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
    Pat, 20 Nov 2006 @ 11:14am


    It's not just the issue of assumed guilt. It's the violation of my rights as a parent. As the parent of several high school and college students, I am concerned. My children who are under the age of majority (and some are in college) do not have the legal right to make legally binding decisions. As such, TurnItIn does not have the right to save, archive, use or anything else with their papers because they cannot give consent.

    I have talked to the legal people at TurnItIn and asked that my children's papers be removed and was told to get the school administrator to have them removed. And for the college students, the professors won't even talk to me.

    One of my children has to justify all "hits" prior to turning in the final paper. This presumes guilt and wastes this child's time.

    The use of red yellow green coding presumes guilt. It is particularly alarming when properly cited references turn up as "hits." After talking with TurnItIn, they remove all "white text" which means formatting so that even underlined things will get a "hit" including titles of books, etc.

    Every student should be told that they do not have to accept TurnItIn. Even if forced to TurnItIn, they should be offered the opportunity to have their paper removed. It should be an option at turn in. The teacher should not have the final say. The author/legal guardian should.

    Every underage student should have to have parent's approval and consent.

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