About Helen Walmsley-Smith

I work in the Technology Enhanced Learning Team that is part of the Academic Development Unit at Staffordshire University. I work with staff across the university to support the use of technology to enhance learning in the classroom and online. I'm particularly interested in learning design for blended and distance learning, and the use of data to support learning and teaching.

Designing out and Deterring Plagiarism

To reduce opportunities for any student to plagiarise, teach your students good academic practice, design-out opportunities for plagiarism in your assignments, and utilise standard university procedures to ensure that no student benefits from plagiarism.

Involve students in learning activities about plagiarism:

  • Include online learning materials that cover plagiarism and how it can be avoided in your course materials with course specific, relevant examples of what is not acceptable.
  • Use the library RefZone pages with guidance about referencing and avoiding plagiarism: http://libguides.staffs.ac.uk/c.php?g=655606&p=4607474
  • A good online tutorial to teach students about plagiarism is the one produced by Indiana University:How to Recognize Plagiarism: Tutorials and Tests
  • Include mandatory learning activities that engage students with correct citing, referencing etc (e.g., article reviews)
  • Include learning activities that engage students with marking sample (or each other’s) work against the assessment criteria and with a plagiarism-detecting tool (e.g., Turnitin)
  • Assess (handwritten) short pieces of student writing early on in a course and compare to assignment writing styles
  • Talk about plagiarism in the news, for example see plagiarismtoday.com/

Design assignments that can’t easily be plagiarised:

  • Use ‘open-ended’ tasks rather than ‘closed’ tasks or ask students to reflect on their individual learning journey.
  • Create tasks where paraphrasing will not be sufficient – there are free online tools that will paraphrase content for students
  • Don’t rely on Turnitin – it does not pick up all copied content, and does not deter plagiarism
  • Ask students to apply theories, models and ideas to their experience or a case study rather than to explain or paraphrase the theory, model or idea.
  • Create unique assignment tasks where the answers can’t be found on the internet e.g., original case studies, recent news articles, detailed analysis of specific extracts etc
  • Avoid tasks that can be completed by accessing readily available banks of knowledge
  • Create new assignment tasks/essay titles for each cohort in negotiation with students
  • Break down a task into parts with specific deadlines, e.g., a plan, a literature review, an abstract, set of data, proposal.
  • Create assignments that engage students in solving current, relevant problems or making decisions
  • Include an additional task that can only be completed with thorough understanding of the final assignment e.g., an oral presentation, reflective account, short examination etc
  • Include a range of assignment formats e.g., report, poster, presentation, web-conference, blog posts, book/webpage review etc and combinations of formats
  • Include partially pre-prepared tasks with very short deadlines, e.g., case study analysis, application of methodology to data, curating material for exhibition or conference to be completed in 24 hours etc
  • Restrict the number of sources that can be used in an assignment and encourage students to use the reading list (you will also be more familiar with the content of those and easily spot plagiarism)
  • Ask students to show their working, e.g. include drafts, copies of sources etc

Use university regulations consistently

Useful References:

Carroll, J. (2013). A Handbook for Deterring Plagiarism in Higher Education (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development.

Ledwith, A., & Rísquez, A. (2008). Using anti-plagiarism software to promote academic honesty in the context of peer reviewed assignments. Studies in Higher Education, 33(4), 371–384. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075070802211562

Rogerson, A. M., & McCarthy, G. (2017). Using Internet based paraphrasing tools: Original work, patchwriting or facilitated plagiarism? International Journal for Educational Integrity, 13(2). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40979-016-0013-y

Walker, J. (2010). Measuring plagiarism: researching what students do, not what they say they do. Studies in Higher Education, 35(1), 41–59. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075070902912994

Warn, J. (2006). Plagiarism software: no magic bullet! Higher Education Research & Development, 25(2), 195–208. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360600610438

Youmans, R. J. (2011). Does the adoption of plagiarism-detection software in higher education reduce plagiarism? Studies in Higher Education, 36(7), 749–761. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2010.523457

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles that help tutors when designing learning activities. These principles enable all students to engage and participate fully in their learning. The UDL principles from the CAST site are illustrated below:


















Image from CAST http://www.cast.org/udl/index.html

These principles are an effective way to embed accessibility into learning, but particularly online learning. Including a range of resources, a range of activities and a range of ways for students to engage seems to make good sense for students with disabilities, international students, students with different prior educational experiences, etc. Some examples for online activities that apply UDL:

  • Multiple means of representation: online, recorded, multimedia, digital resources as well as face-to-face delivery of content.
  • Multiple means of action and expression: online individual and group tasks, wikis, Padlet. Student negotiated e-assessment.
  • Multiple means of engagement: blended learning, active-based learning, student generated content

What is Transformative Digital Learning?

