If you work in edtech and someone has asked about online assignments you will have probably had the plagiarism chat. It usually ends in the same workflow being adopted which uses a tool that the majority of the UK institutions utilise.
I am not name dropping however we as a sector may need to reflect on how its got to this stage. Yes we are unhappy however what as a sector have we done to combat the current monopoly?
Tools are great when they are flexible to meet numerous workflows, integrate seamlessly into platforms, inherit standards, listen to its users and evolve the product however what happens when they don’t listen or the tool doesn’t evolve?
Its weird to think that as the local\regional champions for these tools we are muted by vendors with the same excuses of priority, development, value and cost. The non-centralised contracts, the lack of vision and the general disregard for change.
I understand that cost is an overhead however how vendors have ignored core workflows for assessments is staggering. The amount of bespoke, weird and wacky workflows I have seen for assessment submissions is staggering however highlights the current crop of assessment tools are rudimental. Throw in plagiarism and you have a challenge.
So do we have plagiarism checking tools? The short answer is no, we have text checking tools which check if content within A matches content in a vendors repository (and any other 3rd party repos that vendor has signed an agreement with).
So next question, is similarity the same as plagiarism? Well again no, plagiarism is clear in context that I am “trying” to present something aka I am not quoting and taking the glory and similarity is basically text matching.
So is text matching plagiarism? Do we understand how vendors match text? Do we have sight of the algorithms that are used to label users?
Context is key and someone might not reference correctly or they were working in a group and have all written the same line from a discussion or they have external pressures in their life that’s leading them to a crisis. Context is key.
I haven’t marked an assignment however can understand the concern regarding plagiarism. When I wen
t to University (Netscape explorer days and email via cmd line) we had a library, a bunch of academics and each other.
Now we have information overload with data access points everywhere. The library of information available is massive plus the number of companies that market essay help (aka we will supply chunks or the whole essay) at cost are increasing.
So in a weird way similarity tools have created a micro-industry that is growing. A black hole of confusion that we don’t understand and a trust we have too nervously accept.