Online Blogucation

Live from Pearson Cite 2012!

This is Rob Kadel, your on-the-scene reporter, coming to you live from the site of Cite! This is the Pearson Cite 2012 Conference, being held at the J.W. Marriott Grande Lakes in Orland, April 10-13. Distinguished lecturers and speakers, presenters from some 65 Pearson Education Partners, 500 attendees, and 200 Pearson employees have gathered together for four days of discussions and collaborations on online learning. And we’re loving it.

On Tuesday afternoon, Cite opened with a special, fun treat – an iBand composed of several Pearson employees (yours truly included) playing a medley of songs all from our iPhone and iPad instruments. Silly, yes, but we enjoyed getting the crowd revved up for the conference.

The highlight that afternoon, of course, was an excellent keynote presentation by Dr. Mark Milliron, and author and educational technology consultant currently working with Western Governors University. Dr. Milliron discussed technology as a solution toward increase college enrollments and matriculation, especially among those living in low-income households who need education to break out of the cycle of poverty. But he also challenged us to go further in our thinking, to recognize that simply fitting new technology into an old mold of education may not be the most effective way to deliver learning. We need new ideas about the actual structure of the educational experience to take advantage of technological tools and reach the students who need education the most.

With concurrent sessions focused on everything from mobile learning to assessment and analytics, there was no shortage of discussions around the trends in online higher education. Student want information not only when they need it, but also where they need it. And institutions are getting into a groove now recognizing the potential for data not only to describe their current students, but to prescribe new directions for future cohorts. Dr. Marilee Bresciani’s keynote address on Wednesday took such discussions further to show us how outcomes-based assessment can help to identify where true creativity and critical thinking are taking place.

On Thursday morning, Dr. John Medina treated us to a keynote presentation entitled Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Dr. Medina presented us with neurological research on how our brains actually process information as we learn and what the critical points are in instruction to ensure that students learn.

Dr. Medina Wows the Crowd at Pearson Cite 2012

Overall, it’s been a great conference and a great experience. I’m already looking forward to Pearson Cite 2013 in Chicago! (Look for additional information here in the coming months.) I hope to see you there!

Rob Kadel, Ph.D.
Academic Training & Consulting Manager


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Rinse Then Repeat: The Lost Secret to Preventing Plagiarism defines plagiarism as an act of fraud. “It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward.” As we read what is contained in this definition, it is evident why plagiarism is such a very huge issue. Acts of plagiarism can lead to expulsion, suspension and even job termination for some. These are very strong outcomes for something that can be committed by accident.

What else can be offered about plagiarism that has not already been said? How much more can instructors and administrators hold student’s feet to the fire of academic mandates that suggests, “Here are the rules, you must play by them lest we hammer thou into the ground.” This was the tone of my graduate school “writing workshop orientation;” a mandatory session that left me with the sense that I could potentially find myself in serious trouble for my writing without even knowing what I did wrong.

As I progressed through the ranks of student to higher education instructor (now since 2004) it became crystal clear that institutions come by their rigid posture against plagiarism honestly. From having to contend with the likes of paper millers such as Ed Dante (a pseudo name for The Shadow Scholar), to the department chair who orders faculty to leave their students alone when they are caught in the web of plagiarism and should rightfully be held to the school and department standards of conduct. Perhaps more can be done to actively assist students how not to plagiarize, innocently or otherwise.

At Pearson’s eTeaching Institute, we often hear faculty who take our Web-based courses on special topics related to designing and teaching online, express concerns about preventing cheating. In such cases, we advise a more proactive approach by asking future online instructors to consider, “how they can encourage honesty in coursework,” as a way to preempt academic dishonesty. We believe this and more is a good position to take. In addition, I propose that a shared sense of partnership between students, faculty and administration is a proactive step in the right direction to prevent plagiarism. After all, if we are going to maintain tight control with rigid anti-plagiarism mandates in place then, the least we can do is to move a bit closer in the direction of, “here are the rules, you must play by them AND I am going to help you.” goes on to suggest that by giving proper authorship credit, we can avoid plagiarism. However, writing a good paper which avoids plagiarism involves much more than citing. If citing sources is all that is needed then why is the practice of plagiarism such a huge issue demanding large expenditures of academic energy and resources to prevent and detect and punish students for committing the act? Are students receiving enough “hands-on” resources and training to assist them with preventing plagiarism outside of doling out the building number, address or web site to the writing lab? Perhaps more of a sense of partnership with students is one way to help accomplish the goal.

