The digital age has had a tremendous impact on education, providing students with access to extensive pools of credible information. This has led to some interesting developments in students’ workflow. In 2008, the independent Cambridge student newspaper Varsity carried out research that revealed that 67% of survey respondents had broken university rules. Even more significantly, 49% of all respondents admitted to some form of plagiarism. So has the introduction of plagiarism checkers in any way stemmed this practice and transformed education?
Academics and Plagiarism Checkers
Implementing plagiarism checkers certainly affects academics’ work. Academics at conventional educational institutions and virtual learning environments have welcomed the integration of such in-depth analysis into the assessment of students’ work. These tools provide an objective measure of plagiarism, albeit subject to academic interpretation. Moreover, if staff are provided with sufficient training, these plagiarism reports serve as a valuable instrument even when feedback is given.
Studies also show that the time taken to scan students’ submissions has been considerably reduced by the introduction of plagiarism detection systems. This has many beneficial effects, including increased time for academic evaluation and faster responses to submissions. Academics and students alike have welcomed this trend.
Plagiarism Checkers Impact Student Performance
Plagiarism is generally reduced in the second draft, according to a study by Barrett and Malcolm in 2006. Exact numbers show a substantial decrease in non-original work from 26% to 3% in re-submission. Students were given an extra incentive not to commit another offense in their second submission through awarding them higher marks for original material. As Ledwith & Risquez observed in 2008, this increase can be as much as 0,48 points in just a single draft apart.
Besides being motivated to produce original works, students also benefit from plagiarism checkers while they work on their assignments. Being able to check the originality of one’s material is invaluable and has a direct effect on students’ productivity. Bear in mind that electronic plagiarism checkers provide comprehensive and swift feedback.
The Big Picture
The rapid adoption of plagiarism detecting technologies has enabled a major overhaul in the way students’ work is assessed. It has already expedited both the writing and assessment stages. But this is just the first step in finding a long-term solution to the problem of plagiarism. In order to really impact on students’ practices, further measures must be taken. Academics require further training to find a balance between improving student writing and referencing skills, and analyzing plagiarism reports. Handling information gleaned from such reports is also the key to motivate students to strive for originality and a thorough understanding of assessed material.
Criticism of such plagiarism detecting technologies hinges on the fact that some incorrectly indict the innocent. However, it should be pointed out that software detecting plagiarism has been enhanced greatly and now provides extensive reports.
This process should be complemented by teaching students how to steer clear of plagiarism on a daily basis. It aims to make students better scholars and not just better at evading detection.
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