EdTech U Open for Business on THURSDAY, JANUARY 22, in Centennial Hall Room 101

Educational Technology (EdTech) will be continuing “EdTech U” in Spring 2015. This is an opportunity for instructors to gain some hands-on assistance with any educational technology supported by EdTech.

Attending EdTech U will also enter you in a raffle, the winner of which will be drawn at the end of each semester.

Hours of Operation: 2 – 4 p.m. on Thursdays during the semester (closed for St. Pat’s and Spring Break)

Location: Centennial Hall Room 101 (next to the elevator)

Have you ever wanted to learn:

  • more about SMART Podiums and Boards in classrooms?
  • how to capture a live class lecture?
  • new ways of using clickers?
  • which tools are available in Blackboard and how to use them effectively?
  • how to make a video or screencast?
  • more about the instructional design process? Especially for online or blended courses?

Do you always forget:

  • how to upload content in a Blackboard course?
  • how to submit your grades?
  • how to copy items from one Blackboard course to another?
  • how to quickly check to see if student clickers are working?
  • how to design a course for maximum pedagogical effectiveness?

Come find the answers to these questions and much, much more! Stay for 15 minutes, or stay for an hour!

If you plan on coming to EdTech U, please bring some specific task you hope to accomplish. When you are done, you will take away a completed task (or we will at least have you well on your way to completing it!).

We will answer one question or a hundred questions! Come learn something new!

For more information, or if you have any questions you want to ask before attending EdTech U, contact Educational Technology at edtech@mst.edu.

EdTech U Prize Winner – Dr. F. Scott Miller

Congratulations to Dr. F. Scott Miller, Teaching Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, for winning a Kindle Fire HD6 for attending EdTech U in Fall 2014! Dr. Miller has been a regular customer of EdTech U and of EdTech services in general for the past several semesters.

Dr. F. Scott Miller Teaching Professor of Materials Science & Engineering

Dr. F. Scott Miller
Teaching Professor of Materials Science & Engineering

EdTech U will continue in Spring 2015, with more opportunities to win a grand prize at the end of the semester! We hope to see you there!

EdTech U is currently open on Thursdays during the semester (when school is in session, excluding holidays such as St. Pat’s and Thanksgiving) in Centennial Hall Room 102 from 2 – 4 p.m. Hours may be subject to change, so stay tuned the eConnection for updates!


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.

Blackboard Tests & Quizzes Display Issue

A number of instructors have discovered a troubling issue when students access a test or quiz in Blackboard. For lengthy written questions, the point value and “Save Answer” button will partially obscure the question (see screenshot below). This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to answer questions sometimes.


WORKAROUND: When creating Tests & Quizzes, insert one or two paragraph breaks (press ENTER once or twice) before your main question text. This will shift the text low enough so that it is not obscured by the Save Answer button. Instructors can preview the test to verify their questions will display properly for students. See below for an example of a “fixed” question:


Students are being told that if they see this problem in one of their quizzes, they can adjust the font size in the browser (using CTRL+ or CTRL-) or resizing the browser to reveal concealed text.

RESOLUTION: This issue is being caused by the current “theme” (look and feel) applied to Blackboard. The current theme is somewhat outdated according to the latest version of Blackboard (version 9.1 service pack 14). Applying a newer theme WILL fix the problem, but does look VERY different, even though the functionality is EXACTLY the same. EdTech is looking to fix this problem during the semester break.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please contact Educational Technology (573-341-4131 or edtech@mst.edu).

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.

Blackboard 9.1 Upgrading to Service Pack 14 on Friday, August 8

Blackboard 9.1 services will be upgrading to Service Pack (SP) 14 on Friday, August 8, starting at 8 a.m.

Blackboard will be unavailable for about 6 hours while the upgrade takes place.

This service pack contains several new useful features for both students and instructors.