Having evaluated many papers from undergraduate and graduate students over the past eight years; some replete with word-for-word transcripts from Wikipedia including links to the plagiarized content listed as the source, I decided to try tactics different from the usual, “don’t you dare.” The first task in all of this was to focus on that sense of partnership with my students, which I have hawked about previously. I decided to view plagiarism prevention as a shared responsibility that included some very positive and attainable steps students could take to prevent these acts. After all, if we are to hold them to the standards of our plagiarism deterrence tactics then, the least we can do is show them how not to plagiarize; and not necessarily in a one-time event or a syllabus policy or student handbook they may never read in the first place.

Could a more direct approach and (repeated) conversation be appropriate, followed by some very non-threatening steps on how to avoid plagiarism? Should we institutionalize methodologies that suggest to our charges that we recognize the temptation to take dishonest shortcuts then demonstrate that it is possible and relatively easy to avoid acts of plagiarism? After arriving at, “I need to do this without making a part-time job out of it,” I developed my mini-lecture, a cliff note of sorts, which included some very critical but important steps to avoiding plagiarism.

The first step in my brief tutorial to students is to make sure they understand what plagiarism is and its consequences. In our August 2010 Online Blogucation entry, my colleague, Dr. Jennifer Golightly noted that instructors should present clear and understandable statements about, “what plagiarism is, how it’s defined, and what the consequences for committing it are.” This is a first and critical step in the process of deterring plagiarism. I also believe that when delivered with a message of partnership, assistance and other measures that Jennifer discussed, we would likely assist more students from committing plagiarism. Next, I encourage students to:

Decide what their argument or premise of the paper will be. This may be assigned but sometimes not.
• Find time to read journal articles or other sources which supports the work. This is a requirement.
• Properly summarize and paraphrase sources. This does not mean changing a word here or there.
Quote sources sparingly using proper punctuation; another mandate.
• Deliberately cite sources within the body of the offering. This will give credibility to the work.
Reference sources by using a properly formatted works cited or reference page.
• Rinse then repeat. Perform these steps throughout the entire paper.

The session takes about fifteen minutes depending on Q & A and I wrap things up by reiterating my commitment to their academic success (as they should too) and that they should ask me for assistance when needed. Again, it takes much more than the steps above to write a good paper but it’s a start.

Practices to prevent plagiarism may seem harsh to students who find themselves caught in the snare of the deed. However, they are necessary and should be refined based on our experiences with the problem. Many institutions see the wisdom of ranking punishment based on the severity and number of offenses. Some schools employ student tutorials as a proactive measure. Others, keep a pile of lopped off heads in the back of the school. Not a first choice in my book.

Where needed, faculty and administrators should ramp-up their efforts to be partners in their students’ academic success to the extent that we present regular reminders and brief ‘how to sessions’ on avoiding plagiarism. Additionally, we should find creative and cost effective ways to assist students to make better decisions such as instilling a sense of partnership, more orientation and training aimed at preventing plagiarism before our students find themselves in really big trouble. The result could save valuable time for faculty and administrators then, schools can plant a nice flower bed where those heads are kept.

Do you have creative ideas about assisting students with preventing plagiarism? What do you think about an online student discussion forum with assignment endpoints addressing how not to plagiarize? What would be the benefit? Post your comments and suggestions in the space below.

Other Resources:
Best Practices to Promote Academic Integrity in Online Learning

Ralph Kennedy, MSW
Academic Trainer & Consultant


Hallmark #6: Qualified Faculty & Effective Faculty Support

Of the 9 Hallmarks that we’ve been discussing over the past few weeks, this one is perhaps one of the most obvious yet challenging. I am often reminded of a lesson I learned when working at a grocery store in my teenage years. I was asked to stack 20-lb. bags of potatoes on a lower shelf, and so I just started piling them on. Before I knew it, they were sliding and falling off the shelf. My supervisor came over to me to help. He said, “How do you build a house? Begin with a solid foundation.” He then proceeded to stack the bags of potatoes in long rows, side-by-side, packing them so that each additional bag supported the weight of previous bags. Problem solved. (This may seem obvious to us “grown-ups,” but hey, I was a teenager!)

