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
    A chicken passeth by, 25 Sep 2006 @ 10:30pm

    PD stuff should not be used to directly make a profit, but that said...

    Enforced PD isn't an issue. The issue is system accuracy - you'd need something just short of a supercomputer to know the nuances of the English language in full. As it is, Turnitin is an overglorified OCR - it works by character matching, using a software similar to Copyscape.

    Ignoring the image and page name detection - Copyscape will catch strings of text X words or characters long, where X can be any arbitary number set by the Copyscape crew.

    You can't really win using this method:
    If X is short, you get "false positive".
    If X is long, you'll get misses.

    And, if your database is empty - nothing to match X with - automatic success.

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