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Online Educa: Plagiarism Panelists On How To “Create A Culture Of Honesty”


by Jobadge via Flickr under CreativeCommons

By Paul Glader

BERLIN: Here at the Online Educa Berlin conference, a session on plagiarism ideas and solutions indicated one thing in particular to me: has clear dominance right now in the plagiarism prevention business.

Up first on the panel was Helen Pugsley, a nurse who oversees a plagiarism prevention program in the Department of Dermatology at Cardiff University in the UK, which offers a 1 year diploma for extra education. Half the 330 doctors in the program are from outside the UK. And 110 e-tutors for the program are based all over the world. The issue: Dermatologists surprisingly had some plagiarism issues. “We had a little bit of cut and pastin’ goin’ on,” she said, noting it was surprising that doctors would need to cheat. But some did. She says part of it is because they have “an attention span of a gnat.”

“We put in strategies to see what was going on and prevent it.” She melded with Grademark to create an interface that encouraged academic integrity. “We wanted to prevent the crime and sort it out,” she said. “We wanted to create a culture of honesty.”

She said the software programs the course now uses has helped to prevent and deter plagiarism by “designing out plagiarism.”  All the student assignments go through but the students choose whether to use the feedback tools that help them see if they are plagiarizing or citing correctly. She said 73% of the students are using the feedback technology and the majority of students also find the feedback software helpful.

“The system has facilitated a culture of honesty,” she said. “It has raised awareness about academic standards and avoiding plagiarism.”

Will Murray, vice president for in the UK, said he switched from Academia to working for the UK government on academic integrity concerns before joining TurnItIn. In his presentation, he walked through definitions of plagiarism and innovations in TurnItIn’s products.

“There was a huge proliferation of essay banks in the U.S., places students could go to get material to hand in for common essay questions,” he said. “Turnitin almost eradicated these services altogether.”

But he notes that some of those sites morphed into ghost-writing sites. “For a fee, they write you an original essay. Some use your style if you submit some samples,” he said. “This is cheating as opposed to plagiarism. It’s a form of malpractice rather than plagiarism. They are turning in work that is not really theirs.”

He notes that TurnItIn has a huge database of 14 billion pages and relationships with 80 global science and math publishers. It shows results in 5 to 10 minutes because it owns the search it performs. The software is in 8 languages now and is expanding into Dutch and Swedish this year. At this point, 10,000 institutions in 126 countries have signed up for TurnItIn and it receives 200,000 papers a day to review.

Both speakers said that the examination takes time and should be housed at the academic level, not the administrative level of colleges as it requires knowledge of assignments and judgement. He also said the firm wants to “create a culture of honesty.”

Increasingly, he said, “students are used to using the web in a bad way when they come into the institution.” The way they use Facebook and other programs affect their academic understanding and abilities to cite and attribute properly.

He offers this link:

Finally, at the University of Stockholm in Sweden some researchers are working on a project called SciPro that they intend will help scientists on their research papers to find collaborators, to attribute research and to complete papers with less supervision and more intelligent and helpful supervision.

Ken Larsson said students at Swedish universities have jumped to more than 400,000 today, up from 200,000 in the 1980s. The number of faculty, however, has stayed flat. He said faculty often work more hours than required. Meanwhile, the student drop out rates are 30% at the thesis level.

So SciPro’s goal is to reduce the drop out rate, prevent plagiarism, student isolation, supervisor workload and time consumed for basics instruction (such as how to cite papers). It also aims to improve feedback and to stimulate creativity in the researchers. He said the school tested all the plagiarism services out there and found TurnItIn to be the best. So it uses TurnItIn as part of its program.

SciPro is in a test phase right now. But they hope to unveil more aspects of it in the spring and in coming semesters.


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