(Faculty Spotlight is a series of articles focused on highlighting faculty at FHSU that are using technology in interesting ways. Faculty Spotlight is intended to be a regularly published series, so check back often to see if your peers are doing any intriguing activities with technology. If you have a faculty member you would like to recommend for Faculty Spotlight, contact Nathan Riedel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Faculty Spotlight graphic by Cari Kelly.)
One of the most daunting tasks in academe is the doctoral dissertation. While composing a dissertation is complex and time consuming, it need not be feared. In fact, several ways of ameliorating the process exist. Dr. Kim Chappell, Assistant Professor of Advanced Education Programs, offers a jumpstart on dissertations for students in the Education Specialist program in the AEP department. The Ed.S. program acts as a precursor to working on an Ed.D. or Ph.D. for students at Fort Hays. Ed.S. students complete 30 hours of course work through FHSU’s AEP department and then transfer over to a doctorate program at another institution to finish out their doctorate. In her AEP 933 Research and AEP 998 Proposal courses, Dr. Chappell provides these ambitious, future academics the opportunity to begin work on their dissertations.
“The…courses assist students in developing and writing a proposal for dissertation that the student continues in an Ed.D./Ph.D. program after graduation,” explains Chappell. “All course assignments involve submitting drafts of their scholarly writing,” said Chappell, “[and] is of high level academic style, which requires 100+ cited references.” And, as with any project of this magnitude, Dr. Chappell needed to be on the lookout for plagiarism. Like many of FHSU’s other instructors, Chappell used SafeAssign to require students to submit their work. SafeAssign compares student submissions with multiple databases, attempting to detect similarities in works. “[SafeAssign] provides accountability,” says Chappell.
However, given the peculiarity of this assignment, SafeAssign presented Dr. Chappell with a strange issue. “The intent of this project was to be a living document that could follow them into the rest of their doctoral studies,” explains Chappell, “My concern over the Proposal for Dissertation being entered into the database that would flag as plagiarism when they continue the dissertation at another institution.” Essentially, Dr. Chappell was faced with the issue of future submissions of her former students’ work becoming flagged and resulting in unneeded trouble for students already under intense stress. SafeAssign pulls from four main sources: The Internet, ProQuest ABI/Inform database, Institutional document archives, and the Global Reference Database—which contains papers from students at other institutes employing Blackboard.
Dr. Chappell discovered while working with FHSU’s Blackboard Administrator, Edward Tao, that the best approach was to wait for students to graduate, and then remove their papers from the Blackboard database. “Hopefully, this is the case…most of them are in doctoral programs as we speak. I suppose time will tell,” says Chappell. Overall Chappell was happy with both SafeAssign and the project, as were her students. “I have had several students appreciate getting to see the SafeAssign report…[they’ll] email me and ask me not to look at a draft until they had a chance to resubmit – after viewing the report and found things got flagged,” says Chappell. As for the project, when asked if she would assign it again Dr. Chappell responded with “Absolutely!”
If you would like to know more about SafeAssign and how to use it in your classroom, please contact Teaching Innovation and Learning Technologies: Tigerlearn@fhsu.edu