With the University's campus-wide license purchase for Turnitin.com, professors could be utilizing the service more in the future. Pictured is a student checking out the service's website. Photo by Jarrett Crowe.
by Jarrett Crowe
The University of Regina has purchased a campus-wide licence for the online service Turnitin.com - which defines itself as "the global leader in addressing plagiarism and delivering rich feedback."
The service advertises three distinct features for academic use: an originality checker used to catch plagiarism and academic dishonesty; a grade mark feature used for online grading and feedback from the professor; and a peer mark feature for feedback from fellow classmates.
Dr. Richard Kleer, Dean of Arts and professor of Economics, says that while he originally was interested in the plagiarism detection feature, using the service over the past five years has allowed him to appreciate the academic benefits.
"I show students at the beginning of the semester, tell them I'm going to be using the product. I show them what a plagiarized paper looks like, I show them what a possibly plagiarized paper looks likes, but turns out it isn't, and I show them what a clearly well written paper looks like. There are remarkable physical differences between the three, and it's good for showing students what you're trying to get them to avoid," Kleer said.
U of R Students Union president Kent Peterson, however, does not agree with the university's approach to dealing with plagiarism with the purchase of this service, saying the cost of it is not beneficial to the student body because of the culture it creates.
"They use it because they believe it cuts down on academic dishonesty. I'm not sure it does," said Peterson. "The university has paid tens of thousands of dollars for this program under the assumption that students are cheating... it's wrong for the university and professors to think they cheated. If they didn't assume they cheated they wouldn't make them submit their papers to Turnitin.com" he said.
Nicholas Ruddick, a professor of English at the U of R, says that students in their first years of university need to learn the "ins and outs" of plagiarism. He says, also, that it is necessary for professors to explain how to properly cite documents students may use and quote in their assignments, and the consequences of academic dishonesty.
"One of our main tasks in English 100 is to apprise them that there's nothing wrong with using someone else's work but you do have to document it," said Ruddick.
Kleer says that he advocated for the university's purchase of the service, of about $26,600 annually, broken down to a $1000 flat license fee plus $2.00 a student, due to the feedback features rather than the plagiarism detection. He says his classes have had positive experiences with the program so far, and he says he believes the students will benefit from the feedback aspect of the program and being able to realize the proper methods of writing their assignments.
"At the end of the day, students are cheating themselves if they plagiarize very heavily. They don't learn anything, and that's really what a university degree is ultimately about is your own self-improvement to learning. (If) they're not doing that, then they're not getting a university education..." he said.