The same concept rings true when building and maintaining an online program — build a solid foundation. And in this case, that solid foundation consists of quality faculty members who are sufficiently trained and supported to do what they need to deliver learning experiences that meet all students’ needs.

Now, a bit of background — Hallmark #6 reads as follows, from the The Middle States Commission on Higher Education’s (MSCHE) Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education Programs (Online Learning):

Faculty responsible for delivering the online learning curricula and evaluating the students’ success in achieving the online learning goals are appropriately qualified and effectively supported.

MSCHE provides six points by which institutions can provide evidence that they are meeting this hallmark. Let’s break these down one at a time.

  • Online learning faculties are carefully selected, appropriately trained, frequently evaluated, and are marked by an acceptable level of turnover

Hopefully, this is already happening in any institution’s on-ground program, and so applying the same principles here should be relatively easy. However, one must also consider the “appropriately trained” part of the statement. (See below, also.) It is not enough simply to know how to teach, nor is it enough to know how to use a Learning Management System. Knowing how to teach online is the key here. There are different methods for engaging students in online courses than there are in on-ground courses. Take the lecture, for example. Many on-ground instructors still stick to the time-honored 45-minute lecture format. However, video recording that same 45-minute lecture and presenting it in a sit-n-get format in the LMS is a quick way to turn students into zombies who would rather do anything other than watch an instructor drone on. Even the most exuberant of instructors loses something in the conversion from live to video. It’s important to acknowledge that we must train our online instructors on not only the appropriate use of video but also the whole host of methods for engaging students in the online world.

  • The institution’s training program for online learning faculty is periodic, incorporates tested good practices in online learning pedagogy, and ensures competency with the range of software products used by the institution

Clearly, this point follows directly from that above. A good framework to bear in mind when developing training for faculty is Mishra and Koehler’s (2006) “TPACK” or Technological-Pedagogical Content Knowledge. The authors ground their research in Shulman’s (1986) Pedagogical Content Knowledge. Shulman argues that teaching teachers how to teach (pedagogy) should not be separated from the content that they are teaching. To use a trite example, teaching one group of instructors how to lead discussions in a history course is different from teaching another group of instructors how to lead discussions in a biology course. Mishra and Koehler add to this by saying that learning to teach with technology — and specifically, in this case, online — also should not be separated either from the pedagogy or the content. TPACK is at the center of the convergence of three circles: technology; pedagogy; and content. By covering all three bases, we can meet this second point.

  • Faculty are proficient and effectively supported in using the course management system

If we meet the above two points regarding training, we’ve won half of this battle. The key here is support. It is not enough just to give faculty one training on the LMS and say, “Go forth and conquer!” An effective training program will include ongoing support, not just for technical question (i.e., a Help Desk) but also for questions around instructional design and best practices. Technology is ever-changing; therefore knowledgeable support staff who are up-to-date with new technological tools and systems are required for maximum faculty effectiveness.

  • The office or persons responsible for online learning training programs are clearly identified and have the competencies to accomplish the tasks, including knowledge of the specialized resources and technical support available to support course development and delivery

This point is fairly straightforward, and I interpret this to mean that having a few go-to faculty super users is not enough to be considered a “training program.” Unfortunately, this happens often at smaller schools that do not have the budget to run their own training program. Fortunately, Pearson eCollege has the Academic Training & Consulting team, who can be engaged on an as-needed basis for training as well as the faculty instructional support discussed above.

