October 2009 Site of the Month

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October 2009 Site of the Month

Avoiding Plagiarism


Authors: Connie Maxwell, Greg Hardin, Brandy Klug

Institution: Texas Woman’s University

Interview with: Connie Maxwell (Assistant Director of Libraries), Greg Hardin (Reference Librarian), and Brandy Klug (Electronic Resources Librarian)

Interviewer: David Wilson

Tutorial Description: An interactive video tutorial composed of seven short units that provide college students with an overview of plagiarism and the importance of citation. The tutorial opens with a brief dramatic scene in which a college professor helps a student realize that by paraphrasing without giving credit she has unknowingly committed plagiarism. Each unit is composed of a pretest multiple choice question, followed by a short video segment and series of slides summarizing main ideas. Video segments include discussion about the definition and implications of plagiarism, a brief demonstration of Refworks, as well as statements by librarians, faculty, and the Vice President of Student Life. At the conclusion of the tutorial, students are prompted to complete and submit a multiple choice quiz.

Q: Can you tell us about the origins of this project? What prompted you to create this tutorial?
A: In 2004 TWU Libraries created a web-based tutorial consisting of text and images. This tutorial was broken into seven modules, each focusing on different information literacy skills. In 2007 the information from this tutorial was still valuable, but dated and considered “old technology.” We decided to revamp it to make it more current, engaging, robust, and interactive. With more classes and degree plans being offered through distance education, we needed to examine our information literacy programs and how they could reach the newer student population. We selected the Plagiarism module as our first project because plagiarism is such a problem in schools today. We thought our faculty would see value in the information presented, and they would assign the tutorial to their students.

Texas Woman’s University is accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). It is clear that universities are required to provide equitable information literacy outreach to all students. The 2004 tutorial did not provide the same level of quality we offered in our face to face teaching. For this reason, it was an ideal time to update our tutorials.

Q: Who was involved in creating this tutorial? Tell us about your team.
A: The TWU Libraries tutorial team:

  • Connie Maxwell, Assistant Director of Libraries
  • Greg Hardin, Reference Librarian
  • Brandy Klug, Electronic Resources Librarian
Support groups:
  • Script writers, actors, content consultants, proofers, etc.
    • TWU library staff and student assistants
  • Technical Support from Texas Center for Educational Technology (TCET)
    • Cliff Whitworth: Program/Project Coordinator, Martha Peet: Director and the TCET technical team
  • Financial support
    • TWU Distance Education and TWU Libraries

Q: What was the overall timeline for this project?
A: We began working on this project in August 2007, and officially launched the tutorial on February 21, 2008.

Q: I was struck immediately by the sheer range of formats, technologies, and strategies your tutorial draws upon, including its emphasis on live-action video. What led to the decision to place video at the forefront?
A: There were several reasons it was decided to place video at the forefront in this tutorial. TWU has a very large distance education population, and we knew that many of the students who would complete this tutorial would be located off-campus. Using video in this tutorial seemed like an effective way to connect our users to TWU. It also seemed like an effective way to immediately grab the user’s attention and keep them engaged.

Q: Can you tell us a little about the video production process? Do you have team members with video production experience? What resources were available to you and your colleagues?
A: The Library Team provided the content from our existing tutorial, and then determined how video would be used to help students learn the definition of plagiarism and learning objectives. Brandy Klug has an undergraduate degree in Radio, Television & Film, and Greg Hardin has an undergraduate degree in Photography/Film. The project was storyboarded so each shot could be carefully mapped out. Unknown actors were solicited from library staff, family members, and library student workers. We were very fortunate to work with an organization like Texas Center for Educational Technology (TCET). TCET owns their own equipment and software, including the cameras, lights, microphones, and editing software that were utilized throughout the video production process. They have extensive experience and knowledge of the video production process, including scriptwriting, shooting, and editing. Not everything went smoothly or according to plan, but we persevered and ended up with a product we are all proud of. We had a great time working on this project.

Q: Your project combines video, voiceover narration, interactive quizzes, slides with text, and screen capture of the RefWorks interface. What technologies and software products did your team use to create such a seamless, interactive project?
A: A variety of technologies and software products were used to create the project. After the video was shot, it was edited using Adobe Premiere CS and compressed using Sorenson Squeeze. The video was imported into Flash CS3 and converted to FLV. Graphics, screenshots, and voiceovers were also imported into Flash CS3. Screenshots were done with SnagIt software. When all the elements were incorporated, the completed shockwave and FLV files were loaded on the server.

