Honest Communication in Online Learning

Honest Communication in Online Learning

Kellie A. Shumack (Mississippi State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-014-1.ch083
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Abstract

Online learning promises much for the present and the future of education because it bridges the gap of distance and time (Valentine, 2002). Students have doors opened wide because of online courses, and in many ways, these opportunities bring in an equalizing quality for those who want to be educated. The bottom line is that the “convenience of time and space” (Valentine, 2002, p. 2) makes online courses an appealing option. Online courses come under the general heading of “distance education.” Pallof and Pratt (2001, p. 5) define distance education as “an approach to teaching and learning that utilizes Internet technologies to communicate and collaborate in an educational context.” This definition is what online courses are today. Some common modes of delivery include WebCT, Blackboard, Convene, and eCollege. Technology or these authoring tools are “not the ‘be all and end all’ of the online course. [They] are merely the vehicle for course delivery” (Pallof & Pratt, 2001, p. 49). As with many things, there are also some potentially negative aspects possible with online learning. This progressive form of instruction is not impervious to problems with student cheating, and in fact, cheating is often considered easier in online courses (Rowe, 2004). The purpose of this paper is to examine plagiarism within the different elements of online learning courses and investigate what can be done about it. Before examining plagiarism, a case for integrity should be made.
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How To Create Honest Communication In Online Learning

Online learning promises much for the present and the future of education because it bridges the gap of distance and time (Valentine, 2002). Students have doors opened wide because of online courses, and in many ways, these opportunities bring in an equalizing quality for those who want to be educated. The bottom line is that the “convenience of time and space” (Valentine, 2002, p. 2) makes online courses an appealing option. Online courses come under the general heading of “distance education.” Pallof and Pratt (2001, p. 5) define distance education as “an approach to teaching and learning that utilizes Internet technologies to communicate and collaborate in an educational context.” This definition is what online courses are today. Some common modes of delivery include WebCT, Blackboard, Convene, and eCollege. Technology or these authoring tools are “not the ‘be all and end all’ of the online course. [They] are merely the vehicle for course delivery” (Pallof & Pratt, 2001, p. 49).

As with many things, there are also some potentially negative aspects possible with online learning. This progressive form of instruction is not impervious to problems with student cheating, and in fact, cheating is often considered easier in online courses (Rowe, 2004). The purpose of this paper is to examine plagiarism within the different elements of online learning courses and investigate what can be done about it. Before examining plagiarism, a case for integrity should be made.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity presupposes that the students will follow the rules of an institution and its instructors. Integrity in any situation implies that an individual is incorruptible and will be completely honest. The Center for Academic Integrity (CAI), a highly respected consortium of more than 390 educational institutions, has this to say about academic integrity:

Academic integrity is a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to five fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility. From these values flow principles of behavior that enable academic communities to translate ideals into action…Cultivating honesty lays the foundation for lifelong integrity, developing in each of us the courage and insight to make difficult choices and accept responsibility for actions and their consequences, even at personal cost (The Center for Academic Integrity, 1999, p. 4-5).

The opposite of integrity is dishonesty. The issue of academic dishonesty is a concern on every campus and is no less a concern in the area of online classes. Because online courses have a distant feel, students may be even more susceptible to the lure of cheating when taking an online course (Rowe, 2004). There are many reasons why students cheat: they want the easy way out, school work is low on the priority list, they possess poor time management skills, they fear a bad grade, or they simply like to break the rules (Harris, 2004). Sharma and Maleyeff (2003, p. 22) point out that “psychological distancing combined with moral distancing, increases the ease and the probability that unethical acts will be committed” and that the “Internet increases the number of temptations and very often [an individual] may not feel wrong because nobody appears to be hurt.”

One of the greatest benefits of an online course is the opportunity for interaction between teacher and student and also among the body of students. This element also can open the door for cheating. The instructional method in online courses is very open and interactive. Students are encouraged to learn from each other. The instructor is eager to have students collaborate and construct knowledge; however, this delivery method makes it easier for the dishonest student to act corruptly.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Plagiarism: Taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own.yyuu

Integrity: Implies that an individual is incorruptible and will be completely honest.

Distance Education: “An approach to teaching and learning that utilizes Internet technologies to communicate and collaborate in an educational context” (Pallof & Pratt, 2001, p. 5).

E-Learning: A synchronous and asynchronous learning tool capable of being delivered entirely through the Internet.

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