  • Faculty members engaged in online learning share in the mission and goals of the institution and its programs and are provided the opportunities to contribute to the broader activities of the institution

While this point may sound a little too general to be implemented accurately, it is fairly straightforward: keep faculty in the loop. Too often, institutions with online programs — especially those that use a lot of adjunct instructors — simply put their faculty in front of computers and have them teach. But there is no broader context as to why they should teach for this institution, why they should teach online, what principles of the institution are important within all courses (online or otherwise), etc. Therefore, a structured communication system, be it via email distribution list, newsletter, or whatever, is required and indeed useful to make sure that all faculty are a part of the institution and serve to meet the institution’s mission and goals.

  • Students express satisfaction with the quality of the instruction provided by online learning faculty members.

Regarding this final point, the reader can probably see that it addresses the value of student evaluations of instructors and ensures that the data from these evaluations actually matter. Like Brian McKay Epp’s previous blog post about formative and summative evaluations of student work, it is important to have both formative and summative evaluation of instructors’ abilities to teach online. Insofar as formative data are used to reflect proficiencies and deficiencies in instruction, the information can be used to tailor training programs that meet individual instructors’ needs.

In sum, Hallmark #6 is a valuable and well-thought-out list of measures that ensures that faculty are ready to be the solid foundation of your online learning program. Pearson eCollege’s Academic Training & Consulting team is ready to help your institution meet this hallmark!

Works Cited

Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). (2011, February). Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education Programs (Online Learning). Retrieved Aug. 4, 2011 from

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record 108 (6), 1017-1054.

Shulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4 - 14.

Rob Kadel, Ph.D. | Training & Pedagogy Group, Academic Training & Consulting | Pearson eCollege


A Couple of My Favorite Things – Digital Research Tools

Recent months have found me once again in the position of being both a professional consultant/trainer as well as a formal student. There are a number of things that happen naturally when you’re in this situation. First, you really do get to see the student and teacher side of the educational coin. (And if you’re anything like me, you sometimes find yourself at odds with yourself depending upon what hat you’re wearing.) For me the balance of the two views keeps my thoughts fresh and honest. Second, your conversations with fellow students and fellow professional peers mix and overlap. I love when this happens as it sparks additional and better thoughts as the conversations reverberate around my mind. (Granted, my mixed thoughts may be confusing for those listening to me.) And third, the amount of research that you’re working on in any given day can be relatively high. From my experience, research is also becoming more and more digital.  As I’ve nestled into my own research habits I’ve settled (for the time being) on a couple of free/freemium tools that work really well for me.

I’ve found that my research is almost always split between sources that are purely online (blogs, articles, occasional papers) and sources that are offline (ebooks, etextbooks, full-text PDFs from my research library databases). Ideally, I wanted to find a solution that allowed me to manage all sources in one interface. However, in order to get all the features I was looking for; I had to settle on one tool for each arena. The top features I looked for in a research tool were the abilities to archive, annotate, tag, make notes, search (the full text, tags & notes) and be able to access all this from where ever I might have my computer. 

For online sources, Diigo quickly became my favorite. Diigo is a freemium service that provides a tool for just about any web browser or device that you might be using to view internet. Chrome is my favorite browser and the extension that Diigo provides allows me to highlight the text of a website, add ‘sticky notes’, bookmark the site with tags and a description and archive all that information with a cached version of the site in case the site ever goes away. 

Highlighting a website with Diigo Chrome Extension

Highlighting a website with Diigo Chrome Extension

In my opinion the biggest advantage of Diigo is that it syncs all of my sites, annotations, etc. (no matter what device or browser I use to originate them) to a personal online library. In that library I can search all of my information and I can choose to share it with others. Groups allow me to collaborate with my peers on a research topic and a List is a nice way to share a discrete collection of sites around a particular topic. Either can be made public or by invite only. Things that I wish Diigo did, but doesn’t yet? Provide a way to keep a bibliography and insert citations into my documents (or at least generate them). Include other document types like PDFs, Word documents. 

For offline sources, I’ve landed on using Barnes & Noble’s Nookstudy application. You might have noticed that Barnes & Noble has created a small suite of applications for reading digital literature that can be used on devices other than their Nook. Nookstudy is an additional application that B&N provides for free that is specifically created for academic use. (It’s currently only available for PC and Mac, perhaps due to keyboard use in notes.) It is basically an e-literature (ebook, emagazine, enewspaper, etextbook) and PDF reader that allows you to add notes and highlighting. A few other nice features are that you can search the full text of the documents, link annotations to other annotations, and lookup words and phrases with, Google, Wikipedia, Wolfram Alpha or YouTube. Like Diigo, when you sign in with a free B&N account, Nookstudy will sync your information across devices and within your B&N library. (This can include any e-literature you may have purchased or downloaded for free from B&N.) 

