My first Staffordshire University Teaching and Learning Conference proved to be a useful day and a good chance for me to find out more about the digital initiatives in progress around the institution.
I presented on the benefits of hackathons and community for students, based on my previous work and observations of developments since, which I’m pleased to say are driven directly by students. I also discussed how hackathons could provide for elements of authentic assessment, an initiative which is often recommended as a solution for contract cheating.
You can see the slides used in the presentation on my SlideShare account. They are also embedded below.
The conference itself was interesting, sharing much good work going on around Staffordshire University and featuring a keynote presentation from Eric Stoller. Eric reminded the audience how useful it is for them to be active on social media and many of the great discussions taking place on Twitter to improve teaching and learning. I was glad to see one of my contributions featured in what was really a portfolio of tweets.
It seems that social media can bring a new zest to teaching and learning for even the most seasoned academic. Tony Bickley used the phrase “Twitter has changed my life” in his discussion, where he talked about all the new connections he’d made and the new ideas he’d had. There is certainly real value to developing a learning and support community outside of an internal university group.
I’ve also collected together a Storify with many of the tweets from the day.
I was invited to present some of the latest findings on contract cheating and what can be done about it to the Pedagogic Research Group at the University of Wolverhampton as part of their lunchtime seminar series. The session went well, presented to a packed and eager audience, and ran well over the scheduled one-hour slot with all of the discussion.
As well as overviewing some of the key research in the field and the subject areas being research on, I shared some of my early findings on some of my new areas of interest, including looking at the marketing profiles behind contract cheating services and the type of people who are ghostwriting and providing undue support to students. I also shared a whole host of new and recent examples within the talk.
The slides for the University of Wolverhampton talk are available for access online. These can be viewed on my SlideShare account, or you can also see the slides below.
Due to the nature of this talk, I don’t have a video version available, but I anticipate that the ideas will make it into some of my forthcoming publications and blog posts. As always, I’m also always happy to share ideas at research seminars, teaching seminars and training events around the UK (or further afield if travel funding is available).
Some of the interesting aspects on the discussion focused on the legality of essay sites (most of them are very careful to stay on the correct side of what is allowable) and the issue of translation plagiarism – not strictly contract cheating, but an area that I have explored in the past and need to do more work on.
I was also alerted about the potential for grammarly, an online grammar checker that is available for students to use to try and improve their work, being used as part of a potential marketing funnel towards students using contract cheating sources. That’s certainly a development that I need to investigate further.
As part of our research into contract cheating, we collect a lot of examples of the ways that students have tried to cheat in different subject areas and academic disciplines.
Along with Robert Clarke, I wrote a paper for the International Teaching Learning and Assessment of Databases workshop (also known as TLAD). This paper looked at contract cheating and the wider area of plagiarism as it applies to database teaching and database modules.
Although I have a broad knowledge of the plagiarism literature, I’m not a database specialist, so this paper preparation was useful as it allowed me to explore this field. Two factors immediately grabbed me. First, there’s relatively little research into technical methods of detecting plagiarism in database modules, despite this being a large part of Computer Science and other Computing degrees. Second, where there were reported figures relating to the extent of cheating in database modules, these seemed high.
You can see more about what I discovered in the slides for the talk, which can be accessed on my SlideShare account, or viewed below.
I do think that there’s a lot more to do be done regarding plagiarism research specific to database modules. Some of the techniques used for text and for source code could be converted across to work with databases. There’s also a whole area relating to assessment design that’s worth a further look.
As often happens, the verbal presentation led onto an interesting discussion about the wider areas of plagiarism and contract cheating, including a chat about how easy essay spinning is (where a piece of text can be converted into a new version through an automated process). Another discussion looked at how reliable Turnitin is for computing education. Lots of areas to continue to explore.
I attended and presented at a really useful Higher Education Academy workshop, looking at the ways in which technology is becoming embedded within teaching and learning of employability. My own presentation focused on the need for students of all academic disciplines to establish an online professional identity.
The presentation took place at the Using Learning Technologies To Develop Employability Skills Workshop, held at the University of Salford on 11 July 2013. The slides, hosted on SlideShare account for Thomas Lancaster, are included here.
I was also interested to hear of work taking place at the University of Southampton where students (largely PhD students) were taking the role of helping students to establish, build and develop their professional identities. This certainly seems like an excellent way to extend this topic beyond the bounds of the Computing academic discipline.