  • The Grade Center has made a few new improvements and changes.
    • Students can change the order in which they view their graded items and can filter the list of items by All, Graded, Upcoming, and Submitted.
    • New options for setting how scores are calculated (based on their attempts) is now available when creating a test or assignment.
  • Tests now have the much-needed ability to create text exceptions based on student criteria. This is very useful for students who may have a documented disability and need more time. Or this can be used for students who need another attempt for some reason.
  • The Messages tool can now send notification to users that there are new messages to be read. Previously, the only way users knew if they had Messages was to login to Blackboard and check their personal Messages folder. (Messages is different from the built-in emailing tool inside of Blackboard.)

Educational Technology is conducting a series of workshops on August 18 – 21. The changes in Service Pack 14 will be discussed at those sessions. Visit the link below for information about these workshops:


For more information, please contact Educational Technology at 573-341-4131 or edtech@mst.edu.

Classroom Technology Walkthroughs

Are you teaching in a new classroom this semester? Do you have questions about using classroom technology? Do you want to verify that your room is set up properly for using lecture capture (Tegrity) or clickers?

The EdTech staff is here to set your mind at ease. You can schedule a classroom technology walkthrough and EdTech staff will be able to assist you with any questions you may have about using any of the equipment available to you as an S&T instructor. Have questions? We’ve got answers!

To schedule an appointment, send an email to edtech@mst.edu or call 573-341-4131 and leave a voicemail message!

Changes to Academic File Storage (course numbers) on August 1

Academic File Storage (also known more informally as the “R:\ drive” hosts a variety of content used by instructors for educational purposes. Academic File Storage is allocated based on course number, rather than by instructor. The course numbers recently have changed between Spring 2014 and Fall 2014 from a one-, two-, or three-digit number to a four-digit number for ALL courses. For instance, Freshman Engineering 10 is now Freshman Engineering 1100. These changes have already occurred in Blackboard and Joe’SS for Fall 2014. Now EdTech needs to apply this same change to the Academic File Storage system.

Changes are scheduled to take affect around August 1, 2014. Academic file storage will be UNAVAILABLE during the change window while changes are implemented.

How does this affect you?

  • The folder name will be changed to the new four digit course number. For instance:
    chem1 chem1310
    math22 math2222
    biosci110 biosci1113
    geo_eng441 geo_eng6441
  • Instructors will need to change any links that may have used the old link. This includes links that may be inside of Blackboard, Canvas, or on personal course web pages that are linking to the Academic File Storage Web folders.
  • IMPORTANT: If webpages are used to share videos, then Kaltura video streaming would be a better solution.
    • EdTech can assist with uploading videos into Kaltura for sharing with students.
    • Finished video projects should be uploaded to Kaltura for final distribution and sharing. Kaltura media streaming has many different options for sharing and is compatible with Blackboard.
    • Video projects “in progress” can still be stored in the academic file storage space while you are working on them.

If you have any questions or concerns about this process or would like some assistance from EdTech, please contact us at edtech@mst.edu or 573-341-4131.

New Respondus Password Available

Logo-RespondusS&T has renewed its campus-wide license for Respondus (test creation software) and a new license password is now available.

Instructors who use Respondus can contact the IT Help Desk (help.mst.edu or 573-341-HELP) to obtain the newest license password.

Respondus license passwords expire on July 31 of each year.

Instructors can also contact the Help Desk to obtain a copy of Respondus, which is free for all S&T instructors as long as they are affiliated with S&T.

For more information about how to use Respondus, visit EdTech’s Respondus web resources:


Zombies at Instructurecon 2014

InstructureCon-2014-249x300Last week I attended my second Instructurecon conference in beautiful Park City, Utah. While everyone at S&T was baking in the Missouri sun, I was chilling out in the mountain snow learning some really cool things that are going on in the Canvas Network.


One conference session that was particularly interesting demonstrated the use of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” to develop a MOOC course at UCIrvine. Several instructors from various areas of expertise came together to create this course very quickly. At the conclusion of the course in the fall of 2013, there were around 3,000 who earned completion certificates and around 17,000 badges collected, not bad for a MOOC.

To learn more about this course or other MOOC classes available for free on the Canvas Network, visit the course description page on the Canvas Network site at the link below.