Annotation in Nookstudy

Annotation in Nookstudy

The things I appreciate most about the application are the ability to a) organize the e-literature in collections (or courses for students), b) open more than one document at a time so that I can quickly tab between them, c) search my notes and tags and d) jump to the location of a annotated piece of text my simply clicking on the link in the notes catalog.  Things that I wish Nookstudy did but doesn’t yet? Allow me to search across all my notes, tags and full text of my e-literature instead of just within a single document. And, like Diigo, I wish that it provided tools for bibliography and citation generation. 

I know that in academia there is often frustration when an online tool is adopted and integrated into systems and daily life only to disappear 18 months later. But, unlike many Web2.0 tools that have come and gone, I’m confident that these two are going to stick around for a while. Barnes & Noble has shown with software, devices and content that they are invested in e-literature. Diigo is a small but diverse team with roots in academia who want Diigo to succeed for the same reason I would like to see it succeed: “to discover, process, manage, and share online information more productively and effectively”. 

Naturally, I’ll continue my search for an ideal research tool, but I’d love to hear from those of you who might be using other tools. Some of the other more promising tools I took a peak at during my search are Connotea, blinklist, citeulike and Zotero. Has anyone used these and if so, what do you like about them? What don’t you like? If a majority of your research does include digital assets, what other tool(s) do you use to organize your work? If most of your research is not digital, why do you think this is and do you think it is or will change? What advantages to you see in non-digital research? 

Luke Cable | Academic Trainer & Consultant 

Pearson eCollege 


Recipe For Success

A year and a half ago, my wife went in for radical, life-changing surgery.  The surgery worked and her life is altered for the better.  But an odd thing happened just before the doctors started removing organs.  I got a text message from my Dad.  While it was impressive to get a text from the 64 year old minister who flies 200,000 miles per year, that wasn’t odd.  What was odd was how he signed it.  The text simply said,

“Jeff, know that we’re all praying for you.  Please call us when you can, but know you’re in our thoughts.  LOL.”

Now, for those of you not in the know, it’s the LOL that really threw me.  So, about a week later, I was going back through my messages and I found it again.  So I asked my sister why Dad would sign a text that way.  She said that she had gotten a similar one.  Her little girl was having some dental problems and needed a root canal.  Dad sent her a text the ended the same way.  “Hope she does great…LOL”

So I called my dad and asked him why he was signing his texts that way.  He told me, “I was so moved by a text from your sister a few months back that I’ve adopted it!  She wrote me a text saying she had just seen my book on the shelf in Barnes & Noble and that I was the man…then she signed it, LOL.”  He went on to explain that the comment, “Lots of Love” was so moving, he almost cried and had been using it ever since…

The following five minutes of conversation led my father to hang up and spend two days calling and apologizing to people for “laughing out loud” at their deeply troubling problems.  My uncle’s divorce was met with LOL, a roommate from college who just lost his own father was followed up with LOL…essentially my dad had offended about 20 people in 2 months via text message!

As much as that story makes me smile, and while I hope it also makes you smile, it’s the formula for that story that is important.  I teach speech and rhetoric – I have for years.  And throughout my years, I ask students to include plenty of narrative in their speeches.  Stories make a profound difference to an audience when told right. 

But there is a problem…often they are NOT told right.  I partially blame the news.  Your local news or the newspaper has always been filled with stories, right?  WRONG!  The bastardization of that term has caused people to believe that a “report” is the same thing as a “story” – when it’s not.  Let me explain.

Typically, an article or report is about time.  It is a chronological, step by step explanation of what happened.  Can it be engaging?  Sure – but more often it’s just informational.  But a “story” is different. 

Coming from “mythos”, the idea of story is really all about plot.  And the idea is simple – the plot should create tension, keep tension, and release tension!  Let me share a quick, but simple (and effective) recipe for a story that my students try to use.

