Working on projects related to re-designing assessments (with a particular focus on using technology), and with colleagues with a particular interest in plagiarism (see p.39), an interesting story this week in Times Higher Education:

It is, of course, a serious academic offence to pass off somebody else’s work as your own. Universities are in the business of accrediting students as having acquired certain knowledge and skills, and it is a fraud on potential employers if students have cheated in their assessments. Yet research suggests that plagiarism is much more widespread than most academics realise, to the extent that degree standards are in serious danger.

University administrations have responded to the problem of plagiarism by treating it as a crime. They issue dire warnings of heavy penalties for the offence; they use advanced methods of detection, such as Turnitin; and they have complex, quasi-judicial procedures for dealing with cases that are detected. However, the way students are taught and assessed is a far more significant factor in the occurrence of plagiarism than the criminal intentions of a small minority of students. If we are to improve the situation, we need to design the possibility of cheating out of the system, rather than focusing all our efforts on detection and punishment. There is no single change that can miraculously make plagiarism go away, but there are a number of things that can be done (and other things to be avoided) that together make plagiarism virtually unthinkable for students.

Read full story.

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