Many of you might know Urkund, the plagiarism detection software we use here at Xamk. It is an automatic text-recognition system made for detecting, preventing and handling plagiarism.
Urkund organizes a seminar every year for their clients to inform them about the latest trends of the field, read: “what did students come up with this year to cheat our system”.
Joking aside, the fourth annual conference on Plagiarism, Ethics, Pedagogy and Practices (= Urkund PEPP-Talks) offered a series of genuinely interesting lectures and presentations to a grassroots lecturer like me and inspired me to sharing the main insights with you.
The first presenter was Dr. Mark Glynn, Head of the Teaching Enhancement Unit at Dublin City University. He emphasized the importance of designing plagiarism out of the assessment. To put it very plain and simple, how to give assignments that would demotivate students to copy and paste. This might sound easier said than done, but when students are motivated to choose the topic they are interested in and encouraged/forced to use the latest available sources, they are less likely to copy an already existing text or report.
I may not be the only teacher, who tends to give the same assignment year after year, or am I? Tailoring the assignments and getting students involved even in the creation of the assignment might motivate them and stop them from cheating. Overall, Dr. Mark Glynn was all for the carrot approach, when it comes to the stick or carrot dilemma.
Next up, Camilla Grönvall Fransson, a Lecturer and PhD-student of the Karlstads University delivered a highly insightful presentation on why students actually cheat and plagiarise. In her ongoing research, she observes a student called Alexandra in her studies and tries to analyze how she handles challenges when writing from sources in academic contexts. Instead of plagiarism, the reseacher deliberately used terms as text-matching or patchwriting, as she claimed that these often lead to unintentional plagiarism.
In her preliminary findings she expalined how insufficient language skills are often the reason for the usage of patchwriting. According to this, students use reproducing patchwriting strategys (by using mostly digital resources) for the following reasons: to identify keywords, to search others’ texts (digitally or personally), to copy text chunks, to search for synonyms and to modify phrasial and/or syntactic structure (Camilla Grönvall Fransson, Urkund PEPP-Talks 2018).
The last presenter was a quirky higher education professional from the UK, specialized in computer science, academic integrity and contract cheating, Dr. Thomas Lancaster. In his presentation, the terms contract cheating and ghost writing were commonly used.
I was not completely taken by surprise by the fact that students might “outsource the job” and pay someone to write their assignment, but the massive business behind it did startle me.
The professor shed light on who are actually the ones that work for such companies as essaymills and write the assignments for our students. One if these website is actually called unemployedprofessors.com, which made me laugh out loud, but no, it´s not a joke. The tricky thing is, that based on the research of Dr. Thomas Lancaster, students never really know who actually is behind it and writes their assignment. In most cases these are run like “academic sweatshops”, mostly from India and there is no guarantee of the quality. There have even been cases, when students got blackmailed after submitting the outsourced assignment.
The key takeaways of the Urkund PEPP-talks 2018 for me personally were that we have to redevelop assessment that is resistant to plagiarism and contract cheating in addition to discourage students from using these contract cheating services.
The presentations slides of Camilla Grönvall Fransson, Urkund PEPP-Talks 2018
The presnetation slides of Dr. Thomas Lancaster, Urkund PEPP-Talks 2018