Dealing with the free rider or “Campus Slacker”

There’s an interesting article in the THE today by Jack Grove, highlighting research around a strategy to deal with free riders in group work - something that as the LTT, we frequently get asked about. To this effort we’ve tried; looking at the history of wikis, self evaluation questionnaires and are currently exploring other web based tools to support review of group work. Therefore it was with interest that I saw this article outlining research conducted at the University of Valencia by Miguel Arevalillo-Herráez  and wondered if this would be an effective way of dealing with this problem head on.

The method outlined is simple ‘…students were offered the chance to gain a higher mark for their group assignment if they managed to raise the grade scored by the weakest student in individual tests on the same subject’.

The results put forward by Arvealillo-Herráez (2014) in suggest the method was highly successful in encouraging peer support and learning. In the original article (apologies if you’re off campus) he concludes suggesting that ‘We believe that reactive methods should be given a greater relevance, and these should be supported by motivational techniques as opposed to punishment’ (530).

It’s a very interesting suggestion, using a motivation technique that utilises peer support and cooperative learning in a very effective way.

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I came across an interesting app today (thanks to @drnickpearce for the link!) “Plickers”, using an app and printed codes as a voting system in small classes. How it looks like it works is that a question is posed and students hold up a card, rotating it a certain way to indicate A,B,C or D. Having a quick chat in the team about this, we also wondered if raised edges could be put onto some sides of the card to make them accessible.

Whilst this wouldn’t be of any use in a large lecture theatre (the limit is 40) it may be something to look at in smaller classes.
What I find most interesting is the idea of it being a very inclusive system, not dependent on every student having a mobile phone and given that the cards are printable, unlike voting handsets are easily replaceable.

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What exactly is “Fair Dealing”? Quick online copyright training from JISC

I’ve just taken a few minutes to complete this course and found it useful so I thought I’d post it up here. (The registration is a bit of a faff, but don’t let that put you off!)
It’s got some useful information about the use of videos, images and music in lectures and what’s “okay” to include in your online materials. For anyone who is a little unsure of what exactly “Fair Dealing” is, it’s worth a look.

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6th International Integrity and Plagiarism Conference

From 16th to 18th June I was at The Sage in Gateshead attending the 6th International Integrity and Plagiarism Conference hosted by TurnitinUK. The main themes this year were:
On-line evaluation tools and techniques
Promoting awareness in diverse cultures
Embedding institutional policy and practice
Techniques to develop student skills

Keynote Speakers
The conference started with a talk by Adrian Slater, head of legal services at Leeds University who, in a lively workshop highlighted some of the problems encountered in group work.

Then we heard from Dr Toni Sant who is part of Wikipedia and was promoting students writing articles for Wikipedia as an assignment task.

Tricia Bertram Gallant made the delegates think by suggesting we focus too much on academic integrity which makes students think that this is a skill only for the time they spend at university instead of promoting professional integrity which they will need for all their working life. She believes we fail to teach student critical thinking so they do not have the skill to make important decisions when there is a conflict of loyalties such as helping a friend who is struggling with their work against getting both into trouble for collusion or plagiarism.

Samantha Grant spoke about her documentary on the fall of Jason Blair at the New York Times explaining how a series of circumstances including 9/11 allowed him to get away with fabrication and plagiarism for as long as he did.

The final keynote was Professor Dan Ariely who explored the human capacity for self deceit. His findings indicate that peer view can carry more weight than legal considerations and gave music downloads as an example of this behaviour. He conducted an experiment where 20 mathematical questions were provided and the subject was asked to report how many they completed in 5 minutes with a financial reward for each completed question. The subjects believed they were shredding the papers (which were only shredded at the edges) and analysis proved that people routinely added 2 or 3 to the number actually completed. From this Professor Ariely concluded that we will cheat or be dishonest to the level we think we can get away with.
He points out that cheating is something we do to ourselves and can be destructive. His findings also seem to indicate that creative people are more likely to be able to convince themselves that their cheating is justified than intelligent people or risk takers.

On-line evaluation tools and techniques
Dr S. D. Sivasubramaniam School of Science and Technology, Nottingham Trent University presented his method of continuous based feedback using the originality report from Turnitin together with custom feedback to each student allowing mistakes to be highlighted and discussed thus promote learning of good practice. Dr Sivasubramaniam admits this is time consuming but feels the benefits are worth the time spent. He also concedes that this is a continual process throughout the students time at university.

Promoting awareness in diverse cultures
Esme Anderson from Edinburgh University presented some work she had done with Dr Frank Mill on trying to detect plagiarism in 3D CAD work using shape similarity and some open source software called NodeXL. While this does seem to highlight students of concern it is far from easy and not yet reliable enough to be used on a regular basis.

