economics_Volume_15_2014_1-21_General_Research_Owings.pdf

Yorke, H. (2017, January 13). More than 20,000 university students buying essays and dissertations as Lords call for ban on ‘contract cheating.’ The Telegraph. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/01/13/20000-university-students-buying-essays-dissertations-lords/

Note: This blog post is a reprint of a full report that is archived in the University of Calgary digital repository. Here is the citation for the original:

Eaton, S.E. (2018). Website Hijacking by Contract Cheating Companies. Calgary: University of Calgary. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1880/106494

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


How to Prepare a Teaching Dossier

April 10, 2018

The first time I was asked by my department head to prepare a teaching portfolio was back in the 1990s. At the time, I had no idea what one was or how to go about preparing it. We’ve come a long way since then and now there are some terrific resources out there to help teachers, graduate students and professors prepare a teaching dossier (also known as a portfolio).

Here are some things to think about when preparing your dossier:

Elements of a Teaching Dossier.jpg

If you work at a university with Teaching and Learning Centre, check out the resources they have available. Often, these centres will host workshops or provide individual assistance to members of the university community working on their dossiers.

It takes time to develop a teaching dossier. It’s part thinking, part writing and part figuring out how to present the information to a reader who may or may not be familiar with your professional experience. Give yourself plenty of time to develop your dossier. Ask a colleague or two to look over a draft and get some feedback.

Here are some resources that I think are tremendous and will help you understand what a dossier is and how to prepare one.

Printable online resources

Canadian Association of University Teachers. (2007). Teaching Dossier  Retrieved from http://sfufa.caut.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Sample-Teaching-Dossier-.pdf

Centre for Leadership in Learning at McMaster University. (n.d.). Preparing a Teaching Dossier. Retrieved from http://cll.mcmaster.ca/resources/pdf/DossierPackage_Web.pdf

Dalhousie University. (n.d.). The Step-by-Step Creation of a Teaching Dossier.   Retrieved from https://cdn.dal.ca/content/dam/dalhousie/pdf/dept/clt/Resources/Step-by-step%20Guide.pdf

Korpan, C. (2015). Guide to Preparing Teaching Statements and Dossiers. Retrieved from https://www.uvic.ca/learningandteaching/assets/docs/instructors/for-review/TA%20Professional%20Development%20and%20Information/Guide%20to%20Preparing%20Teaching%20Statements%20and%20Dossiers.pdf

Memorial University of Newfoundland. (2016). Suggested Framework for a Teaching Dossier.   Retrieved from https://citl.mun.ca/TeachingSupport/consultation/Framework_Dossier_March_2016.pdf

University of Toronto CUPE 3902. (n.d.). Ten Tips for Preparing a Teaching Dossier.   Retrieved from http://www.cupe3902.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Ten-Tips-for-Preparing-a-Teaching-Dossier.pdf

Websites

University of Toronto Teaching Assistants’ Training Program. Preparing the Teaching Dossier: Guidelines. Retrieved from http://tatp.utoronto.ca/teaching-toolkit/teaching-dossier/preparing-teaching-dossier-guidelines/

Vanderbilt University. (n.d.). Teaching Statements.   Retrieved from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu//cft/guides-sub-pages/teaching-statements/

Western University. Preparing Your Teaching Dossier.   Retrieved from https://www.uwo.ca/tsc/resources/selected_teaching_topics/teaching_dossiers/guide_to_constructing/preparing_teaching_dossier.html

Check out this related post:

Why you shouldn’t post your teaching dossier online https://wp.me/pNAh3-2gr

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


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