Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Message Archive

Monday, December 10, 2012

 

This email is being sent to all members of the Baruch College faculty.

For an archive of announcements sent from the Provost’s Office beginning June 2011, see http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/provost/archive.htm

 

Dear Colleagues,

 

With final papers and other student writing on their way, the academic integrity committee thought that this seemed to be a good time of the semester for reporting on our recent poll of members of the faculty who have made use of Baruch College’s subscription to the plagiarism-detection software Turnitin.com during the past year. 138 Baruch colleagues used it from August 1, 2011 through July 31, 2012, submitting 16,355 items written by 5,660 students. As reported by Prof. Gerard Dalgish (English), our Turnitin.com coordinator, an overwhelming number of the responders who have used Turnitin find it helpful and continue to use it.

 

Here are excerpts from a few of the many positive comments:

 

  • I think it sends a great message to the students that we are serious.  I let them upload their own papers and check before submitting, so that there are no debates about the meaning of plagiarism, "how did this happen?" etc.
  • We should help our colleagues understand that using it is a way to guarantee fairness to all students… My students see it that way too and don't complain or resist it. That's perhaps a more comfortable posture than one which non-users sometimes imagine, namely that requiring it is like saying to students "I don't trust you and I'm going to catch you."
  • It reduces the amount of time I have to spend assessing possible plagiarism.
  • It was especially useful in these cases [of plagiarized papers] because I could just show them [students] the evidence, instead of having a conversation where I just told them I suspected it.
  • It objectifies the process of identifying plagiarism.
  • For our honest students, I believe it is reassuring [for them] to know that academic integrity is being monitored.
  • It's really the best way to figure out if anyone's plagiarized....and it does that job very, very well. How can you "talk" about plagiarism in class without having a big "stick" that they know will be used as an enforcement tool? (it's VERY effective....)
  •  I observe that students are comfortable using turnitin.com.  I always ask them to log in in advance of any deadline to make sure that the password is working and that it is user-friendly.  I have not had any complaints
  • It is easy to set up and easy for the students to use.
  • It encourages honesty from the start
  • I have been using the system for the last few years and I have found it incredibly helpful..[It] allowed me to detect several instances of plagiarism and cases of inadequate citation.
  • I also use turnitin's Peermark feature for editing assignments, having students mark up a sample paper and, in past semester, mark up each others' papers. Peermark allows the instructor to create a rubric for students to use, and also has a Comment function permitting an online markup.  This enables me to review markups without schlepping around physical papers.
  • Turnitin allows you to copy assignments from semester to semester, meaning that once you've developed a good set of instructions, and, for more complicated Peermark assignments, figured out what you need to program in, you can roll it forward and, by creating a Master Class, roll it to other instructors or teaching assistants.
  • It is also a very nice way to aggregate all of my assignments and grade them. The GradeMark system is unusually easy to use and has halved my grading time at least.
  • Although I currently use both Blackboard and turnitin independently, I would prefer to have the feature that allows for a seamless integration of Blackboard with turnitin. Students (and faculty) would need only submit papers to Blackboard and still retain the choice among both products’ features. [several similar comments were received]
  • I use the tool in all of my classes…I educate students beforehand on how I use the tool (meaning I issue a warning), and I make them submit their own assignments on turnitin.com to reinforce the fact that the assignments will be checked. It is very, very valuable.
  • Sometimes I have the whole class submit final drafts of papers via turnitin.com.  I believe using the site also deters students from plagiarizing in the first place.
  • The second line of defense is to make use of turnitin transparent (e.g., by having students submit their papers directly to the system).
  • Additionally, we need to emphasize grading/commenting options it provides to professors, the saving of paper, the ability to look again at papers that might have been handed back or to refer to them even if we are not at our own desk. People should appreciate easy access and no shlepping of piles of essays.
  • It has turned up several instances of "copy and paste," whereby students are lifting materials from other sources when they are supposed to be paraphrasing/summarizing. It's helpful to say that Turnitin identifed the problem because it is a neutral, reliable, third-party database and it saves me the time of having to go back to the source material in the event I believe the student's work is not original. It's fairly easy to identify unoriginal language in a document, but it would be quite time-consuming if I had to track it down, and in some cases impossible to do so. Turnitin also allows me to caution students about "plagiarism" before it becomes a problem.

 

The few (very few) negative comments would seem to contradict some of the foregoing reports on ease of use and time-saving properties. Here are two samples:

 

  • On the downside, turnitin can be quirky to set up.  It is not always user-friendly for students or instructors (plus our students are not always good at following instructions), so I need to post FAQs and tutorial links to Blackboard (they, too, roll from semester to semester), and spend some time in and out of class dealing with problems.
  • I'm not using it anymore. My students turn their papers in as hard copies (to make my life easier) and going to Turnitin.com just became one extra step that I didn't have time for. The service works well, but ultimately I was able to catch plagiarism without it.

à Based on the overwhelmingly positive responses we garnered, the academic integrity committee urges all members of the faculty to consider using Turnitin.com as a tool for helping assess the originality of student work. An email to Prof. Dalgish (Gerard.Dalgish@baruch.cuny.edu) will help you get started. Moreover, starting this spring, please be on the lookout for a series of faculty development sessions around the use of Turnitin. Our plan is to work with members of the faculty from each department on workshops for nearly every department (nearly every department in the college is represented among the 138 users from last year).

 

Best wishes for great final papers!

 

Dennis Slavin

Associate Provost and Assistant Vice President

Baruch College, CUNY

646-660-6504 (phone); 646-660-6531 (fax)

Dennis.Slavin@baruch.cuny.edu

http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/provost/teaching_learning.htm