Dr Mehmet Şahin et al. from Izmir University of Economics, Turkey presented their findings on the level of plagiarism in translated versions of Robinson Crusoe. There is a great deal of money to be made from translated books in Turkey and the conclusions of this study where that only 20% of the translations available were genuine. They found many translations were attributed to people who could not be traced.

Embedding institutional policy and practice
Stephanie Jameson and Frances Chapman discussed the implementation at Leeds Metropolitan University of Jude Carroll’s recommendations for a holistic institutional approach to academic integrity policy and practice. In order to have a consistent approach across the whole university they have:

  • academic integrity officers
  • a university panel to decide the penalties for misconduct
  • introduce a tariff of penalties which are made public to students

Annamarie McKie introduced an interesting theory by suggesting academic integrity was ‘Troublesome Knowledge’ as identified by Meyer and Land. She works for the University for the Creative Arts and in these courses borrowing of images is encouraged. She reinforced the message that you need to educate students as to why you should avoid plagiarism and this integrity message needs to be repeated throughout the time at university.

Simon et al from Newcastle University, Australia talked about how good a fit an institutional academic integrity policy was with non-textual assessments such as computer code and concluded that there is ‘no one size fits all’ policy.

Dr Tracey Bretag presented her work with the Australian Exemplary Academic Integrity Project which seeks to embed the five core elements for a policy:

  • Access: A policy which is easy to locate, read and which is concise and understandable to all.
  • Approach: A statement of purpose which should, ideally, not be punitive.
  • Responsibility: Every stakeholder is responsible for the implementation of the policy.
  • Detail: Extensive descriptions of breaches, likely outcomes and the processes followed.
  • Support: Systems embedded to enable the implementation of the policy.

This work resulted in the production of The Academic Integrity Toolkit ( as a guide to developing an Academic Integrity policy (aimed at Australian HE initially). The lessons for UK Higher Education are:

  • Use data already collected to inform policy.
  • Appoint champions from all stakeholders (management, academics, students, those outside the university).
  • Introduce a robust decision making process.
  • Keep records for evaluation purposes.

Techniques to develop student skills
Deryck Payne from the Institute of Technology in Dublin spoke of the social norm perspective on academic cheating. He proposed that the main influence in the decision to cheat is above all else the risk of being caught. Information campaigns do not address the cause of cheating and tend to be short lived in their effectiveness. Awareness campaigns also fail and can be counter-productive. His study looked at the causes and determined that misconception was at the root of cheating. Students know when cheating takes place and perceive this behaviour to be typical even when it is not. Students then adjust their behaviour to conform to this misconception. In view of this, intervention was targeted at specific groups using workshops and on-line courses. A strategy was implemented with goals and anticipated outcomes made clear.

Open Themes
Ann Rogerson from the University of Wollongong, Australia talked about the prevalence of essay mill and file swapping sites on the internet today and the problems associated with spotting work submitted by students from such sites. She suggested that sharing is the norm for students who are used to bartering and re-purposing material. Spotting work from essay mills is not easy but there are some clues which can give it away such as:

  • differences in spoken and written English
  • a very generic response to the question
  • references misrepresented, made up or non-existent
  • discussing the essay with the student to determine understanding

Turnitin was not a reliable indicator of purchased essays, although a zero match should set alarm bells ringing.

Conference details can be found at


Digicon Dublin

Today I attended the digicon pre-conference blackboard workshop in a very sunny Dublin. I thought I’d take a few minutes to go through the notes that I’ve made today to reflect on some of the key points and take home messages.

The workshop was obviously looking at digital content in its various guises, both text, interactivities and video, and there were a series of presentations on this from both blackboard and software reps.

Kate Worlock from Outsell wphoto 1ho outlined a report on the current use and uptake of digital textbooks as well as putting forward her vision of what digital content would look like in 2020. Her current reports stated very clearly that ‘Print is not dead’ and the need for a duality of systems with print living alongside the digital. She suggested that students prefer print using this as what she described as a “safety blanket” something familiar but when exposed to digital version of the same items they did slowly move away from this dependence. This point was echoed by Jenni Evans later in the day, however both also pointed out that students have developed working practices that involve working with print medium such as annotation and are reluctant to give this up.

Kate stressed the importance that digital content must deliver more than its print predecessor in challenging times as many believe that digital content ‘should be cheaper than the print version’ in her presentation though she shared the finding that ‘students were not yet taking advantage of the additional features’. One final interesting point from Kate was that staff were also not exploiting potential for digital media, as reliance on ‘old faithful’ textbooks was less time consuming that finding, vetting and maintaining the use of open content.


