Online Academic Integrity Tutorial for Graduate Students

June 26, 2018

I am super excited to share a new resource with you. I’ve been working with colleagues, Jennifer Lock and Meadow Schroeder, to develop an online tutorial to help graduate students in our school’s online and blended programs improve their knowledge about academic integrity.

In 2017, we received a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Grant from the University of Calgary to develop, test, and research the effectiveness of this online tutorial. What’s cool about this project is that until now, there has been very little support for students in our online and blended programs to access support. They’ve always had to come to campus to attend a face-to-face workshop. This tutorial represents a new era in supporting the success of online graduate students!

Check out our project website:

AI Tutorial website jpg.jpg

The tutorial is housed within our learning management system. It is only accessible to students enrolled in graduate programs in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary.

But I can tell you about it! The tutorial is designed to help students learn about these key topics:

  • Plagiarism
  • Self-Plagiarism
  • Cheating
  • Collusion
  • Contract Cheating
  • Preventing Breaches of Integrity in Graduate Work.

Here’s a screen shot:

Screen shot - AI tutorial Werklund jpg.jpg

We are launching the tutorial this week, just in time for students who start their summer courses in July.

We are excited about this project not only because it provides support to our online students, but also because we get to study how well the tutorial works because of the generosity of a research grant. I’ll keep you posted on how this project goes. Time to celebrate the launch of our tutorial!

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This blog has had over 2 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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Lessons learned from 2 Million blog views

June 5, 2018

8 years.

614 posts.

5126 followers

2,014,851 views.

According to the blog stats, I’ve recently topped two million all-time blog views, with over 1.2 million visitors (some of whom have viewed more than one post, obviously):

All time views - posts

Here are some things I’ve learned about blogging as a result of this experience:

Keep on blogging

I know so many people who have started blogs, only to abandon them because they got too busy, got frustrated when they didn’t get a massive following instantly or just got bored.

Here’s a high-level graph that shows a steady increase in blog views and visitors over the years:

Year-over-year.jpg

Of course, the stats for 2018 are lower because year isn’t half over yet. But if you look at 2010 through 2017, you can see that the number of individual views, as well as the number of visitors, has increased steadily over time.

The graph below breaks it down a bit more. It shows how many views my blog has had over the months and years since I started it in February, 2010. Darker colours represent more views.

All time views - Months and years.jpg

In 2018, my monthly average has been about 39.9 thousand views per month, from January through May. (Given that I’m writing this post in early June, 2018, the numbers for this month don’t look very impressive, but that block will be dark blue by the end of the month.)

The number of views has increased consistently over time. The average number of views per month in 2010 was under 1400. What I had as a monthly average number of views in my first year of blogging is now almost my daily average!

When I tell people that my blog now gets over 1000 views per day, they look at me in disbelief, but here are the stats:

Average per day.jpg

Again, the numbers for June 2018 look low because that’s a monthly total and we’re still at the beginning of the month and that number is the average for the entire month. That number will increase throughout the month.

Look at all the light grey in the first two years of my blog. The real increases started to show in year 3 (2012). If I had given up blogging, I would never have seen those increases. My lesson learned here is: Keep on blogging, even when you think no one is reading. More readers will stop by as your blog gets populated with content.

Your progress is relative

There are some superstar bloggers out there who get millions of views every week. Some bloggers make money from their blogs, and others even blog for a living. But that was never my intention. My goal with my blog has been consistent: to share and archive content, document my own professional and learning experiences and offer tips to students and educators. The number of views and visitors is relative to the industry you work in, your purpose for blogging and how much content you share.

Sometimes you don’t know the reason for the stats

My best day for blog views was April 7, 2014:

All time views - posts

What happened that day? Nothing special, as far as I can tell. I didn’t even post that day. It was a complete fluke. I have no idea why that day in 2014 was my all-time daily maximum for blog views.

My learning from this is to not get too hung up on trying to achieve every day. Progress happens over time. Blips and flukes happen, too. The important thing is to not give up and stick with it.

Try different things

I have tried all kinds of different things over the years. I’ve written features about educators who inspired me (like this post about Deaf educator, Brent Novodvorski, for example). In 2012, I did a weekly series where I posted my favourite resources of the week. I have also used my blog as a space to archive material that I wanted to share online with readers, like this APA Checklist for Term Papers.

I have tried all kinds of different things over the years. My learning from this is that experimenting helped me to figure out what works. It also helped me to figure out what kind of blogger I want to be.

Develop your blogging identity

I have worked as an educator since 1994. It’s no secret that I love teaching! I love interacting with students, whether they are in a classroom or online. While I may have been experimental with my posts at times, I’ve been consistent that my blog has always been focused on learning in one way or another. I don’t post recipes or tips to improve your health or fitness. I post about education. My followers have come to expect posts about learning, teaching, leadership or a related topic.

My learning from this is to develop an identity as a blogger. I have grown and developed as both an educator and a blogger since I started my blog. I engage in regular reflection about what I have learned and what I still want to learn. For me, my professional growth and my development as a blogger have gone hand-in-hand over the past eight years.

