itsLearning senses plagiarism from internet, students

itsLearning senses plagiarism from internet, students

Corbin Parmer

Starting this year in BCSC, students have been given access to the itsLearning site as an all around tool. Within this site, teachers can upload assignments for students to complete by either attaching a document or typing straight into text boxes on the site itself.

When an assignment like this is created, teachers have the option of turning on something called “plagiarism control.” This control looks through uploaded assignments for any hint of cheating.

Many students wonder how this feature works, and whether it is really accurate.

Angie Wieneke, a UDL Coordinator for Instructional Media Technology for BCSC, elaborated on its functionality: “[The plagiarism control] checks work turned in with resources on the internet. It will provide a report with the percent breakdown of similar words.”

This means that, instead of the popular thought that it searches for copy and paste actions, the plagiarism detector actually checks submitted work word for word, and compares it with anything else on the internet that has the same writing, word for word.

Teachers can pull up an option for each submitted assignment to see exactly the percentage of any suspected plagiaristic action, and also see which websites or internet files that were possibly plagiarized.

Each of the websites or other files can be just simply clicked on to bring up a side-by-side comparison with a student’s submitted assignment. The detector even goes to the length of highlighting which sections have the same text on both the assignment and the suspected website or file.

The resources this detector can search are limitless. It not only searches websites, it also searches any assignment uploaded by another student during the same mod.

For example, if one student in mod four uploads a paper, and his/her friend in mod four copies and uploads the exact same paper, the detector will scan it for a 100 percent match between the two uploads.

Chasidy Kannianen, an English teacher and the English Department Chair at Columbus East, gave a view of the plagiarism control through the eyes of a teacher, and elaborated on how the English department handles it.

“[English teachers] use it on every paper. For me, if a student turns something in and it says over 25%, then I’ll usually check it,” Kannianen said.

The plagiarism control does have some cons. Currently, it doesn’t work with Google Docs, and it fails to recognize legitimate quotations and citations. Also, the plagiarism checker can compare with a student’s previously uploaded work, such as a rough draft for the same paper, so it may pop up as a 100% match for plagiarism.

“The only thing about it that I’d say is a downfall,” Kannianen said, “is even if a student puts something in quotation marks and cites it correctly, it still picks that up as plagiarism.”
The detector on ItsLearning is meant to be a helpful tool for both teachers and students, rather than something for students to worry about. The plagiarism detector may fail to see a proper citation, but a teacher won’t.
“The teachers in my department can’t just go off of the percentage,” Kannianen said. “They have to actually go look at the report.”

For a good amount of time, all students have seen the “plagiarism control” option on ItsLearning. It has been somewhat of a mystery, regarding its actual functionality and precision, and many students worry if it could potentially get them a zero for a paper because of suspected plagiarism. In the end, the plagiarism detector is a trustable, dependable resource that is used as a tool to further help students.