Another interesting pphoto 4resentations were given from Sam Weber who put forward a thoughtful piece on how students engage with learning materials using an effective example of anatomy from a static textbook to a range of interactive online resources to promote deep learning rather than rote memorisation. He also discussed staff making the corresponding progression from users who simply upload content to the VLE to users who will build material for open online content. For me, one of the most interesting things that Sam suggested in his talk was that ‘Content was commodity’ and that the real value is in what staff build around the content. I think this echoes much of what students see as the ‘added value’ provided by interactivity and engagement with staff.


One presentation from the day that caused most discussion was given by Alice Duijser, who demonstrated learn smart ‘adaptive study tool that continually adapts to a student using continual assessment the tool is designed to track a students performance throughout a course and provide material at the point of need, for instance she cited Ebbinghaus (1885) ‘Curve of Forgetting’ as an example of how revision content would be released at certain points in time to support a student in transferring material from short to long term memory. This would be an incredibly useful tool in students getting the fundamentals of a subject but may have limitations in terms of supporting deep and higher order skills as at first glance it doesn’t facilitate interactivity with staff and peers. However it was a presentation that prompted a number of questions in the audience and  a lively debated that spilled over into the break.

So all in all, a very interesting first day in Dublin. Digital content in all its various formats and how staff and students engage and use this is a thought provoking area and today has definitely given me some ideas to take back.

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Plagiarism Education Week (21-25 April 2014)

Plagiarism Education Week is happening again this year from 21st to 25th April.

The theme is “From Copying to Critical Thinking” and is covered in a series of free webcasts.

Turnitin says:

“Plagiarism Education Week returns for its second annual virtual conference from April 21-25. Join us for a week of free, daily webcasts devoted to sharing ideas and best practices to teach educators and students how to move from copying to critical thinking. Certificates of Participation are provided, and we have a few special giveaways!”

More details and links to register for any of the webinars can be found at Plagiarism Education Week.

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Use of iPads at South Tyneside College

South Tyneside College - iTunesUOn Thursday, 27 February, Malcolm Murray and I visited Ralph Holland at South Tyneside College.  Ralph had recently presented at the Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference on how this FE College had gone from being a previous Blackboard User to a Moodle User and then to exploring how to use iPads with Course Manager tools to deliver materials to students via iBooks.

They had recently purchased a number of mini iPads and had them stored in lockable storage units within several central learning hubs. One small cohort of students had been given iPads to take off campus as an experiment to see if this posed any issues for the College. When a class was scheduled the students went and picked up a 16GB ‘Wifi Only’ Mini iPad from the storage unit.  Preloaded were designated Apps to provide additional functionality such as Socrative to allow voting system opportunities, iBooks to read course materials, Showbie to deliver assessment back to the teacher and to receive feedback on it etc.  Course specific apps were also purchased to complement the teaching on certain courses.

The teacher could use Apple’s ‘Air Drop’ system to quickly upload and share their iPad on 60″ TV screens controlled by Apple TV.  With a pin code the students were also allowed to share their screens with the rest of the class.

It was very interesting to see how South Tyneside College were looking to the future by providing specific devices to students.   As a solution for Durham, however, it would be difficult to upscale this up for the numbers of students we have but it was interesting to see how it could be used for distance learners etc or specific courses where students are off campus.  Also interesting to see how iPads could be used by lecturers in teaching rooms equipped with Apple TV and screens thus removing the need for Whiteboards.






Uploading papers to Turnitin using Internet Explorer on NPCS (Open Access) machines

At present there is a problem with the settings on Internet Explorer (the browser set on open access machines) which is preventing Turnitin working correctly.

Students are able to use View/Complete to access the assignment and click the submit button but then there is extra material visible on the screen and all the buttons are inactive.

Students are able to change a setting in Internet Explorer to make Turnitin work for their session but once they log out of the machine the setting will revert back to the original setting. This means the setting has to be changed every time you log onto the machine.

To do this open Internet Explorer and click Tools at the top of the screen.

From the drop down menu select Compatibility View settings.

Remove the tick from the box beside Display intranet sites in Compatibility View and click Close. (See video below for details of how the problem can be identified and the steps described here to take to put it right.)  You should now be able to upload your paper without any problem.

Click here to view the video: Changing IE compatabililty setting

If problems do still exist try using Firefox as the browser.  This can be accessed from the ‘Start’ menu, then ‘All Programs’ and then ‘Web Tools’. Click on the Firefox option and once it opens up a web browser, go to duo and try to submit your assignment.

We do not at this time have any students reporting problems uploading papers from their own machines.


If you use an iPad to mark papers please read this important information

An instance of marking being lost using the iPad Turnitin mobile application has been reported.

It seems the application was unable to connect back to the server even though access to email and web sites was unaffected.

In an attempt to correct this the user changed the iPad settings which resulted in the marking stored on the iPad being deleted.

To avoid loss of data we suggest that you connect to the internet more regularly if possible.

Turnitin are aware of this issue and will place a warning within the app in the future but this may well take some weeks.