EdTech and CERTI present a Freshman Faculty Forum Event, “Course Design to Optimize Student Learning”, in Curtis Laws Wilson Library room 204, from 4:00PM to 5:00PM on Nov. 19th

EdTech and CERTI present a Freshman Faculty Forum Event, “Course Design to Optimize Student Learning”, to be held in Curtis Laws Wilson Library room 204, from 4:00PM to 5:00PM on Nov 19th. This event will be focused on several topics related to course design such as student learning goals, backwards design, and developing a scaffold for using Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning in the classroom. All freshman faculty are invited to attend!

Please direct any questions to Diane Hagni, CERTI coordinator, at hagnid@mst.edu or 573-341-7648.

CERTI and EdTech present a Curators’ Teaching Summit event, “Great Expectations: Bridging the Gap Between Instructor and Student Expectations”, on Wednesday Nov 12 from Noon til 1:30PM

Update: The resources (videos and web article) presented at the Curators’ Teaching Summit are now available at: edtech.mst.edu/teach/services/workshops (click the November tab).

Update: The final Curators’ Teaching Summit of 2014 was a great event! More than 40 S&T professors from all over campus got together over lunch for a series of small-table guided discussions. This session was led by a panel of Curators’ Teaching Professors, including Dr. Larry Gragg, Dr. Roger LaBoube, Dr. Venkat Samaranayake, and Dr. David Riggins. The Session was moderated by Dr. Jeff Cawlfied.

Student expectations were a primary topic; a series of short video interviews with random S&T students filmed around campus provided some insightful student perspective. As one might expect, student attitudes toward academic honesty vary widely. Some students struggle to conform to what they view as a treacherous and unfamiliar set of rules, while other students do not seem aware that academic honesty is a problem area for many of their peers.

Many instructors shared their strategies for reducing or minimizing the effects of student academic dishonesty. Frankly discussing the topic at the beginning of each new semester, clearly outlining policies and expectations, and identifying repercussions for violations is a popular strategy to address the subject head-on. Some instructors have developed grading practices to minimize the value of cheating to students, for example reducing the gradebook value of easy-to-cheat-on assignments such as take-home work.

Several instructors noted that being aware of different cultural expectations regarding the tradition of academic scholarship practices is another useful mental tool for the classroom. In the Western tradition of scholarship (Academe), there exists a codified set of cultural expectations regarding practices of citation, originality, and independent work. These expectations are not common to all cultures, and are a set of learned practices. An instructor’s ability to identify mismatched student cultural expectations on, for example, group work, is often the first step towards correcting and normalizing student efforts to be in line with the accepted practices of scholarship inside academic culture.

Finally, the subject of classroom technology was broached; while instructors interact with students on a constant basis, it can be unusual for students to be open and candid with instructors about their expectations and opinions. The short video interviews with S&T students were a breath of fresh air in that regard. So what do students have to say about classroom technology? Basically, they want their instructors to use the Learning Management System (Blackboard, in our case) to host course content. Many instructors completely ignore this resource. This is unfortunate, because students seem to crave electronic access to their grades and course materials, and they express a strong preference for more recordings of lessons, worked problems, and classroom sessions.

CERTI and EdTech will be presenting a Curators’ Teaching Summit event, “Great Expectations: Bridging the Gap Between Instructor and Student Expectations”, on Wednesday, Nov 12 in the Missouri/Ozark Room of the Havener Center. This event will be held from Noon until 1:30PM. Lunch is provided

This event will be the third and final session of the fall series. We’ll be discussing two topics brought up by faculty in earlier sessions – student/instructor expectations regarding academic integrity, and use of technology in the classroom to enhance learning.

CERTI and EdTech present a Freshman Faculty Forum event, “Do All Students Learn the Same Way?”, on Wednesday Oct 22 from 4:00PM til 5:00PM

CERTI and EdTech will be presenting a Freshman Faculty Forum event, “Do All Students Learn the Same Way?”, on Wednesday Oct 22 in Curtis Laws Wilson Library, room 204. This event will be held from 4:00PM until 5:00PM.

This event will be focused on discussing student learning styles, the concept of multiple intelligences, and examining the different types of learning styles instructors are likely to encounter “in the wild.” S&T’s own Merilee Krueger, professor of psychology, will be speaking at this event.

CERTI presents a Faculty Learning Event, “Extreme Syllabus Makeover, Part 2”, on Friday Oct 31 from Noon til 1:00PM

CERTI will be presenting a Faculty Learning Event, “Extreme Syllabus Makeover, Part 2”, on Friday Oct 31 in the Havener Center, Meramec/Gasconade room, from Noon until 1:00PM.

