Been Slugged Lately Online? Do You Even Know What That Means?

I was a little shocked to see how little I could find about “slugging” in online learning when I searched recently.  Maybe I was doing a bad search.  Slugging is basically a way students can cheat by extending their deadline.  All you do is take a non-text file… an image, flash file, whatever… and change the extension from .jpg or whatever to .doc (or whatever format your assignment is due in).  You name the file (the “slug”) whatever the instructor requires, and upload it.  The instructor will usually be busy and they will wait a few days beyond deadline to download every one’s files.  They will try to open your Word doc and get a notice that the file is corrupted.  They will then email the you and ask for a better copy.  It is the modern equivalent to “the dog ate my homework.”  Even if a teacher is really on top of things and starts grading immediately after deadline, students can still claim they didn’t check their email, aren’t near the computer the file is on, etc – and buy themselves a few days.

Some people are even apparently making money off of this now.

One way to clamp down on this is to revise your late policy to include any technical glitches:

“all assignments must be submitted by the due date and time listed in the syllabus. Assignments must be in the format required in the syllabus, and must open with out any glitches or corruption on the my computer, or they will be considered late.  If you aren’t sure, please submit early and have me check to make sure it opens on my computer.  Any slugging (changing a document’s extension) is also considered cheating.”

Of course, an even better way to fight this is to go EduPunk and have your students do group work on blogs, Twitter, etc – that way, there is no way they are tempted to slug :)

(HT to Chris Duke who Tweeted the link above and reminded me that I have been meaning to blog on this for a while).

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

3 thoughts on “Been Slugged Lately Online? Do You Even Know What That Means?

  1. Holy cow! Something else for my colleagues to throw up in my face when it comes to my teaching online! I have had a couple of cases when I couldn’t open a student file, and it never dawned on me that slugging could be the reason; although, I must say, many of my students have older computers and really don’t realize that documents they generate on them may not open.

    In any case, even though I do stipulate on my syllabi that submitted documents should be in specific formats, your info on slugging will keep my on my toes.

    Thanks.

  2. Matt Crosslin

    If they throw that in your face, just retort with “how do you know that every paper that is turned in to you was actually written by the student whose name is on it?” :)

    One common problem I have run into is just that students save something in .docx format, see that it has to be in .doc format, so they rename the file by removing the “x”, and turn it in. That works fine for instructors with Word 2007 installed, because it will still open it no matter what. But if they are running Word 2003 with the 2007 filter, it won’t think to use the filter and will try to open it as a 2003 document. This will produce a bunch of gibberish. So, if anyone has that set-up on their computer, might think about adding the “x” to the name first before to see if that fixes the problem.

    And then take off a few points for not reading directions :)

  3. Oh, I certainly do give my colleagues an ear full when they talk about all the plagiarism because of the “Googles.” :) My favorite story goes back around twenty years ago when I found a library book all marked up by a student so that when it came time to “write” his/her paper, all the student had to do was lift passages from the book.

    Fortunately, at least for me, I use a Mac, so I never have any trouble opening up a .docx file, but some of my students do, so I ask students creating .docx files to also cut and paste their work onto the Blackboard discussion board. That helps.

    Side Note: I added your blog to my blogroll.

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