The Growing Backlash Against Automated Cheating Detectors

from the but-for-a-good-reason dept

It's been nearly four years since we wrote about students and parents being upset that online services that check student homework for plagiarism were also uploading and storing a copy of every paper they checked. It got to the point, earlier this year, that at least one university banned the use of Turnitin, one of the most popular services in this field. It seems that the student rebellion against such tools is growing, as many more students are questioning the legality of such tools, and asking their schools to stop using them. They're not just upset about the uploads, but about the assumption of guilt. While there clearly is plenty of plagiarism to go around, that doesn't mean this is the right solution to it. It's often easy to just throw technology at a problem, but it's worth recognizing that doing so always raises unexpected issues -- and those issues may not be technological on their own, but legal and cultural issues. It seems like many of the schools who jumped on the Turnitin bandwagon didn't spend much time thinking about those additional consequences, and are now facing student anger because of it.

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  1. identicon
    Russell Mickler, 23 Sep 2006 @ 9:30pm


    I've been teaching adjunct both online and onground for nearly a decade. The fact is that many students come out of secondary education and are unfamiliar with appropriate methods of using citation: parenthetical, reference, authority, paraphrasing - all of the traditional rules were never reinforced in their academic experience. Therefore, generally speaking, students come into post-secondary systems thinking ripping off Wikipedia and turning it in for credit is the norm.

    This is a serious problem for academics: these student's use of the Internet constitutes a mental crutch, and there's no substance to the student's learning or the value of their program if there are no checks and balances on the use of citation. I teach over 150 students every eight weeks, and with an average of two assignments a week, you can see where this can be a bit time consuming.

    Although I'm pretty good at catching this kind of problem, man, it would be great if the upload process automatically checked for plagiarism, method, mechanics, style... and let me deal with _content_ and _ideas_ and _application_. Any student who'd argue backlash is just looking for the continued benefit of their crutch, and not the obvious benefit of my attention paid to what really matters: their application of concepts.


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