E-learning courses delivered via learning management systems within school districts are able to address all kinds of issues schools face, including too few course offerings, teacher shortages in certain areas, the rising number of home-schoolers, lack of AP courses, and lack of physical space and school funding.
The downside is that plagiarism and other forms of dishonesty are likelier to happen in online education. Cheating doesn’t occur only in online assessments, but also in online discussion forums, assignments, projects and other collaborative, online, educational tools.
We in the e-learning community believe that online learning is an effective method of teaching, training, and testing student understanding, but it needs to be done well. And it often is not. In many popular e-learning systems, when a student receives a high score on an online assessment, it makes us wonder: is it an accurate indicator of the student’s understanding?
According to studies, 70% of American high school seniors admit to cheating on at least one test, and 95% of the students who admitted to cheating were never caught. And furthermore, 75% of college students reported cheating during their college career. To sum it up, cheating is a huge temptation, and something that most people do at some point.
As educators, online course developers, and training instructors, our goal is to provide effective and engaging content so that students are both inspired to learn and held accountable if they are not doing their best. But how do we go about achieving this goal?
A robust learning management system will provide the best tools for ensuring that students are putting in their best effort and submitting creative and original work. Tools that prevent cheating and monitor student progress are part of this solution.
Using Web 2.0 tools like discussion forums for student assignments is a common practice in e-learning courses–especially at the university level. But it isn’t enough just to tell students to answer questions and post them, and “get engaged.” The assignment needs to be coordinated in a way that ensures maximum responses and originality. Without a strategy to make the tools work and avoid copying and repetition, educational tools like discussion forums and wikis become ineffective.
The best strategy to ensure that students are engaged is to create engaging material. Dynamic course features like videos, audio material like podcasts, and other tools are simple ways to obtain and maintain students’ attention and interest.
However, even the most engaging course and the most interactive content needs to be kept in check by a way to track and monitor student progress.
Once a learning management system is in place and its features are understood, administrators can take advantage of its tools to easily create a system in which student progress is tracked. Once the system is in place, instructors and educators need not worry much about grading and other traditionally tedious activities.
A good LMS automates not only the administration of training, but the way in which administrators can find out students’ progress.
Ultimately, creating and maintaining a great course, tracking and monitoring student progress needs to be both built in to an e-learning system but most importantly, the intent needs to exist. It’s something that must be actively sought, rather than passively dismissed. A strong learning management system with automated tracking tools is great, but even more ideal is that combined with the energy and effort of the person behind the scenes, delivering the content.