Q: I thought your tutorial very effectively appealed to a number of different learning styles. Can you tell us about the process of striking this balance? Were all of these elements part of the original conception?
A: At the very beginning of the project we compiled a list of project deliverables. In this list, we carefully examined our audience and instructional approach. The average age of Texas Woman’s University students is older than at many universities. This tutorial was designed with various adult learning styles, as well as various skill levels of technology in mind. A wide range of elements including interactivity, sound, humor, graphics, and video was essential to appeal to a number of different learning styles, to enhance the tutorial, and to make it interesting. It was very important to be cognizant of not using too many of these elements at the same time. This is an issue we had to examine during the editing process in order to strike a good balance and not overwhelm the viewer.

Q: Can you tell us about your use of multiple choice questions in the body of the tutorial? I was intrigued by the fact that while they prompt students for an answer, they don’t provide immediate feedback in terms of a “right” or “wrong” answer.
A: Prior to each section in the tutorial there is a pretest question. These questions test the student’s existing knowledge. By reading and answering the pretest question the student is made aware of the learning objective for the next section, but does not receive immediate feedback about the answer they chose. Rather than providing an immediate answer to the question, the answer is incorporated in the next section of the exercise and becomes an integral part of the learning process. At the end of the tutorial the student takes a posttest where they answer these questions again. When the posttest is submitted, the learning process continues as the student gets the test answers and their final results.

Q: How is this tutorial used at Texas Woman’s University? I noticed that students have the option of emailing the final quiz to their instructor.
A: The Library Plagiarism Tutorial is a primary tool in Texas Woman’s University’s plan to raise the level of academic integrity among students. Along with RefWorks, Turn It In, and general awareness, the tutorial is being used successfully by faculty and students. Many TWU faculty have incorporated the plagiarism tutorial as a standard part of their classes. As students begin the posttest, they are required to enter their email address. A copy of their posttest results is emailed to them automatically when they submit the test. Students also have the option to enter their instructor’s email address. If they choose to do this, a copy of their results also goes directly to their instructor.

Q: Do you know how many students are using your tutorial?
A: As of October 2009, we have had approximately 6000 users complete the tutorial and take the quiz since it was launched in February 2008.

Q: What kind of response or feedback has your tutorial received from students and faculty?
A: The amount of usage tells us faculty and students find this tutorial useful. We are incredibly pleased by feedback from faculty and students. We received comments from many students on how the tutorial has been helpful to them. Faculty have been eager to assign this tutorial to their students in an effort to help educate them on avoiding plagiarism. We received comments and requests from other schools and universities wishing to use the tutorial for their classes. Our favorite comment came from a student attending a nearby community college. She had been assigned the tutorial and after exclaiming how helpful it was, she noted her intentions to transfer to TWU after she completed her studies there.

Q: Have you been able to conduct any formal assessment or evaluation of your tutorial’s effectiveness?
A: By collecting and analyzing pre and posttest data, we have been able to measure tutorial effectiveness. 30% of students improved on at least one of the questions. Almost 1/3 made improvements, and the other 2/3 who took the quiz appears to have already had a sound knowledge of plagiarism and its consequences. 1/3 of the students who took the quiz had the opportunity to reinforce the knowledge they already had while learning something new, and the other 2/3 had the opportunity to reinforce the knowledge they already had. The primary purpose for the tutorial was to teach students about plagiarism and the data shows an improvement from pretest scores to posttest scores, but the main use of the tutorial may have shifted from student learning to faculty being assured that their students do understand plagiarism and the consequences.

Q: In terms of content, I thought there was a terrific balance between the student perspective on plagiarism—time management and the cut-and-paste mentality—and the voices of librarians, faculty, and administrators. How did you strike this balance? Was this part of the original plan, or did it evolve during the process?
A: From the beginning, we were interested in having representatives from various areas of the university included in the project. We hoped providing information about plagiarism and its consequences through a variety of voices would increase our chances of getting the message across to our viewers. We hoped including librarians, faculty, and administrators in this project would be a selling point for instructors to assign this tutorial to their students.

Q: In these challenging economic times, your team created a dynamic, professional tutorial that looks like it was expensive to make. Did this project require special or additional funding?
A: There was a charge for the services provided by TCET and we were able to cover these costs with funds provided through our Distance Education department.

Q: What was your greatest challenge on this project?
A: With the scale and the scope of the project our greatest challenge seemed to be the time it took to complete it.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to incorporate original video in an instructional module?
A: Try different things in your scenes. Even when scenes are storyboarded and carefully laid out, it’s very helpful to experiment. For example, when we shot the scenes with the instructor and student, we shot them with two different actors in the role of instructor. We then had the option to go back and watch both versions and decide which one worked best. Just try it. You will learn as you go. Use plenty of student focus groups to help with content and have fun with it.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
A: Most students will not use library resources unless their faculty require it! Be sure to know your audience and include faculty in your planning. Meet student needs by creating a tutorial that is entertaining, interactive and has good teaching strategies. Meet faculty needs by offering a tool that is helpful to them, clearly measures learning objectives, and is easy to assign and use.

October 2009 PRIMO Site of the Month