With a five to zero vote, the BOUSD Board of Education approved a one-year subscription to Turnitin, an online plagiarism detection service, on Jan. 14. The software, which costs $7,215 annually, was requested by the BOHS English department due to concerns about an uptick of plagiarism in English classes this year.
“Since all assignments are online [due to distance learning] there has been an increase in plagiarism,” Laurel Batchelor, English department chair, said.
Kim Ofcacek, English teacher, has also noticed an increase in plagiarism in her ninth grade English classes. “Many students are Googling the questions, and many even copy-and-paste the answers and claim it as their own writing,” Ofcacek said.
When a student submits their paper to Turnitin’s software, it compares a student’s work against millions of digital sources, including journals, databases, and online publications. The software then generates an “originality report” showing how much of the writing matches existing sources.
Kerrie Torres, Assistant Superintendent, hopes that Turnitin.com will help teachers give ample feedback to students’ writings in a more timely manner due to “the quantity of papers” English teachers collect throughout the school year.
Although plagiarism checkers, such as Google Docs originality reports, are currently in use at BOHS, Turnitin is more robust. The software compares student essays against essays submitted in the same class, which is difficult to detect by a teacher with hundreds of students across multiple periods. Turnitin also builds a database of submissions, so reusing a paper from a BOHS graduate will show up as a match.
Jonathan Quiming, English teacher, believes that the service will compel students to be more accountable with their writing. “Turnitin.com is a much more accurate and effective detector of plagiarism on the internet,” which should dissuade students from cheating, Quiming said.
The services purchased — Turnitin Feedback Studio and Turnitin Originality — will allow students to inspect their own papers as an efficient “solution that support[s] both students and staff,” Torres said. Turnitin also features voice commenting, peer review tools, automatic grammar check, and customizable rubrics for teachers.
Aubrey Fessler, freshman, expects that Turnitin will be a useful addition because it will help students face the consequences of plagiarism and be responsible “[for] plagiarizing, and learn from their mistakes,” especially in the home environment where students are learning without a teacher overseeing their work.