After two decades in which our technology has played an important role, we are now seeing universities deploying new tactics in the fight against plagiarism.
You know that something is just not right, but you don’t have enough evidence to suggest that a student’s work is not their own. You now need to decide whether it’s worth the time and effort to pursue or just let it go.
In an age of increasing competition between education providers, upholding a university’s reputation and the integrity of the awards it offers has never been so important. In this new environment, the last thing any university needs is students failing due to academic misconduct or to hit the headlines for ‘cheating’.
New and emerging academic misconduct threats, combined with the sector’s focus on new measures, the National Student Survey, and supporting and improving the student experience, puts increasing pressure on teachers and leaders.
Our journey as Turnitin began over 20 years ago to tackle the issue of copying and pasting directly from internet sources, and as different types of plagiarism emerged our solution evolved. However, students are still looking at new ways to help them to get the results they want, which is why universities are not relying on technology alone. They are shifting their focus to the development and reinforcement of academic integrity skills - through actively promoting the benefits and expectations to students - as opposed to just detection.
From plagiarism detection…
Checking final assignments for unoriginal content helps universities to protect their reputation and identify students who have copied work intentionally or unintentionally. However, what many have quickly realised was that checking work at this stage, whilst essential, is happening too late in the process to do anything about.
Assessing writing skills at the beginning of the course and identifying students who are struggling is far more effective, but due to class sizes and demands on educators, it’s not always possible to provide detailed guidance and instruction every time.
This is when we started to look at the root cause of plagiarism and how technology could support teachers to identify and address problem areas. By checking originality of students work, identifying sources that are being used and providing tools to enable teachers to feedback quickly, we were able to help educate students and reduce the risk at final assessment time.
…to academic integrity
Through working in partnership with the sector, we’ve seen an increasing shift in how universities are addressing academic integrity. What was previously a one-off committee meeting to implement a policy and update in the student induction process, is now transforming into a continuous and more formalised programme with positive reinforcement at its core. The focus is shifting from risk detection to helping students learn the skills they need, whilst protecting the reputation and values of the university.
The difference between detection and academic integrity is the focus on educating students and promoting the positive benefits and expectations of integrity. Academic integrity is a learned skill that needs to be reinforced throughout education.
In working with this expert community, it’s clear to see that achieving excellence in academic integrity requires a fine balance between policy, education and technology and one without the others will not suffice.
Tackling new emerging academic misconduct threats
Contract cheating - students engaging a third-party individual or service to complete their assessments - is becoming an increasing problem. As the recent coverage of the undercover Panorama report shows, students are walking away with qualifications that are way beyond their capabilities.
Some 800 to 1,000 websites selling essays/dissertations have been identified by experts and research suggests between 2-10% of student submissions are not students’ own work.
We’ve been working with experts in the field of contract cheating to understand this issue and we will be introducing a new solution, later this year, to support institutions in identifying and investigating potential contract cheating incidents.