By Andrea Woodring
Although all instructors should be concerned for student academic integrity, online instructors have the added pressure of student work being more visible to classmates and therefore how to handle incidences of plagiarism within the fishbowl of an online course (Joycoy & DiBiase, 2006). There are really two issues at hand; first, how to prevent plagiarism from happening and then how to detect it (Soiferman, 2016).
Plagiarism software such as Turnitin and Essay Verification Engine, as recommended by Jocoy and DiBiase (2006), are very helpful for detecting incidents of plagiarism. Using Google to search for plagiarism is also an effective method for detecting violations. Duplichecker.com is another web tool that will help instructors check for plagiarism concerns that many teachers at my high school use. The real goal though should not be to detect plagiarism but to prevent it from happening in the first place.
To be preventative requires that students and instructors have a common definition for plagiarism as many students do not recognize when they have crossed the line (Joycoy & DiBiase, 2006; Laureate Education, Inc., 2012; Soiferman, 2016). Soiferman (2016) advocates using examples of plagiarism with students to help students understand the abstract idea of plagiarism in a concrete way. Merely having a plagiarism policy that is not explicitly discussed will not make much of a difference in preventing plagiarism (Soiferman, 2016). There are incidents of plagiarism where the student did not understand that a line had been crossed and it can be difficult to prove intent (Joycoy & DiBiase, 2006; Soiferman, 2016).
Another way to prevent plagiarism is with the design of the assignment (Joycoy & DiBiase, 2006). Assignments that require students to make evaluative statements or argue a point require students to take the facts from their reading and combine them with their own words to make their point. It is important to still point out to students that they should still be crediting the ideas they are using from the various sources that the students used. Students often do not understand that paraphrasing someone’s words still requires that credit be given (Soiferman, 2016).
To be proactive, an online instructor needs to establish a clear understanding of what plagiarism is, expectations for crediting others words and ideas, and the consequences of plagiarism with the students. In addition, the online instructor needs to be vigilant at maintaining these expectations through careful evaluation of student original work, which can be achieved through the use of tools such as Turnitin. Although detecting plagiarism issues can be time consuming, it is an important aspect of checking for student understanding of the content and academic integrity.
Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by Adult Learners Online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review Of Research In Open & Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2012). Plagiarism and cheating. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Soiferman, L. K. (2016). Problems of policing plagiarism and cheating in university institutions due to incomplete or inconsistent definitions. Online Submission,