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
    Cleverboy, 24 Sep 2006 @ 2:04am


    "Teachers and professors have been able to spot plagiarism before this sort of technology was around. It sounds like the teachers of today are just lazy." - Anonymous Coward

    You must not also realize how "this technology" has been made all the more necessary due to "cheating" websites out there that give students an even wider selection of old papers to choose from that teachers, without using Google and other tools, would have no hope of detecting. Everything seems to be an arms battle these days, although Turnitin gives tools not only to teachers but to the legitimate needs of students too.

    "if there is no checks on who submitted each assignment (and therefore a copyright for each of those submissions to those authors) then the system is invalid and should be scrapped." - Anonymous Coward

    Invalid and should be scrapped is a remarkeable leap from "needs improvement". Having a sister that works in education, I know that she works her ass off putting together lesson plans and grading. Tools that help our often beleaguered and underpaid educators should be welcomed. The case you mentioned sounds like a workeable exception that should be discussed. Some of my previous suggestions in this thread (like allowing students to check for false posititives) would be welcome. Also, I'd be surprised if these services did not actually contain some original attribution and date for the work that is matched.

    In the end, I'd have to say that a student that tries to hand the same assignment in today, that they handed in last year, is still just being lazy. By the same count, teachers should be able to find the previous assignment and give it the same grade, sight-unseen. --Instead, they have to waste their valuable time grading something the student probablt hasn't even attempted to improve. If the student included a note that it is an "improved" version of a previous paper they wrote, I think that is a positive note on honesty. It's up to the teacher in any case whether that is acceptable.

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