This event will be focused on syllabi. Bring a copy of your syllabus and join with fellow instructors for a discussion and “how-to” session on writing good learning goals and aligning assignments and assessments with learning goals. Dessert and drinks will be provided, and you are welcome to bring your lunch.

If you would like to attend this event, Please RSVP with Diane Hagni by Monday, October 27th. (hagnid@mst.edu)

Spine-tingling true stories from EdTech U:

Every week, EdTech U offers a session where instructors and students can get hands-on assistance with educational technology. These are their stories.

10/16 – An instructor was having an issue with tests and quizzes in Blackboard that use random blocks. The problem was that questions which were arrayed in random blocks were all being assigned the same point value, which was contrary to the instructor’s intentions. The fix for this issue was to use a different randomization method (Test Options > Apply Randomization) that allows for varying point values.

10/16 – An interesting issue that came up with TurningPoint and some podium computers on campus is the TurningPoint Dashboard seeming to disappear when logged in. It turns out that on a dual monitor PC, if you put the TP Dashboard on the second monitor and then log out, your roaming profile “remembers” the last location of the TP Dashboard. If you log into another dual monitor PC this is not normally a problem; however, if you log into a single monitor PC, the TP dashboard will attempt to appear in the last “remembered” spot on the second monitor, which is of course impossible on a one monitor machine. This leads to the apparent complete disappearance of the TP Dashboard. l An error like this can be very frustrating and confusing, to say the least! The fix for this issue is to place the TP Dashboard on the primary display of a dual monitor machine before logging out of that machine.

10/16 – Another TurningPoint issue was the inability to change the number value for the question timer. The instructor was able to change this value from a classroom computer, but not from a laptop computer. The problem was that the laptop computer was not running the most recent version of the Turning Point software. Updating the laptop’s installation of Turning Point to the current version,, fixed this issue.

CERTI and the Curator’s Teaching Summit presents “Great Expectations: Bridging the Gap between Instructor and Student Expectations” on October 13th

Update: As expected, the CERTI and CTS session entitled “Great Expectations: Bridging the Gap between Instructor and Student Expectations” was a great presentation! With over 40 instructors and faculty members in attendance from departments around campus, this session was a great opportunity for fellow instructors to get together and talk about teaching and learning over lunch. In several small groups, individual instructor expectations were examined, discussed, and then later compared with “man on the street” style recorded student interviews. Seasoned instructors and faculty members challenged each other to remember their own days as students, in an attempt to dispel the myth of “the golden age”, that Elysian vision of a time when students studied hard and did their homework earnestly and promptly. Sadly, such a time never seems to have really existed! Near the end of the session, instructors shared with each other their successful strategies and tools for forming realistic student expectations about the college course workload and what it takes to be a successful student.


On October 13th CERTI and the S&T Curators’ Teaching Professors will present “Great Expectations: Bridging the Gap between Instructor and Student Expectations” from Noon to 1:30PM om the Havener Center, Missouri/Ozark room. This session will explore bridging the gap between instructor and student perceptions on the topics of academic workload and technology usage. How much work do students expect to do in college? How much do their instructors expect? Where should the majority of learning occur on a college campus? What technologies enhance that learning – from a student’s viewpoint, as well as an instructor’s?

Come and join the discussion; all S&T instructors are welcome to attend!
Reservations are necessary. Please RSVP with Diane Hagni at hagnid@mst.edu or by phone at (573) 341-7648

eLearning Community of Practice presents “Course organization and social presence” on Oct. 9th

UPDATE: “Course Organization and Social Presence” was a great session! Several engaging speakers challenged sixteen of S&T’s leading instructors to think about their course organization in both face-to-face and online/distance sections. The resulting small group conversation was a mixture of stimulating food for thought and lessons from practical teaching experience across several disciplines. Later, attendees discussed strategies for increasing instructor presence and student engagement through non-traditional means such as video syllabi. Near the end of the session, video creation and sharing was discussed, along with numerous tips for producing videos intended for use in the virtual classroom. 


On October 9th CERTI and EdTech will present “Course Organization and Social Presence” from 3:00PM to 4:30PM in Curtis Laws Wilson Library, Room 204. This eLearning Community of Practice / eFellows presentation will cover how instructors can set clear expectations as they redesign their courses for blended/online learning.

