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Kenneth Rogers

Why InstructureCon?

Posted by Kenneth Rogers Employee Jun 13, 2017

I have been working in Higher Ed for about 13 years or so (most of it in Instructional Technology of some sort). I have been fortunate enough to go to many, many conferences over the years. I have spoken at conferences, worked with product management/marketing on their presentations, helped organize local conferences, etc, etc...but it has been roughly 4 years since I have been able to attend any conference as an attendee. And I have missed it.




What is the value?

To me, there are two major selling factors to going to a vendor specific conference:

  1. Making connections with peers from around the country/world who are also in the trenches.
  2. Access to vendor support/resources and application specific announcements.



When you are a new parent (or shoot, just a parent!), sometimes it's great to make a connection with someone who can commiserate with you; someone who "gets it". The connections at a conference are the same. You can say what you do (Administrator, Instructional Designer, Faculty, Instructional Technologist, Higher Ed, K12, Pro-Ed, etc, etc, etc) and you will make a connection - and one that will last (thanks to social media!). Exchange contact information, you never know when you will run into an issue and think, "I should contact Joe Schmoe, maybe he can help."


Vendor Support/Resources:

Do you have a nagging problem with your system? Have a major complaint from your administration or users? Well, guess what - not only do you have someone to talk to, you have their undivided attention! You can have a face-to-face conversation with representatives from Instructure - and if they don't know the answer, they will find someone who does! And maybe the best part? Product managers are at InstCon! What better place to ask them "Why did you do that!?!" or "What is coming and when?!?" (And as an added benefit, most vendors who integrate with Canvas will be there also, so you have even more people to talk to!)


Why am I going?

As I mentioned, it has been roughly 4 years since I attended any IT conference as an attendee. I had a stint working in the private sector for an Ed Tech company - so I went to a few conferences and had to work. I am very excited to go to InstructureCon 2017, make connections, and learn from my peers. I have only been working in Canvas since last August, so this will be a great opportunity for me to meet people and soak in everything!


I am fortunate to work for a great boss (shout out Tracey DeLillo) who sacrificed her attendance so that I could go this year. I'm looking forward to talking with the vendors, pressing on ones we have, and talking with Peyton Craighill in person (plus a slew of other people - especially anyone from Canvas Mobile Users).


I am also really looking forward to Canvas Intelligence Exchange where I can meet other community members, learn from them, and gather any pre-InstCon knowledge (Kona Jones has already told me to bring an extra suitcase ).


Why are you going? What are you looking forward to? What are your InstCon suggestions?

A dedicated minority of  students will always try to take shortcuts no matter what an instructor does, but some of the more cautious cheaters avoid plagiarizing on major assignments like papers and exams precisely because they know such assignments receive scrutiny. Although, small assignments like discussion posts do not always receive as much scrutiny, and that is where I have been seeing the most intentional plagiarism.


I realized a few of my students were preying on honest students when using the discussion board. These dishonest folks would visit the discussion board and cherry pick ideas from the other students, throw the ideas into the blender, and serve up a plagiarized cocktail for everyone to read.


I could protect my students from this theft via Canvas settings though. For every discussion in every class, I checked the setting that made students write an initial post before they could see what other students had written. 


That helped, but students quickly figured out how to skirt the "Users must post before seeing replies" setting. The dedicated cheaters would post a nonsense post -- usually at a low traffic time like two or three in the morning. Sometimes the post was as little as a period. Posting anything at all let the students see what other students and myself had posted. Then, the cheaters could access the discussion board and cherry pick ideas from the other students, throw the ideas into the blender, and serve up a plagiarized cocktail for everyone to read. This is such a common tactic that even the Canvas Guide How can I require students to reply to a course discussion before they see other replies? states, "Students will see a 'Replies are only visible to those who have posted at least one reply' message when they view the Discussion topic.Note: Sometimes students will work around this requirement by deleting their posts. You can change your course settings to keep students fromdeleting their posts." That is good information and good advice. Thanks, Canvas Doc Team!


I disabled the ability to edit posts in my course settings. Go to "Settings." Click the "Course Details" tab. Scroll all the way to the bottom and click "more options" to make sure "Let students edit or delete their own discussion posts" is unchecked:

I tell my students that they cannot edit or delete posts. They all seem to have become more careful with their posts. Now, everyone can see if someone posts a blank or nonsense post. If a student does it more than once, I send them a message and ask them to refrain from posting blank, partial, or nonsense posts. This has helped improve intra-class academic honesty on the discussion board. 


The student who cannot live with their own typing errors might suffer a bit, but I tell my students they are free to post corrections for typign errors up until the due date and time for the discussion by replying to their own post. 


The minority of cheaters is still there though, but I feel slightly better that they are pulling their material from Wikipedia and other sites instead of their peers. Besides, Wikipedia is easier to spot and catch with any plagiarism detection service. I just copy and paste the entire discussion board and scan it with Turnitin.


What makes me happy is that the bulk of my students do their own work and do it pretty well most of the time.   Still, I feel an obligation to make sure my students have an even playing field and to protect them from the minority who want to take shortcuts and earn grades with stolen thinking and writing. 

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