Sunday, 11 March 2012

Can Cheaters Prosper in Today's Digital World?

I am finishing up an online course in Church history and am amazed at how many cases of plagiarism have occurred--as much as 25% of the students enrolled in the course. Everyone taking the course is required to read documentation on the definition of plagiarism and must submit their papers through Safe Assign. I am amazed when I pull up a report and see, in some cases, 100% matches for papers that copy verbatim websites like Wikipedia, and (especially for book reviews). What is even more disturbing is reading students' bios in which they describe their heartfelt desire to serve God as ministers in various denominations! I'm sure there is (or will be) a way to beat Safe Assign and other similar software programs, but for now, this is one technological tool that I am very thankful for as a teacher.

In all my courses, even the residential ones, I require students to submit their papers through Safe Assign. It is extra work for me at the beginning of the semester to set up my course on Blackboard in this way, but it is worth the effort. I warn students early on during the first week of class in my residential courses that they will have to submit their papers through this software program, and this seems to do the trick. I have not had many blatant cases of plagiarizing. Perhaps the younger students, who typically take residential courses, are more aware of the difficulties of cheating a program like this by comparison to older students who often take online classes, and are not as technologically savvy.

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