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
    RiskyMethodz, 24 Sep 2006 @ 10:25am

    From a Student

    "Um... it's "seig heil" not "zeig heil" you must have missed that part in school (or had someone else attend it for you who didn't take very good notes... lol)."

    It's "Sieg Heil", don't try to be a dick.



    I'm a 3rd year college student, and both my University and High School use Turnitin. In the 5 years that my work has been subject to this service, not once has my work been accused of plagiarism. And I'm sure, through improper citation, that some of them very well may have contained some...albeit unintentional. False positives are not that large of a problem, percentage wise. In a legitimate paper most of the "likeness" found should be contained within quotes or other citation. Teachers/Professors who see that the highlighted sections are cited properly will overlook small sections that may be highlighted, assuming a small "slip" or a false positive. It's just Not a problem.

    And I don't think most of you realize exactly how much cheating actually goes on in high school and college, especially the latter. Many of you may be shocked to discover the percentage of students that will spend the Entire class texting their friends without paying any attention to lecture. You may think twice before paying your son or daughter's phone bill while they're in college. Few of you can understand how annoying it is to see stereotypical frat boys show up to class 20% of the time, and sleep when they do arrive, just to get an A in the class because their brothers have copies of the tests from last semesters and have acquired the ability to read the size 4 font on their cheat-sheet they conveniently keep on their leg during a test.

    I've been offered more than $50 to write someone else's research paper before. On more than one occasion. $50 to spend maybe a day on a paper (I'm a decent writer), do you think there aren't people out there who'd do that? $50 may not seem like much, but high school and college students need money bad, it happens more than you'd like to think.

    To go along with the airport security analogy: No, it may not be a life or death threat. But, it completely defeats the goals of college. To know that some high percentage of those acquiring degrees from your school are cheating their way through with better grades than you obtain legitimately. They'll take your job, even though you had an honest collegiate experience and they were out drinking 5 nights of the week and going to classes with hangovers, when they decided to attend at all.

    Cheating is a huge problem, and it greatly affects the meaning of the degrees I'm pursuing. It's my estimate, through observation alone, than about 40% of the people graduating a university cheated their way to that degree. You'd truly have to attend current college classes to really understand exactly how prominent cheating really is. It's nice to know that papers are becoming less and less cheated....It's a good step, but we're still miles away.

    This seems no more legitimate a case or complaint than those suing McDonald's because they're overweight. How many honest students do you think are really complaining? None. It's a shame that the cheaters outnumber honest students nowadays. You don't have to believe me, just consider it.

    Ask your parents and they'll identify the same trends in people: We're becoming lazy, overweight, lacking work ethic, sue-happy, dishonest people who think more and more about money, and less about our personal integrity. That may be a cynical statement but empirically speaking, it's becoming truer every year.


    I doubt in any case that students are not confronted with the case of plagiarism and given the chance to prove their innocence. They should be happy for such a system to validate the honest effort they get to put into their studies.

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