March 2014 Site of the Month


Understanding Plagiarism

Authors: Bill Marino, Lisa Klopfer, Zuzana Tomas

Institution: Eastern Michigan University

Interviewee: Bill Marino

Interviewer: Marcia Rapchak

Tutorial Description: The Eastern Michigan Library’s Understanding Plagiarism tutorial provides information about plagiarism through everyday examples and situations. The tutorial is divided into three sections: Toward an Understanding, which covers some common myths about plagiarism; Plagiarism in Context, which includes cases of plagiarism in popular culture; and Plagiarism in the Academy, which focuses on plagiarism as it may appear in classwork. The tutorial is easy to navigate, and each section includes assessment questions and opportunities for students to reflect on the concepts covered.
Q: What inspired you to develop the Understanding Plagiarism tutorial, and who is your intended audience?
A: A number of factors inspired the tutorial’s development. Upon my arrival at Eastern Michigan University, Lisa (Klopfer) and I worked together on creating a plagiarism LibGuide for educators, highlighting the need for a pedagogical approach, not always a punitive approach, to the problem. During this time, I was introduced to the writings of Rebecca Moore Howard, which highlight the multiple facets of plagiarism as well as the confusion that is caused among students by traditional means of presentation—plagiarism is seen as an academic sin that must be mechanically avoided whether or not they have any context for understanding. Finally, an early morning instruction session (8:30am) in which I had to keep a group of 25 student athletes engaged in an hour-long discussion on plagiarism had a profound influence; I tried out what was to become the “Towards an Understanding” lesson and had one of my best instruction sessions to-date. The basic scaffolding for the tutorial was adapted from this face-to-face instruction session, which underwent many revisions. I had always thought of converting it to an online format, but was spurred on after sharing this lesson with colleagues at the ACRL Immersion Teaching Track in the summer of 2012, where it was well-received and actually repurposed for other institutions. 
The tutorial is primarily intended for entry-level undergraduate students.
Q: What was the process of creating the content and three-section structure of the tutorial, and who was involved in that process? What roles did they play or what skills or talents did they contribute to the process?
A: As anyone who has ever converted a face-to-face class for online delivery can tell you, it is never as easy as expected. Going into the process, I knew that there were many content holes that required plugging. I also, however, was concerned with finding a stopping point; if it was too long, it wouldn’t be realistic to expect students to complete it. 
Knowing my limitations, I enlisted Lisa Klopfer, a fellow librarian who has expertise in the pedagogy of addressing misuse of sources and whom I had worked with on LibGuides and various workshops in the past. Lisa was able to look at the draft storyboards and help shape and adjust the content, tone and examples based on her experience. Both Lisa and I work with the ESL (English as a second language) community here on campus and agreed that they should be included as a primary target audience. 
We were thrilled when Zuzana Tomas, an Assistant Professor of ESL/TESOL (English as a Second Language/Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), offered her expertise. Zuzana was able to give input from an ESL learner’s perspective, especially with choice of language, presentation of content, and the practical matter of timing speech and enunciation. Admittedly, this process was give-and-take. There are still areas where an ESL student may not understand the cultural context or require a different approach to the content, but we are in the process of brainstorming further ancillary lessons to meet these needs. 
The Library is lucky enough to have a graphic design student, Emily Driscoll, as our Graduate Assistant. Emily was able to take our requirements and use our rough ideas to shape the overall appearance and feel of the interface, giving the tutorial a more professional look. 
Finally, during the testing phase we sought feedback from other library faculty and student assistants. When some of the lessons did not have the desired effect, we completely redesigned them. The three-section structure was really a utilitarian necessity—we didn’t want lessons that were too long and we wanted to give instructors and students freedom to focus on topics that they felt were most important. For this reason, we chunked the content by learning objectives into what seemed to be logical groupings.
Q: How did you develop the learning outcomes of each section?
A: Both Lisa and I are alumni of the ACRL Immersion Teaching Track. For me, Debra Gilchrist’s coverage of developing learning outcomes was instrumental to constructing the learning outcomes of each section. Some of her key takeaways that were especially helpful include:
- First decide what the student should be able to do at the lesson’s completion and then work backwards. This allows you to stay on track and develop streamlined content. It also makes assessment activities a lot easier to develop. 
- Keep it simple. Don’t go crazy with the number of objectives and overwhelm your students. Pick the most important two or three things that students should learn and save the rest for another section or project.
- Make sure that they’re measurable—use Bloom’s action verbs—especially if you’re going to assess it.
Q: How did the other EMU Library videos inform the development of this tutorial?
A: As a library faculty, we feel that it’s important to link new content to an existing framework. Where necessary, we opted to point to existing library resources—albeit not necessarily videos. This helped us streamline both the development process and the content, keeping it focused on the lessons/objectives pertaining to plagiarism, while staying confident that students would still be able to get help with self-identified deficiencies.
Q: How did you choose the technology for this tutorial? Why did you feel like this format was the best way to deliver information on understanding plagiarism?
