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Archive for Wednesday, October 4, 2006

KU renews anti-plagiarism software subscription

October 4, 2006

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After an outcry from faculty and teachers, Kansas University has decided not to cancel its subscription to a popular online tool for spotting plagiarism.

"I'm delighted," said Tim Miller, professor and interim chairman of religious studies. "I think that plagiarism is a very serious problem, and I think we need to be alert in trying to stop it."

KU officials alarmed faculty and lecturers last month when word spread that the university would not renew its subscription to Turnitin.com, a computerized plagiarism-detection service. KU officials cited the $22,000 cost and copyright concerns.

But those issues apparently have been resolved. KU and Turnitin.com representatives said Tuesday that the subscription would be renewed for not only one year but two.

KU spokeswoman Lynn Bretz said Turnitin.com had requested the university not disclose the negotiated price. But she said because KU is a public university, it will release the cost in a few days once the contract is official.

Turnitin.com works by scanning student papers and comparing the content with information found on the Internet and in databases of student work, journals and periodicals. Because Turnitin.com retains student papers, the service has raised intellectual property and copyright issues.

But on Tuesday, Bretz said Turnitin.com addressed the issue by agreeing to remove papers from the database if requested by the KU Writing Center, which administers the service for KU.

"We're pleased with the resolution of the cost concerns and the intellectual property concerns," Bretz said.

The service has 364 registered users at KU. It has been used to scan tens of thousands of KU students' papers over the years, according to Turnitin.com.

KU officials have pointed out that the service's cost has climbed from $6,000 when KU first subscribed.

But John Barrie, chief executive of Turnitin.com's parent company iParadigms, said KU received the service at reduced cost because it was among the first institutions to subscribe.

"We gave them a smoking deal to be one of our first clients," he said. "We do want to give them a discount for being one of our pioneering clients."

KU faculty who rely on Turnitin.com to deter and detect plagiarism breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday.

"I'm very pleased," political science professor Phil Schrodt said. "The fact that they've changed their mind is quite satisfactory for me."

Comments

prioress 8 years, 2 months ago

Perhaps KU can negotiate a bit closer with Mangino in order to use some of KU's money for ACADEMIC purposes.

Different accounts, sorry.

There's a free anti-plagiarism system on-line. It's called "google." Just pick a sentence that sounds a little too good, copy and paste it into google, and find the source of the duplicated material.

Good point; never thought of that; I'll try it sometime. Too bad the colleges have too many chairs and not enough students to fill them. The proper punishment for plagiarism is expulsion and criminal prosecution. I, for one, don't want to drive over a bridge designed by an engineering student who cheated his way through school!

Bubarubu 8 years, 2 months ago

Since Turnitin.com checks papers against their database of other submitted papers, it's superior to Google as an anti-plagiarism tool. Two roommates submit the same paper in two sections of the same class, Google can't catch that. If they both submit to Turnitin.com, the service can (and will) catch them.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 2 months ago

KU admin concerned about cost for an academic tool yet spent $90,000 for a new logo which on the grand scheme of things was not the least bit important. The old logo and colors could have remained easily for another 100 years.

fletch 8 years, 2 months ago

It's nice to see KU values students' intellectual property so little.

Sigmund 8 years, 2 months ago

KU admin concerned about cost for an academic tool yet spent $90,000 for a new logo which on the grand scheme of things was not the least bit important. The old logo and colors could have remained easily for another 100 years.

mom_of_three 8 years, 2 months ago

Too bad the students couldn't just be taught not to cheat!

Kyle Rohde 8 years, 2 months ago

One day, I wish all of you people that spend your time believing that sports are taking money directly from the pockets of every other department will wake up. KU's Athletic Dept. pays for itself and makes a ton of extra money in the end. The Athletic Dept. delivers exposure of KU to potential students from around the country. The money spent by a major public university isn't in some magic "Scrooge McDuck" like vault - it comes from a variety of sources (public, private, endowment, etc.) and the sports money is completely separate from the money that pays for turnitin.com.

