EdTech: Turnitin Is Developing, Authorship Investigation, a “Contract Cheating” Tool, Set To Debut Early Next School Year.
Turnitin is the most widely recognized name in academic integrity. The Turnitin platform is used by thousands of colleges, universities and K-12 schools across the globe. As students in any grade level submit their assignments to their teachers or professors via Turnitin, they are instantly checked against billions of data sources including sources on the internet, works published by colleges and universities, and databases of previously submitted assignments. As schools onboard onto the Turnitin system they can even upload previously submitted assignments dating back over 15 years.
The Turnitin platform can detect plagiarism down to sentences already. While academic integrity is the backbone to Turnitin, at a recent meeting at FETC in Orlando, they explained that their platform also makes students better writers. Students that know their assignments will be checked via Turnitin, spend more time on their original assignments and naturally strengthen their skills during the writing process, as it was meant to be.
Turnitin also gives teachers and professors valuable tools for assessment and feedback. Through the Turnitin platform teachers can give “red pen” feedback the way they could before computers were used to grade assignments. Their popular “revision assistant” tool, popular in K-12 schools, allows teachers to give instant feedback as students are revising their work.
This is all well and good except for the fact that Turnitin itself, along with other academic integrity tools, has sparked an entire new industry for cheating over the past decade. This new cheating is called “contract cheating”. Nowadays, students don’t need to pay to copy someone’s assignment, they can quickly and easily go to sites like Craigslist and higher individuals or “companies” (and we use the term lightly) to write assignments for them.
This new breed of cheating isn’t really new, it’s been going on for years. I may or may not know students in high school that would get paid to write assignments for athletes to ensure that they would complete assignments on time and remain academically eligible, but that’s a story for another day. In this case, the digital world, the computer and the internet has made it very easy to find someone to write assignments for you. Heck students can outsource assignments and have a ten page paper written by an english speaking person in India for less than $10.
With all the technology available today, universities, colleges and K-12 schools have grown to trust Turnitin when it comes to academic integrity. So after mastering the ability to check student work for plagiarism in real time, as assignments are submitted, their next focus has become this “contract cheating”.
Authorship Investigation—available in the second half of 2018—will support institutions in identifying and investigating potential contract cheating incidences. The new capability will use a combination of machine learning algorithms and forensic linguistic best practices to detect major differences in students’ writing style between papers. The following institutions have joined forces with Turnitin to advise the development process: Deakin University, Griffith University, University of California San Diego, University of New South Wales, University of Northampton, University of Queensland, and University of Wollongong.
“Academic integrity is at the foundation of the educational enterprise and contract cheating poses a serious threat to that foundation,” said Tricia Bertram Gallant, UC San Diego’s Director of Academic Integrity. “Ultimately paying attention to pedagogy and assessment design is the best method for preventing contract cheating, but when it happens regardless it would be useful to have a tool to help identify it.”
As students find new ways to cheat Turnitin does an amazing job of staying on top of it. Stakeholders in education want to feel confident that students are holding the highest levels of integrity when it comes to their education. Turnitin helps not just schools, but the students as well.
“Turnitin prides itself on being a leader in academic integrity tools. We’ve addressed copy-paste plagiarism, student collusion, and research misconduct,” said Turnitin CEO Chris Caren. “Taking on emerging threats to academic integrity like contract cheating is a natural extension of our mission. As forms of academic misconduct evolve, so must Turnitin’s offerings. We believe in the value of higher education, and we see our forthcoming solution as playing an essential role in protecting the degrees institutions confer.”
Stay up to date with Turnitin’s Authorship Investigation efforts here.