Okay the article has a point, and SO WHAT? Frankly, introductory online courses should be FREE to encourage more students to pursue STEM degrees from home.
There have been many quick solutions posted regarding “How to easily solve the cheating”. However, some of the solutions may be worse than the problem. There is nothing quick and easy in designing an online STEM course, and not all online courses are created equal.
In introductory STEM courses, problem solving (application versus only knowledge and comprehension) is the desired Bloom taxonomy learning goal. Online courses built around the weekly application of concepts (problems), require students to learn and concepts versus memorize and/or look up information using the internet.
My below responses are based on the development and instruction of an online introductory chemistry course over the past two years. I use a “what’s best for the students” approach from a learning standpoint—unfortunately, it’s substantially more work for the instructor. I assume students do NOT have ANY previous online course experience and only use the absolute minimal number of tools in the learning management system course design and implementation.
Re: Immediate Feedback--GOOD
IMHO--It’s one of the best ways to encourage students to review their mistakes IMMEDIATELY after completing homework and/or quizzes. In a bricks and mortar course, it’s the same as handing out the answer key to a quiz/exam immediately after a student submittal. Most if not all students immediately sit down and review the answer key--it enables another opportunity for learning.
Re: Multiple Choice Quizzes--ESSENTIAL
IMOH—It’s the only way to practically assess an online course. And yes it’s possible to develop multiple choice chemistry problems where students can NOT look up the answer on the Internet. It is a total misconception that all answers are on the Internet or can be found using Wolfram|Alpha (I introduce Wolfram to students during the first week and require its use as an advanced “calculator”).
Re: Database of Multiple Choice Questions—GOOD, but a lot of WORK
IMOH—Yes you can build a database of multiple choice questions to use for homework and quizzes—it just takes a lot of work, the use of spreadsheets, a lot of cut and pasting to get into the learning management system, and constant editing of subscripts, superscripts and symbols. Key to the design is:
Detailed, published homework problem solutions
Development of large sets of multiple choice problems delivered using long timeframes delivered as weekly homework using a quiz tool (I call it quomework)
Repetitive use of the multiple choice homework problems delivered as quiz problems using shorter timeframes delivered as weekly quizzes.
Re: Multiple Attempts at Quizzes and Homework--GOOD
IMOH—Yes, giving students multiple attempts at submitting homework and quizzes is best for learning. There are always students who try to “guess” their way through a course, or try find a way around the “system” as in the article, but when it’s easier for students complete the work than to try to plagiarize/cheat, they go with the path of least resistance.
Re: Final Exams—Not Necessary for an Introductory Course
IMOH—Though I am required to give an final exam at my current institution, I have never seen it make much of a difference in a student’s grade. The institution I work at currently does not proctor the final exam and weighting too much of a student’s grade to the final exam could certainly create some of the issues mention in the article.
I hope this perhaps clarifies that not all online courses are equal and really what matters most, is to give a student the best possible opportunity to be successful in an introductry STEM course. On the downside—typically half of all students attempting an online chemistry course do not complete it. It’s a somewhat better success than my own university chemistry experience of the professor’s, “look to your right, look to your left, those students will be gone by the end of the term”. Hundreds of bright capable students now doing something else.
Best regards and professional success!