A: In early 2013, I listened to a webinar sponsored by the eLearning Guild that highlighted award-winning learning objects in various categories. I noticed that the majority of the winners used either Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline to develop their products. Further research showed that these were the two most popular platforms. Impressed by the products and excited to create content without coding HTML or developing Flash by hand, I immediately took this information and began to compare the options. In the end, Articulate Storyline was chosen because of the ease of development—if you have used a current version of PowerPoint, you have seen the interface. Its timesaving ability in the development stage and the lower learning curve made it the best choice for our needs. As far as format, Flash was not my first choice; I really wanted to embrace HTML5. However, Articulate publishes by default to Flash and we have had issues with HTML5 versions, especially on Apple’s mobile devices. Articulate has a third party app that allows the tutorial to run well on iPads, but iPhone support remains an issue that we’re working on.
Q: Did you work with any campus groups, students, faculty, or campus experts to create this tutorial? Why was their contribution important to your tutorial?
A: Yes. Zuzana Tomas, who co-authored this tutorial, is a faculty member in the ESL/TESOL program in the Department of World Languages. Her contributions have been crucial in attempting to reach the ESL audience. She also agreed to pilot the tutorial with her course, which meant that we were not going to develop something that would go unused. Student assistants in the library provided initial user testing and identified problems that would have otherwise gone unseen.
Q: From initial plan to final release, how long did it take to complete this tutorial? Did you follow a timeline or project plan, or did you allow the work to take as long as it needed to for a complete project?
A: The tutorial took about eight months from initial discussions to actual release. There was no set timeline and none of the authors were exclusively devoted to the project—we all had other instruction/reference duties or, in the case of our outside members, course loads and work commitments. Initial planning and storyboarding began in February of 2013 and a draft of the content was completed by the semester’s end in April. Development took place over the summer, although due to the nature of our contracts, only over a 7.5-week period in June and July. A beta version was circulated to student assistants and library faculty for feedback at the end of July. Based on this feedback, revisions took place through September and the beginning of October. The tutorial went live on October 23, 2013.
Q: What lessons did you learn from the creation of the Understanding Plagiarism tutorial?
A: First, plagiarism is a really complex issue! We like to think about it in terms of black and white, but it shifts depending on context. As with all grey areas, this makes it difficult to present adequately and accurately in a general all-purpose lesson. It’s important to begin to solicit users for the tutorial—i.e., faculty who may pilot it in their courses—early in the process. This will ensure that you are creating learning objects that will actually find use, often as assignments. It also helps by allowing faculty to give feedback and input on assessment exercises, additional content, etc. Finally, make sure that you design some sort of feedback loop. Tutorials are not set-and-forget objects. Capture assessment data that will help you evaluate and make future modifications.
Q: Did you encounter any unexpected problems or challenges as you developed the tutorial? How did you overcome those issues?
A: As mentioned earlier, HTML5 rendering did not work as expected, especially on Apple mobile devices. We are still working to overcome this issue, which appears to be linked to Mobile Safari’s handling of multiple media events.
Q: How have you been promoting the tutorial to your students and faculty?
A: Word-of-mouth marketing to faculty has been the most fruitful. The tutorial has been highlighted at a number of meetings and workshops, including as a pedagogical tool to be used in tandem with tools like Turnitin. Pilot partners (instructors in the College of Business, World Languages, Psychology, and Academic Programming), who agree to use the tutorial as an exercise/learning object in their courses, have been sought and secured.
Q: What has been the reaction to the tutorial? How is it being used in Eastern Michigan University?
A: Reaction to the tutorial has been overwhelmingly positive. Winter 2014 will mark the first semester that it is in use and, to-date, we have had instructors express interest in using the tutorial in courses within the College of Business, World Languages, Psychology, and Academic Programming (i.e., college readiness classes).
Q: There are sections of the tutorial that allow user input. Have these answers been collected for assessment, or have you assessed the effectiveness of your tutorial in some other way?
A: Yes. We are collecting general data—no identifying information is collected—for two purposes. First, it allows us to see trouble areas that warrant future resources, content modifications, etc. Next, some instructors have requested data from their classes so that they can better see their students’ perspectives on plagiarism, allowing for better structuring of in-class discussions.
Q: Do you have any recommendations or advice for someone beginning to contemplate or plan a similar project?
A: Have a good team in place. Don’t overlook expertise that students may hold. Seek departmental faculty as partners in the process and get as much feedback from outside the library as possible. Have frank discussions to work through difficult content. Test often and be prepared to make revisions.
Q: I noticed that the tutorial is licensed under a Creative Commons license. Do you know of other libraries using the tutorial?
A: At the present time, I do not know of any other libraries using the tutorial, but it is still young and we want to make sure that those who may be interested in doing so have the opportunity. If a library is using it, we’d love to get feedback from them.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
A: We’d just like to thank the ACRL Instruction Section for the opportunity to share our work with the greater library community.


March 2014 PRIMO Site of the Month

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