EDvice Exchange

EDvice Exchange is the Center for the Advancement of Teaching‘s blog. It serves instructors in the Temple community and other institutions of higher education. This resource provides effective, research-based teaching practices for your consideration and the comments forum will enable you to engage with CAT staff and other participants.

If you teach at one of the many universities that are switching from one Learning Management System (LMS) to another or are simply pushing faculty to explore more fully what they can do with their LMS, you may be saying, “Why all the fuss?” Instructors do not need an LMS to be effective, so why bother with all of the work needed to get a good course site on the LMS up and running? Perhaps you see its usefulness as a repository of documents, but all of those other LMS features seem to be more trouble than they’re worth. Or, you see the necessity of an LMS for online courses, but you teach in a bricks-and-mortar environment, so the LMS is not crucial to the work you do with students. I get it. I’ve been teaching since the dawn of time (well, not exactly, but close) and I think I was a pretty great teacher without an LMS at my disposal. I led class discussions without a discussion board, assigned papers without a plagiarism detection tool, gave paper and pencil quizzes, and assigned group projects to students, fully expecting them to figure out how to collaborate outside of class on the project’s completion.

When I talk about my teaching, there are certain stories that I like to tell. One of my favorites is the story of two of my male students in Italian III who decided for their presentation to demonstrate how to make homemade pasta and sauce (with instructions narrated completely in Italian, of course) and then serve the completed dish to the class. By the time we had finished eating, they had received at least three offers of marriage from the women in the room. I also tell the story of the student in my Readings in Italian class who read 700+ page Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in Italian for her required free-reading when she could have chosen shorter, less complicated books. I would see her at all hours of the day with her nose in that book, just drinking in the sense of accomplishment she gained from reading it. On the other hand, I tell the story of the student who, after completing the written draft for his oral presentation, announced to me matter-of-factly that he would not be doing the actual presentation. He had done the math and figured out that he didn’t have to complete this assignment in order to pass. I was taken aback by his hubris, and his actions made me change my course policies to prevent this kind of shenanigans in the future.

Like many instructors, I’ve always included a plagiarism policy on my syllabus. For years, this was my approach to plagiarism prevention. When plagiarism detection software such as SafeAssign came along, I began to incorporate it into my assignments and often shared reports with students as a way to increase their awareness of plagiarism and hopefully further prevent it. However, not long after I began using this tool, an incident occurred that helped me realize this approach was lacking. A student submitted a 15-page final research paper, which SafeAssign identified as over 85% plagiarized. I had never experienced this extreme case of plagiarism. I was livid. After a review of the students’ plagiarism report, it was clear to me that large portions of text were copied from other sources and throughout the paper she had simply gone in and replaced individual words or portions of sentences.

I immediately called the student in for an individual meeting to discuss the paper. Together we looked at the report and I asked, “do you have any explanation for this?” The student did not. I continued to probe her, but it wasn’t until I used the term “plagiarism” that she exclaimed, “I was paraphrasing—that’s okay to do!” After we talked some more, I came to realize that this was her understanding of paraphrasing. She had always been told that paraphrasing was putting someone else’s ideas into her own words and that’s what she thought she had done. At that moment, I realized that I had had been shortsighted. While I had spent almost an entire class session reviewing MLA guidelines for in-text citations, references, and format, I had never explained the differences between paraphrasing, quoting, and plagiarism or provided examples of each. At that point, I helped the student rework a few sentences in her paper. Then, I asked her to rewrite the rest of it on her own and submit it back to me the following week.

All of us at one point or another have fallen victim to “Shiny New Toy Syndrome.” We hear about a really cool new tech toy, gadget, or app and we have to have it because it looks flashy, or is the latest and greatest fad that makes us look “hip.” But soon after we buy it, we realize that it’s not exactly what we were expecting—maybe it doesn’t work as well as promised, or maybe it’s not really so useful after all. And so, after the initial excitement wears off, it sits forgotten and unused.

Having thousands of new education technology tools and apps available, it can be easy for “Shiny New Toy Syndrome” to strike when searching for resources to use in your courses. You might think, “My students will think my class is so cool if I use this!” or “Everyone is using this tool right now, I should too!” But before grabbing the first trendy-looking tool that comes up on Google or Twitter, slow down for a moment and consider: how is this tool really going to help my students learn? Even though a fancy new tool may seem like a sure-fire way to increase student engagement, if students think that the tool is ineffective or a waste of time, it could actually lead them to be less invested in your course.


Imagine a jet plane cruising down a road. It’s possible, though a clear case of underutilization of the technology. Now take that imagery and apply it to Open Educational Resources (OER). While they are available for adoption by faculty as learning content, the full potential of OER goes underutilized. How so? At the Open Ed ’16 Conference, held November 2016, I learned how faculty are taking on that challenge and finding new ways to create and use OER.

A keynote and multiple sessions explored open pedagogy as the next frontier in achieving a culture of openness in higher education. While the majority of faculty are just beginning to discover OER, as is often the case with advances in learning and the adoption of educational technologies, we can be inspired by the experiences of early adopters. At Open Ed ’16 those pioneers shared their insights into and experience with the open pedagogy movement.

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