Step one is to provide an attention getter.  In my story above, my first sentence was designed to be a bit engaging.  Nothing Earth shattering, but unusual.  A hook to keep you listening.  This was followed by a very important step two – the creation of tension!  My statement about an odd text message hopefully had you wondering what exactly was odd about it.  Step three is actually the majority of the adventure.  The purpose of step three is to keep the tension building.  Hopefully you were wondering with me why in the world my dad would write such a calloused message and why he would perpetuate that message over and over.  Finally, in step four, I released you from the tension.  I explained the behavior and concluded the story. 

The formula for a good story.

The formula for a good story.

If you think about it, almost every good story today follows this formula.  This recipe can be found in prime time dramas, late night sitcoms, or blockbuster movies.  If you look at a legal show like Boston Legal, the only difference is that they use this formula five or six times per show, often leaving the tension for a few storylines so as to bring you back next week.

So, as you consider creating content for your course…heck, as you consider your course in general!  Think about this formula.  Do you tell stories that create tension, hold tension, and release tension?  On a bigger scale, does your course grab students from week one and build the tension until week 15 when they say, “A-ha!”  Of course there are mini-gestalt moments along the way, but if you use this formula correctly…your students will be clamoring for more week after week! 

So, whether it’s an individual narrative, a discussion illustration, a lecture, or an entire course, think about this “recipe for success” the next time you want to really engage your students.  I think you’ll like the results.

Good luck and good teaching.
Jeff D Borden, M.A.
Senior Director of Teaching & Learning


Motivation Mojo

Springtime has finally sprung here in beautiful, sunny Colorado and has begun to work it's magic. As is often the case here, March brought with it both a fair share of snow and sunshine. I don't know about you, but just making it through the bleakness of winter and coming into the brilliance of spring always invigorates me; brings back those desires to get out and do something: hike the Rockies, baseball with the kids, build something, picnic, road trip, walk at sunset. I swear that there must be something intrinsic in the springtime sun that infuses me with renewed motivation.


For me, the return of spring often triggers more reflection than the start of the New Year. This spring, I've begun to ponder what is it that truly motivates me? What motivates my family? What motivates my team at work? What motivates our students? What motivates our educational institutions? And to those questions, what part am I playing in the motivation of those around me? Am I de-motivating them or helping them find their motivation mojo?


As it turns out, just this Monday I had the good fortune to be able to listen in on an hour long presentation and QA session with author and speaker Daniel H. Pink. Perhaps you've already had the chance to read his book A While New Mind or see him make his case at TED, but Monday was my first opportunity hear Pink speak live about the assertions he makes in his newest book Drive regarding the truth about what motivates people. I think that Pink's 'Cocktail Party Summary' (p. 203) really frames his assertions well:
When it comes to motivation, there's a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system-which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators-doesn't work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: (1) Autonomy-the desire to direct our own lives; (2) Mastery-the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and (3) Purpose-the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

In reading Drive, listening to Pink and watching some of his interviews, I think one can see that Pink's assertions, if true, are calling for strong paradigm and culture change. They're saying that: rewards and consequences are insufficient motivators for creating a environment where the complex, creative and often counter-intuitive problems of our day can be solved; but the combination of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose (AMP) does produce an environment of motivation mojo where people perform at their highest levels.

Would you agree? Do you think that Pink's assertions are true? If they are true, are we as educators preparing our students to work in an AMP environment? Are we providing environments of learning that practice AMP? Should we be?


A part of me wants to say "Yes, we should be." We should be because, as a person, I am (and we all are) more than a response to external forces that motivate me to move or act one way versus another. And yet, when reflecting, I also see that something as simple as Colorado springtime can motivate me. The answers are never simple and they are rarely completely one thing and none of the other. 


If nothing else, Pink's assertions are the beginning of a good conversation, journey, discovery. So, what do you think? What would you conclude? Is there more to business and education than simple "if-then" rewards and consequences? Could you foresee benefits of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose in your programs and in your courses?

Luke Cable | Pearson eCollege | Academic Trainer & Consultant