Wilbur_Nether 8 years, 2 months ago

Sigh.

The KU administration makes a business decision, weighing the relative value of a service against its cost (and the references to both the branding and athletic expenses are based on false comparisons), and is excoriated. Thinking that it may may have mis-weighed the service's value, the administration then reconsiders, finds the arguments from the professors persuasive, and changes its mind based on the new perspectives brought to it. And is again excoriated.

At what point do we decide "here is a reasonable group of people that, when presented with someone's concern, listened to and considered that concern, and was open-minded enough in this instance to realize they were about to make a poor decision"? In this instance, that is what happened here.

prioress 8 years, 2 months ago

Too bad the students couldn't just be taught not to cheat!

Good point, but since everything is learned by the young through modeling and repetition, look at their examples.

ControlFreak 8 years, 2 months ago

bmwjhawk,

The teachers have enough to do without searching each and every paper from every student with sentence structure that sounds a "little too good."

There are several classes above English 101 and 102 that require long research papers. By long I mean upwards of 20+ pages. With a class of 20 students, and assuming that each student writes the minimum of 20 pages each, the teacher is looking at 400 pages to manually scan for the possibility of plagiarism.

That is just from one class.

With the demand of fast turn around requirements by KU, less than a week in most cases, it is an impossible task.

Considering those teachers that cover classes like English 101 and 102, they might have four or five such classes, with 30 or more students.

The requirements of those classes are something along the lines of at least 4 papers ranging in 3-4 pages each. The majority of the teachers are GTA's, who definitely DO NOT have time to comb every paper for possible plagiarism.

p>Turnitin.com saves time and is more accurate.

bmwjhawk 8 years, 2 months ago

There's a free anti-plagiarism system on-line. It's called "google." Just pick a sentence that sounds a little too good, copy and paste it into google, and find the source of the duplicated material.

It's free and fun for everyone.

mom_of_three 8 years, 2 months ago

Or the students can looking for the easy way in doing a paper.
Yes, the students could be learning their behavior (cheating) from a parent or a peer. Or some just look for an easy way out.
I wonder what the punishment is if they are caught. And is it stiff enough to be used as a deterrent to others?

DantheMan3 8 years, 2 months ago

I just came across an absolutely eye-opening article with tons of proof. I had no idea how much Turnitin violates students' rights.

http://www.essayfraud.org/turnitin_john_barrie.html

basil 8 years, 2 months ago

Read Michele Eodice's letter to the LJW.

And here's the thing: Turnitin claims to be very effective, but it isn't. I wish it were, because then I could overlook the astounding oversight of intellectual property issues here. Tim Miller et al are wrong about the crux of the latter issue. The problem is that Turnitin relies on student submissions to be effective, and it sells the program to universities, colleges, and K-12 schools. In short, it makes money off of them.

I agree that plagiarism is a HUGE problem, one that KU takes more seriously than many institutions that have, frankly, much more lofty reputations. KU has a very easy-to-manage process with a good system of checks and balances to protect both students and faculty. Other schools often actively discourage faculty from pursuing plagiarism cases for fear of damaging the university's rep. So cut KU some slack on this one.

The problem needs to be dealt with, and yes, it is bad. No worse at KU than other places, but it's bad--all over the world, from what I've gathered. And some faculty are doing their best to confront it in a variety of ways. The sad truth is that it's easier to submit a paper to a program with misplaced faith that it works than to, for instance, rework one's assignments and work with students. This isn't foolproof, by any means, but I can tell you a lot of the assignments that get the worst plagiarism are really not very wisely constructed in the first place. What I'm saying is that "catching cheaters" is only part of the equation, and it can't be the only part.

I agree KU could be putting more money into this, but the money should go to PEOPLE: more faculty, more faculty assistance. I'd rather give the logo-designing money, for example, or the money that goes to the KU jet (!!) to hire more GTAs and faculty than to paying for a shady, crappy software program.

KU paid up for it because of all the uninformed discussion and flaming that happened when its cancellation was announced.

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