As some of you know, for this year the UW Tacoma has controversially been trialling the “Turn It In” plagiarism software detector. I say “controversial” because not everyone was behind the idea. Personally, I think it’s trying to use technology to fix a human problem and as many of you know, I think that’s always destined to fail. There is no doubt that the internet has given plagiarism a bit of a technological leg up. But as I have written about here before, plagiarism is something that faculty and staff can overcome through course design; making students go to the library for example! Not only that, but in the “war on cheaters” you’ll always be fighting a losing game if you rely solely on technology.
That said, I have to say that I’m impressed with the latest Blackboard offering called “SafeAssign.” I’m sure it will be plagued with the technological problems we have become accustomed to in dealing with Blackboard but the idea of the program is very solid: SafeAssign uses the most popular databases to scan papers for unattributed quotes in addition to monitoring the paper mills. Scanning ProQuest and Expanded Academic Index is a smart idea. Maybe with this kind of thinking technology can overcome a social problem?
Nah… I’m still wary. Reliance on technology gives people an unfounded sense of security. No doubt the cheater companies are hard at work figuring out a way to make their papers less detectable.