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A quick read of case notes from the Williams College Honor and Discipline Committee’s rulings on cheating accusations bears this out.In one situation, “[t]he student was a first year student from a high school abroad in which citation was not taught at all,” but still was punished by flunking a paper that didn’t have appropriate citations.In a 2011 Pew study, 89 percent of college presidents blamed computers and the Internet for a perceived increase in plagiarism over the previous decade.
Others have found it helpful as a teaching tool, allowing students to see and correct problem areas before they submit their final drafts.
And Proctortrack, for its part, helps assure institutions that students taking tests off campus—particularly in online courses—completed their exams with integrity.
The definition of common knowledge—which determines what information needs attribution, and what doesn’t—is one such point of contention. “There’s no one box of stuff that we can say, ‘Okay, this is common knowledge,’ because it varies from community to community.
What’s common knowledge amongst a group of medical students, and what’s common knowledge amongst a group of engineering students is going to be different.”This kind of ambiguity is one of the main reasons Fishman counsels a more human-centric approach to college cheating. “There has to be an opportunity for [students] to attempt something, screw it up, and then to get feedback and correct it, without it being a semester-killing matter.”Elizabeth Kiss, the president of Agnes Scott College, says that one way to achieve this is an honor code.
Turnitin, for its part, is a web service used at institutions around the globe to analyze written schoolwork, giving students who run their papers through it computer-generated advice on their writing’s organization and sentence structures.
And it gives professors a grading platform that compares every sentence in a student essay to a big database: billions of archived web pages, millions of academic articles and—perhaps most interestingly—most of the other student papers submitted on Turnitin in the past, more than 337 million, according to the company’s website.
It doesn’t take much to imagine how quantifying expectations for how well a student will do in class might sharpen the search for cheaters.
Many professors appreciate tools like Turnitin for saving them the time and effort of Google searches or library trips to catch plagiarism.
The company behind it, Verificent Technologies, says that Proctortrack is currently installed on 300,000 student computers, with over 1 million online exams proctored since its release.
Other data experiments happening in higher education could have implications for how schools patrol for cheating in the future: many universities are starting to use demographic data like the student’s age and family education history alongside information on classroom engagement to predict a student’s likelihood of passing a course or even of graduating in four years.