Oswego State scraps plagiarism program

The Committee on Intellectual Integrity (CII) at Oswego State plans to hold off on the addition of text-matching software until they find something that better fits into the college’s budget.

During the spring 2009 semester, CII ran a pilot project using Turn-It-In text-matching software in 58 classes on campus. The classes ranged from undergraduate to independent research to project-based and graduate classes.

Students in these classes would submit their papers through Angel Learning and Management System version of Turn-It-In, that would highlight areas of papers that were improperly cited or contained plagiarized phrases. Students then had the opportunity to correct their citations and cut down on plagiarism.

According to the results of the pilot project, students and faculty weren’t as impressed with the program. Associate Dean David Bozak of the college of liberal sciences and the arts, one of the main coordinators of this software, spoke of the results,

"The bottom line of the report is that the assessment of students and faculty was not very strong," he said.

He said the mixture of poor student and faculty reactions along with low budget confirms that the college does not purchase the software right now.

The Turn-It-In software would cost the college more than $7,000 for its use in classes on campus. The "weak reactions" of students and staff to the pilot project doesn’t validate the purchase, Bozak said.

Students responded anonymously to a survey of the pilot project listed on the text-matching software Web site. Some results were negative.

"I am not very partial to it. It did not help me at all," one student replied. "I just simply submitted by papers through it and that was all. It never helped me."

Other results, however, supported the software. One student said,

"It was helpful to see what, if any, phrases we didn’t paraphrase correctly."

While the Turn-It-In program is known mostly as a plagiarism detector, that title may be deceiving, Bozak said. The program doesn’t uncover plagiarism as much as it matches text from other written documents to find any similarities. The main goal that Turn-It-In was to use the software as a pedagogical tool, Bozak said, for students to learn how to cite better and work on their writing. The results showed that this wasn’t an overwhelmingly successful venture toward that goal.

While plagiarism at Oswego State doesn’t statistically stand out compared to other colleges in the nation, the perception that plagiarism isn’t a problem here might be incorrect considering most other colleges have unsatisfactory records already, he said.

According to a survey conducted by the committee in 2007, 98 percent of Oswego State students believe cheating takes place during tests and exams. 29 report it takes place often, and 48 percent report actually witnessing other pople cheating.

The college is looking at different options for text-matching software. Just recently, Blackboard bought the rights to Angel management system that the college uses for interactive data exchange. Blackboard already has a text-matching software component. The college’s license with Angel expires in a year, Bozak said CII will know what steps to take for software if the college renews the license.

"Right now," he said, "the integrity group is focused on a fairly intensive educational Web site for students."

Other than that, CII is waiting to see what develops in the next year to determine the direction the college’s intellectual integrity will go.