Followers come from different places

Apparently, my blog has over 5000 followers:

Followers.jpg

Some folks follow along on WordPress, others get an e-mail every time a post is published and still others follow along on social media. WordPress doesn’t give me much information about who these followers are, but all I can say is, “Thank you!” I appreciate that you have read, liked and commented (or even just lurked) over the years. It makes me feel that my blog with worthwhile to you. What better reward could there be?

Approach comments with caution

Regular followers will know that I shut down the comments section on my blog a few years ago. For a long time, I was really excited to get comments on my blog. But then, things took a dark turn once the blog started to really gain views. The nature of some of the comments sometimes became rude, aggressive or abusive.

I expect that anyone who has spent a lot of time blogging has encountered something similar. I understand there are different thoughts on how to approach this. Some people believe that there’s no such thing as bad publicity and the more flaming comments, the better. Me, not so much. Ultimately, I decided to shut down the comments function. I still really appreciate it when people hit the “Like” button at the end of a post, but I’m not sure I’ll ever re-open the comments again.

Your blog can be an incubator for ideas

One highlight about developing my identity as a blogger and as a professional is that in 2010, the first year of my blog I wrote a post called, “Are your students plagiarizing? Here’s how you find out”. I wrote a few other posts about plagiarism over the next year. Several years later, academic integrity has developed into a major research area for me. In 2017, I published my first peer-reviewed research article on plagiarism.

My learning from this is that your blog can be a place where your ideas germinate and incubate. I think those early posts in plagiarism in 2010 planted a seed that grew over the years.

People sometimes steal your content

I am sorry to say that some of my best content has been replicated on other people’s blogs or sites without attribution to me. Of course this makes me sad and angry. I sometimes wonder if that experience was part of the reason my interest in plagiarism as a research interest developed? Not sure.

I have learned the hard way that there are some people who feel entitled to lift whatever they want off the Internet and claim it as their own.

At one point, I was so upset this by this, I took a long hiatus from blogging. I almost abandoned my blog altogether. Instead, I learned a few tips and tricks. I’ll share these in a future post. (Wink, wink!)

My advice for bloggers

My key piece of advice for bloggers is: Stick with it. Your blog is an expression of you and your ideas over time. Share whatever you want. Some people will love it and others won’t. That’s OK.

If people leave you hurtful comments, turn off the comments. Your blog is about you and those who appreciate the effort you put into it. Experiment. Try different things. No blog is perfect, so don’t aim for perfection. Aim to be yourself and share whatever inspires you. Over time, I bet you’ll be surprised to see how you grow as a result.

Blog on, my friends!

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This blog has had over 2 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.


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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This blog has had over 1.9 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.


The impact of tech on how instructors teach and how students learn

April 3, 2018

Use of tech cover.jpgI am thrilled to share a new book chapter that’s just been published. The chapter is, “The impact of technology on how instructors teach and how students learn”. It part of, The Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning, edited by Richard Harnish, K. Robert Bridges, David N. Sattler, Margaret L. Signorella and Michael Munson. It is published by the Society for the Teaching of Psychology. (I know, I know, I’m not a psychologist, but the topic fits with one of my areas of interest.)

In this chapter I talk about how technology is impacting educators in terms of their pedagogical knowledge and classroom practice, as well as how tech impacts how students learn.

One of the best things about this book is that is freely available online! You can download your own copy from: https://teachpsych.org/ebooks/useoftech

In fact, the publishers have an entire collection of free books that anyone can download on topics ranging from academic advising to research on teaching, among others. Check them out here: https://teachpsych.org/ebooks/index.php

On a personal note, I have to say that I really appreciate contributing to works that are Open Access, so readers from anywhere can download, read and enjoy. There’s much to be said for this kind of publishing model and as a writer and a scholar, being able to share my work in this way is energizing.

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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.


Workshop: Essay Mills, Theses-On-Demand and Contract Cheating

March 27, 2018

I recently attend the 2018 International Center for Academic Integrity conference in Richmond, Virginia, where I moderated a panel on contract cheating. Panelists included Tricia Bertram Gallant (UCSD), Christopher Lang (University of Toronto) and Mark Ricksen (Turnitin).

Workshop description

How do you know if your students are buying their work from the Internet? How prevalent is this practice, anyway? How do you talk to your students about the issue of contract cheating? Get answers to these questions and more in this interactive workshop. Find out the latest research and get practical resources to help you with your own students.

Learning outcomes

Participants will:

  • Gain insights into how contract cheating really works (and how easy it is for students to buy papers or even a complete thesis online).
  • Learn what the latest research says.
  • Learn practical tips on how to detect contract cheating and how to talk to students about it.

This workshop is free of charge and open to everyone.

Contract cheating workshop

 

More info: http://www.ucalgary.ca/taylorinstitute/events-workshops/essay-mills-theses-demand-and-contract-cheating-latest-research-and-resources

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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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