We’re pretty thrilled to offer an online discussion platform that makes it easier for students to create the kinds of social relationships that help them stay engaged with each other and with course materials. And today, instructors are finding new and innovative ways to use discussion platforms like Harmonize in the online classrooms. The weekly check-in has evolved into a sophisticated series of class assignments that can range from the informal, to assigned topics, to graded discussion.
As discussion board posts take on more significance, instructors are increasingly turning to software to monitor student submissions for integrity and authenticity. Students are as likely to be confused about what constitutes original work on a discussion board as they are when submitting a more formal assignment. Indeed, for some students, the informality of the discussion board can be perplexing, even though most instructors provide clear guidelines about what and how to post.
Most institutions provide a plagiarism detection tool, but applying it to discussion board submissions has proven tricky—to say the least. Most instructors are copying and pasting student submissions into the provided software tool, which can be a time-consuming work-around.
Harmonize now offers built-in access to industry-leading similarity-checking software for student work, including discussion posts. It allows instructors to flag potential problems early and engage in more discussions with students about originality, authenticity, trust, and integrity.
And while similarity-checking software is a useful tool, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Remember these guiding principles apply to discussion board activity as well as to more “traditional” classroom assignments:
Make sure students understand what constitutes plagiarism. Bowdoin College provides a good summary with examples
Be clear about how and when you expect your students to use citations in assignments.
When you’re discussing the “how” of academic citation, don’t forget to mention the “when.” Students might not realize they need to cite the ideas of others even in their online discussions.
Give students control.
We get it. Rules are important. And we understand the importance of a consistent grading rubric. But find ways to give your students some control over what they’re being asked to produce. The more relevant the assignment, the more engaged they will be. And the less likely to go looking for what someone else thinks…
Understand why your students might have plagiarized.
They might not really understand the collaborative nature of learning. Here’s a quick read from Phi Delta Kappan to help you sort it out.
And since we’re talking about collaboration…
Help students understand that trust is a big part of any classroom.
That’s especially true in the online classroom where social cues can be so easily misconstrued. If students feel that their ideas are respected, they will be more likely to engage more deeply in the learning task at hand.