Starting an "Originality Factor Week"

Student engagement blog by Jackie Harbach, Student Intervention Coordinator at Alpha Omega Academy

Jackie Harbach

The path toward our eventual “Originality Factor Week” sprang from my own frustrations as to how I could help students realize the importance of academic honesty. At the time I was our school’s academic integrity “go-to”. Although we had academic integrity policies in place and teachers were constantly working with students on proper techniques to avoid plagiarism it was still evident that more could and needed to be done.

As Intervention Coordinator I relied heavily on Turnitin for furthering my education in the area of preventing plagiarism. Our teachers use Turnitin to catch plagiarism, but many of us have found the webcasts to be just as beneficial. Attending those webcasts and closely following Turnitin events led me to Turnitin’s “Plagiarism Education Week”.

At that point, the light bulb went off. Why couldn’t we do the same type of thing, only geared more to our students’ specific needs? I gathered the help of one of my colleagues and we went to work. We brainstormed what we wanted our ‘week’ to look like. It was important to us that we show students the importance of academic integrity throughout all of the different content areas.

When we pitched the idea to our administration we received the go ahead, under one condition – our ‘week’ needed a positive spin. This turned out to be great advice. Many times academic integrity discussions end up as a “don’t do this,” or “you’ll get in trouble if you do that!” Our goal was to make each part of our week a positive learning experience instead of a negative lecture.

The first step was to figure out our a name for the week. Our teachers voted on different suggestions and we decided to go with “Originality Factor Week.” During the week, each content area would hold at least one online classroom that promoted academic integrity with the goal of staying positive and showing how academic integrity matters across the subject areas. We wanted each subject area to play a role because often students learn about formatting and citing sources in English or History, but they may not often transfer the importance of academic originality over to different subject areas. It was important for us to show that academic originality was important across all subjects, from Science to Math to Spanish and in-between.

We knew our biggest hurdle would be student participation. Being a fully online school with rolling enrollment, it is not an easy task to gather a large number of students together at any one time. To promote as much student involvement as possible, we decided to also include a contest as part of “Originality Factor Week”.

The contest was open to grades 7-12. Students were given the option of creating a poster, poem or video to show what academic originality means to them. The “Originality Factor Week” contest was announced via a video put together by the faculty members and can be seen here:

At the end of “Originality Factor Week” many students gathered for a special online classroom where we showed each of the contest entries. This was a way to promote even further student involvement and give those who had taken the time to participate in the contest a moment to shine.

Jackie's response to the question: "Why does originality matter?"

"I think that specifically today, 2015, I think it’s very easy to get caught up in maybe going online and using somebody else’s ideas, using somebody else’s work. And to be able to teach students that they can also think for themselves, obviously we want to encourage research, but just encouraging them that it’s so important to think on your own and to form your own ideas and opinions, and for that to show through your work and even yourself every day as a person. I think that’s so important."

Personalizing and Contextualizing Student Learning
Extending the Reach: Providing Personalized Comments to Students
Campus-Wide Initiative: Integrity, Writing, and Technology
Helping Students Get Started with an Intensive Crash Course
Giving Face-to-Face Feedback to Remote Learners

About the Educator

My name is Jackie Harbaugh and I work at Alpha Omega Academy, which is a K through 12, online Christian school. And I currently teach US History, Economics, Government.Lastly, I am also a 2015 Turnitin Academic Integrity All-Star Honorable Mention for secondary schools.