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.
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).