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
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2006 @ 6:59am

    Re: Re: Feeble excuse for cheating

    "So, plagiarism = terrorism? Good argument.

    Airport security is a necessity for safety. But it is most certainly an intrusion upon my civil liberties. That intrusion is a cost we pay in order to fly and is weighed against the risk to our lives.

    Are you suggesting that plagiarism is a risk to our lives!?!"

    Plagiarism is destructive to the entire education process. It is a huge problem and is much more prevalent than you'd probably believe. Given all of the resources that students have now, it is much easier to cheat and much harder to detect. As such, I would think that students should feel better that they're not competing for grades against students who cheat.

    Also, for what it's worth, the whole "innocent until proven guilty" only applies to criminal justice. Other people can assume whatever they want. And here, there is no presumption of any kind - students aren't failed until they prove they don't cheat. All papers are scanned, and guilty parties punished appropriately.

    That said, no system is perfect. If I were using this tool, I would take all positives extremely seriously and would thoroughly research the offending paper against the papers it was supposed to have plagiarized. Mistakes happen. As a former TA, I never accused anyone of cheating - although I was rather sure of it once, I didn't have quite enough evidence, so I didn't pursue it.

    I've also been accused of cheating, of which I was innocent, and no, it doesn't feel good.

    So in the end, there has to be a system for separating cheaters from innocent students, and no, it's not lazy for the teacher to use this system because it's hard to tell these days. But using this tool has to come with significant responsibility for the teacher.

    If I were running a school, I would allow this tool but highly regulate its use. I would also require a teacher to present evidence to a peer to ensure that proper investigation has been performed regarding any positives.

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