Newcastle-based plagiarism detection software a success

A GOVERNMENT-FUNDED venture established 10 years ago to stop students cheating has become a national hit.

A GOVERNMENT-FUNDED venture established 10 years ago to stop students cheating has become a national hit.

Newcastle-based plagiarism detection software Turnitin has led to a 59% reduction in “unoriginal content” in student essays.

In addition, the software has now been successfully rolled out to 98% of universities in the UK and many further education colleges.

In 2002, growing concern about plagiarism, particularly students copying from the internet, prompted Jisc, experts on digital education technology, to fund a project to establish the Plagiarism Advisory Service.

Its aim was to create a national strategy to allow UK higher and further education institutions to check the authenticity of students’ work.

Universities and colleges were given free access to the Turnitin software for three years initially.

In 2005, 7.7% of work submitted to the system was flagged as having more than three quarters of unoriginal – or potentially plagiarised – content.

But by last year, that figure had fallen to 3.1%.

Will Murray, vice president of Turnitin International, said: “Student surveys and evidence from the US identified there were issues arising out of the increased availability of material on the internet, which needed to be addressed with a nationwide strategy. Turnitin has always emphasised the need for an integrated strategy where technology is combined with advice and guidance, but there is no doubt that the use of Turnitin has acted as the most significant catalyst for change within institutions.

“Alongside the software, we have created a global community of academics and user groups to ensure that we draw on expertise and best practice from across the world.

“As a result the problem appears to be much more in control and there has been an overall reduction in unoriginal content.”

Among the North East institutions using Turnitin are Northumbria University, Newcastle University and Gateshead College.

Curriculum leader at Gateshead College, Steve Beckwith, said: “I have been using Turnitin for the last two years with my Level 3 Btec students and have found it to be an invaluable tool for online marking.

“The instances of students’ work being copied and pasted from the internet has almost disappeared and the standard of work has improved as a result.”

Dr Mike Reddy, one of a number of academics to form the original advisory board, said: “It was important to adopt a holistic approach where the advisory role and the introduction of detection software would complement each other.

“This strategy, including five internationally recognised conferences, has had a significant impact in terms of changing attitudes in UK and global approaches to handling plagiarism.”

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