Digital is a term with no single meaning, and having a variety of different ways of interpreting it makes adopting digital learning challenging. It can just mean ‘business as usual’, for example:

  • Handbooks, PPT and class notes in Blackboard
  • Online assignment submission and feedback in Blackboard
  • Web-conferenced lectures
  • Online eLibrary

However, it can be an enabler and disrupt our existing business. Digital can become  Transformative Digital Learning by increasing student-tutor and student-student interactions and enable sharing of collective intelligence (Ng’ambi, 2013), for example:

  • Student-created resources (individual and collaborative) e.g. Twitter, wikis, video, PPT, apps/software
  • Student-led FAQ forums
  • Online peer assessment
  • Online [shared] e-portfolios
  • Group/individual reflective [public] blogs

Learning designs for transformative digital learning can help to focus digital teaching and learning activity into mangeable approaches, for example :

  • Phase I: start with a problem statement and an educational goal and not with a technology. This goal is the object of the learning activity, e.g., to foster collaborative knowledge production that leverages distributed intelligence or expertise.
  • Phase II: the learning activity from Phase I should lead to the creation of an artefact (i.e., students either collectively or individually create something), for example: a digital story PPT, a mobile learning application, or an e-portfolio. An educator may prescribe the tool(s) or leave the choice of tools to students.
  • Phase III: make it a requirement that students, either as a group or individually, present the outcome from Phase II. Ensure that the presentation is persistent (i.e., record it) to enable reflection.
  • Phase IV: students (group or individuals) reflect on Phase III (presentation) and Phase II (artefact design) in view of the problem statement (Phase I). Ensure that these reflections are publicly visible to the class for subsequent feedback and discussion.
  • Phase V: students research, write and submit a reflective essay for assessment based on the assigned task.

(adapted from Ng’ambi, 2013, p.659)


Ng’ambi, D. (2013) Effective and ineffective uses of emerging technologies: Towards a transformative pedagogical model. British Journal of Educational Technology. 44(4), 652–661.

Digital Feedback

Students want more feedback, and tutors want feedback on how students are learning. Technology can enhance feedback in a variety of ways, here are some suggestions:

  1. Take pictures in class or use the Kapp board to save and upload classroom group or individual work and give feedback in Blackboard.
  2. Student reflect on their feedback in an online journal in Blackboard, saying how they will use it to improve learning.
  3. Students can engage with feedback in an online discussion forum.
  4. Feedback can be given via audio or video.
  5. Feedback can be obtained through students participating in an online simulation or real-world activity.
  6. Students can give peer feedback in Blackboard using peer-assessment tool
  7. Students can complete online formative and self-diagnostic tests in Blackboard with immediate automated feedback.

Adapted from HEA 10 ideas for enhancing feedback with technology

Activities using Wikis

  • Wiki pages can be created, edited and shared by users. This video is an overview of how they work:


Suggested learning activities that are mapped to the Best Practice Principles are below.

Active Induction

Guided Exploration

Facilitated Investigation

Self-organised Learner

Student access wikis prepared by tutor Students find and evaluate wikis Students work in groups to create and share learning materials on wikis Students create own wikis for learning and sharing in community

Activities using Smart Kapp Boards

Active Induction

Guided Exploration

Facilitated Investigation

Self-organised Learner

Tutor presents, saves and shares notes from board Student groups present, save and share group work outputs Students access prepared notes for revision via VLE Students create, save and share learning materials for peers

Activities using Visualisers

  • Visualisers will display items, documents etc, on the board.
  • Suggested learning activities that are mapped to the Best Practice Principles are below.

Active Induction

Guided Exploration

Facilitated Investigation

Self-organised Learner

Present documents in classrooms Students participate in interactive demonstration Students use as magnifier or demonstration tool Students share group work output to class

Independent Learning Approach

This includes: reflective-based, resource-based, negotiated and self-organised learning. Based on cognitive learning theories. This video is a summary of reflection in learning from Macquarie University:


  • Jenny Moon’s approach to reflection-based learning = development from description to reflective account; from no questions to questions to responding to questions; emotional influence is recognised, and then handled increasingly effectively; there is a ‘standing back from the event’; self-questioning, challenge to own ideas; recognition of relevance of prior experience; the taking into account of others’ views to metacognition – review of own reflective processes (Moon, 2004)

Further Reading:

  • Universal Design for Learning suggests tutors present information and content in different ways to reflect a variety of learning approaches.
  • Gagne and the instructional theories focus on testing of predictable learning and giving feedback through technology (Gagné, Briggs, & Wager, 1992)

The ideas for technology enhanced learning activities below use a range of tools and are based on the Best Practice Principles.

Peer Learning Approach

This approach includes reciprocal teaching, peer assessment and pair-work where the emphasis is on students teaching each other and giving feedback. Erik Mazur talks here about the development of the peer-instruction approach that includes students watching videos prior to class; completing MCQs in class; peer review of responses; repeat of MCQ and tutor feedback:


The ideas for technology enhanced learning activities below use a range of tools and are based on the Best Practice Principles.