Thursday, December 6, 2012

Plagiarism Detection and Prevention

Plagiarism, I came to know the significance of this term when I started working as an Instructional Designer. While designing courseware’s and study materials for one of our clients who happened to be a technical university, we designers came to know the importance of copyright, fair use, and plagiarism. Our reviewers and editors were also quiet strict about it and we also use to have plagiarism software to detect any copyright violation.

What plagiarism detection software is available to online instructors?
As an online student, Turnitin is one of the major plagiarism detection software that I came to know and is considered a reliable source by many academic institutes and corporate businesses. Grammerly is another online software website that is particularly used to check academic papers and grammatical errors in essays and online posts.
How can the design of assessments help prevent academic dishonesty?
Dr. Pratt stressed on the point of designing assessments to incorporate collaboration and discourage cheating (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.). He also stressed on the point of creating assessment that should mirror real-life experiences. I concur with Dr. Pratt on designing real-life scenario assessments and activities. When as designers we do needs-assessment of our target audience, we can identify the skill-set level of our audiences as well. Based on the needs assessment, we can first create learning objectives and then try design assessments based on those learning objectives. In online learning, software such as Camtasia and Captivate allow you to create a “Show Me” or “Try Me” based assessment for application-based trainings.  Or you can create an interactive quickdemonstration/demo and then randomize a set of questions related to the demo.  Another very apt tip on preventing plagiarism is provided by John Harwood, Director of Computer Information Systems at Penn State – “ When the students hand in a big paper ask them to write in class a summary of their search strategies, or how they validated their ideas, or have them write a short summary of one citation, etc. Any of these types of assignments will be a quick check that they did the work” (USciences, n.d.).
What facilitation strategies do you propose to use as a current or future online instructor?
As an instructional designer I have worked with audio/video-based (AV) software’s like Camtasia and Captivate through which I was able to create training demos for our various company related applications and for our Learning Management System (LMS). Facilitators can include a performance-check for the students to see how they are improving in the class. They can also create a self-assessment evaluation form for students and allow them to rate their performance themselves.  I really liked the concept of having group discussions/activities as one way of not just gauging class participation, but also judging how a student is actually responding to other posts. Problem-solving based group work should be encouraged by the instructors to assess the knowledge of learners. Also besides using the Rubric, instructor should provide diagnostic feedback on discussion post/ assignments and tips for improvement. For instance, instructors can encourage a dialogue with the whole class on a blog assignment, just like a discussion forum.
What additional considerations for online teaching should be made to help detect or prevent cheating and plagiarism?
At an early point in the semester it is a good idea to gather some information about what is working well and what could use improvement in terms of student learning. (University of the Sciences [USciences], n.d.). Getting student feedback in the early stages of the course, such as what they think about a particular group activity can help you in making improvement in your general teaching approach. I also liked the use of branching scenarios where learner is provided with situation-based walkthrough and questions are asked in a stage-by-stage manner. Only after the student provides a correct choice/decision, he/she is allowed to proceed further.

Palloff, R. & Pratt, K. (Producer). (n.d.). Plagiarism and Cheating [Video podcast]. Retrieved from the Laureate Education website:

University of the Sciences. (n.d.). Student Assessment/ Cheating. Retrieved from the University of the Sciences website:


  1. I love the lay out and the content of your writing. You make several good suggestions on ways to test and validate what the students have done for work. Using assessments or the idea of using a short essay on the students research or source is brilliant. Very good way to keep them honest.

  2. Shuchi
    This was a great blog post. There were several websites that I came accross that are designed to help prevent and detect plagiarism. When I worked on my undergraduate degree, we didn't have these tpes of software in place. If a professor suspected someone of plagiarims, it was based solely on a suspicion of the professor and in most cases could never be proven. The fraternties and soroties always kept classwork from previous semesters. They would past it along to incoming brothers and sisters.

    1. Edward,
      Thanks for your thoughts. Solely suspecting a student’s submission on suspicion that’s harsh. Was there no way a student could appeal to the department to relook at the paper?

      While there are many who will criticize depending on software’s to detect and prevent plagiarism, I think they are one of the best alternative in the sense of Return on Investment (ROI) as well. In the corporate training environment organizations depend heavily on the reliability of these software’s. Of course we have Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and reviewers to check for authentic content, but software like Turnitin have taken lots of burden off a reviewer/Instructional Designer’s shoulder.

  3. I like you idea of having students summarize how they went about completing the research to see that they really did the work. At my school we make the students summarize the steps and keep a journal/log for their science fair so we can try to keep them honest since you can find science fair projects all over the web.Having then present and defend the project makes it easy to see if they did the work or if they got the work from another source.