Objectives for this session include:

  • Create a plan for course organization
  • Identify instructor presence
  • Identify how instructor presence might be included in your course

All S&T instructors are welcome to attend!
Please RSVP with Diane Hagni at hagnid@mst.edu or by phone at (573) 341-7648



iThenticate is now available to S&T academic researchers and publishers!

The Missouri S&T Educational Technology office is proud to support a new tool on campus called iThenticate. Brought to you by the same company behind Turnitin, iThenticate is a plagiarism prevention tool intended for use by professional academic researchers and publishers. Like Turnitin, iThenticate generates originality reports by comparing submitted work to previously published work. Unlike Turnitin—which is intended for classroom use—iThenticate is intended solely for the world of professional academic publishing. iThenticate is intended to be a formative tool which gives authors and editors the power to eliminate unintended plagiarism and improve citation practices. To that end, iThenticate searches over 100 million scholarly books, articles, and conference proceedings as well as periodicals, encyclopedias, abstracts, and over 50 billion current and archived web pages.

The primary users of iThenticate are academic researchers and publishers, including graduate and doctoral students (and their advisors!) who are writing theses or dissertations. These writers will appreciate iThenticate’s easy-to-use interface as well as several features not found in Turnitin. iThenticate allows for much longer documents to be submitted, as well as allowing for document sharing and version comparison. Unlike Turnitin, iThenticate does NOT save a copy of submitted work to a central database. This means your in-progress publication will stay confidential until it is ready for publication.

If you are a scholarly writer interested in using iThenticate, please contact the IT Help Desk to submit an iThenticate access request to the Educational Technology office; The EdTech office will get you set up and also provide a short training session, if desired. Happy writing and publishing!

Turnitin is now available to all S&T instructors!

Yes, that’s right. Turnitin, the top originality checking software, is now available for use by all S&T instructors. Turnitin has been integrated into Blackboard, and I have to say, it’s a very clean integration. There are no extra accounts to manage, and no extra passwords to remember. As an instructor, you simply set up a Turnitin Assignment, students submit work to that assignment item, and you may then view Originality Reports based on those submissions via the Blackboard Grade Center. Easy-peasy!

Naturally, being a writing instructor myself, I wanted to test Turnitin, to run it through the gamut of possible tricks, just to see if I could in fact slip a plagiarized paper past Turnitin. So far, I’ve had very limited success on that front. Turnitin is a very capable program, and the developers are well aware of the popular tricks which less-than-honest students may use to try to fool the program. So, in that spirit, I copy-pasted together a short test paper on “Academic Dishonesty”, and then used every trick I knew of or could find on the darker corners of the internet so that you could read all about it..

Some popular strategies that Turnitin easily detects are:

• The “mix it up real good” hack – Taking material verbatim from several disparate sources and “remixing” the content to create something new. Rearranging sentences, adding transitions, substituting words, none of this will truly help the quick-and-dirty plagiarist. No matter how well the content is remixed, the Turnitin algorithm immediately flags suspiciously similar content in the originality report.

• The Google Translate hack – Running plagiarized work through the Google Translate function, for example translating from English to Spanish and back to English. Turnitin does a very good job of recognizing this type of altered content.

• The Cyrillic character hack – Using Cyrillic characters which look like English language characters in order to trick the word-recognition algorithm. (The Cyrillic letters “A, Ie, Dze“, look like the English letters “a, e, s.”). Turnitin recognizes this trick immediately, and generates the same originality report as if the Cyrillic characters were not even there.

• The DOC to IMG to PDF hack – Changing a Word document to an image file, and then changing that image file to a PDF. The idea behind this trick is to create what appears to be a legitimate submission, but one that cannot be effectively scanned. This trick does not work. Turnitin will not accept a submission that does not contain a machine-readable text layer.

Strategies that “sort of” work:

• The MS Word Macro hack – Employing a macro-enabled Word document to automatically change certain characters back to a “normal” format upon opening the file (e.g. automatically changing “~a” back to “a” as the file opens in Word). The idea behind this trick is to have a difference between the machine-readable state and the human-readable state of the file. This trick will result in a similarity match of 0% due to the unique nature of the extra characters in the individual words. However, because Turnitin will not allow macros to run, the instructor will see the original file, complete with wh~atever form~atting tricks ~an ~author h~as ~attempted to use to hide their ~ac~ademic misdeeds.

• The whited-out filler character hack – Replacing all spaces in the document with a character (such as “#”) that has been set to the color white. This is another attempt at the old switcheroo, where the document appears normal but becomes more difficult for the algorithm to “read” the underlying words. This hack sort of works, in that it will reduce the amount of similarity that Turnitin is able to detect, but again, an aware instructor will likely notice some oddball spacing in the document. Additionally, Turnitin has a “text only” viewing mode that will strip out any formatting, thus#exposing#this#type#of#hack.

• The PDF layer hack – This hack is a sort of variation on the MS Word Macro hack. The PDF layer hack uses a custom character map to spoof the machine-readable text layer of a PDF document with text that appears unique due to the actual text layer being a random hash of standard and non-standard characters. The image layer remains readable and appears normal. This technique will also return a similarity match of 0%, but is easily defeated by an aware instructor. Additionally, because the underlying text layer is different, attempts to print or highlight and copy a block of text from the PDF will expose the subterfuge.

• The synonym substitution hack – Replacing every word that is possible to replace with a synonym. There are sites which will automatically do this for you, as you supply a block of text (e.g. http://www.outsmart.it). This trick will return a similarity match of 0%, but is again easily detected by an aware instructor. Automatic synonym replacement utilities do not and cannot take into account language variables such as syntax, grammatical case, tense, and number when choosing synonyms. This leads to a characteristic type of oddly stilted prose with many unusual constructions and mistakes that native speakers are highly unlikely to make.

Strategies that absolutely work:

• The “actual work” hack – This one is the easiest, or the hardest, depending on your outlook towards the writing process. One sure-fire way to “beat” Turnitin is by reading from many sources, maintaining a bibliography of all sources read, using quotations properly, paraphrasing complex ideas from these sources with appropriate citations, and adding to them with newly synthesized ideas/observations of your own. This is a great method to defeat any type of originality checking software, and one of the oldest methods around…but it’s a lot of work, and it’s the method of last resort for the truly incorrigible!

Of course that last “strategy” was written with tongue firmly in cheek. Ultimately, Turnitin is a very capable program, but it is only a tool. Instructors must, as always, be aware and use their best discretion; the effectiveness of several of the above-mentioned tricks relies almost wholly on the instructor not closely reading the student paper, and instead just blindly trusting the originality report. An important thing to keep in mind about Turnitin is that just because something is flagged as being similar doesn’t mean it has been plagiarized. Proper citations and quotations will always be flagged as similar. On the other hand, just because something is 0% similar doesn’t mean it is original. For example, a 0% similarity match means, at the very least, that the paper lacks proper citations and includes no bibliography or works cited page. A 0% match should be a huge red flag for instructors in any case.

Questions about using Turnitin? Contact Educational Technology! We’re here to help YOU.

Part 2 – Using Google Docs to Build Student Engagement and Success by Involving Students in the Rubric-Creation Process

rubrics-cubeIn this blog post I’ll discuss how to set up a Google Doc, as well as relate some classroom best practices for this type of collaborative online exercise, including how to get students started, how to constructively guide the editing session, and how to ready the finished rubric for use. (NOTE: You will need to have a Google Apps for Education account in order to use Google Drive. Instructions for syncing your S&T account with Google Apps for Education can be found here.)

First things first – Getting your class onboard with the importance of rubrics

As an instructor, your students will tend to follow your lead. They might not always be paying attention to the material, but I promise that they are keenly aware of you and how you run your class. If you consistently use rubrics for grading, peer review, and formative development of assignments, your students will quickly realize that rubrics play an important role in determining their grades. After a short while, students who have been paying attention to how you teach will begin to expect a rubric to appear with each new assignment. This is exactly what you want to happen. Most people (students included!) are looking for an advantage; when students realize that they have the chance to develop an assignment rubric and directly affect the way their assignments are graded, you’ll have the student buy-in you need to make a collaborative rubric-building session a success.

Setting up the Google Doc for use

First you’ll want to set up a blank Google Doc that will become the rubric. To begin, navigate to http://drive.google.com. Click the Create button and select “Document” from the drop-down list. This will create a new, empty Google Doc. Next, to make a rubric, you’ll need a table. Click the Insert tool, select “Table” from the drop-down list, and define an appropriate sized table for your rubric. The intended dimensions of your rubric will, of course, dictate the table size. 5×5 is a common size, but the table can always be later expanded or contracted as needed.

At this point you have created a document, but before it is ready for use the document must be shared and have full editing permissions set for users. To share the document, click the Share button in the top right-hand corner of the workspace. This will open the “Sharing settings” dialog box. Under the “Who has access” option, select the Change button, and then select the option Anyone with the link. This setting will allow anyone with the link to access the document. To allow anyone with the link to edit the document, change the Access drop-down option from “Can view” to “Can edit.”

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