Technology spots cheats among online students

A US company is offering solutions to spot cheats among students taking part in online courses and classes in the Philippines which began shifting to a remote learning setting amid the coronavirus outbreak in March.

Turnitin head of business partnership in Southeast Asia Jack Brazel
Turnitin, a California-based technology company that provides plagiarism detection solutions, says establishing academic integrity in online classes will provide students with a higher quality learning experience.

Jack Brazel, Turnitin head of business partnerships in Southeast Asia, says it becomes more important today as universities and schools began conducting alternative or hybrid classes for continuity.

"Many academic institutions are recognizing the need for academic integrity and plagiarism detection platforms to help combat academic misconduct and ensuring students are submitting their own original work. It is important to identify any underlying issues such as a lack of language, writing or cognitive thinking skills and how a student’s cultural background may affect their understanding of integrity," Brazel says in an email.

"Educators should also implement procedures that have a formative impact on students and being able to teach students the basic expectations of sound academic writing, such as citing sources correctly, attributing quotes and not plagiarizing someone else’s work," says Brazel who has been responsible for the growth of Turnitin in Southeast Asia since December 2015, focusing on the higher education sectors in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. 

Prior to Turnitin, Brazel served as a client trainer and relationship manager at one of UK’s leading payment technology vendors in Australia.

More than 2.5 million university and college students and 28 million in the K-12 system were affected by the community quarantine imposed by the Philippine government to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"Online education has undoubtedly become a more natural part of education across the globe as a result of this pandemic. We believe online education will become much more ingrained and the accepted norm in society throughout the world," Brazel says.

Brazel says the pandemic has forced educators to urgently devise and implement online curriculum and programs to deliver learning, assess students' work fairly and accurately and implement tools to ensure students are submitting their original work.  

"By doing so, educators are able to identify underlying learning issues to coach and correct students in their weaker areas as educational institutions adopt distance or remote learning," he says.

Turnitin has recently opened an office in Makati.  What it does best is detecting unoriginal content and prevent plagiarism, thus promoting what it calls academic integrity.

It teamed up with NewsGuard to help students and teachers spot and avoid misinformation, improve their research abilities and develop critical media literacy skills. 

Turnitin’s products are used by over 34 million students in over 15,000 secondary and higher education institutions across 140 countries to support academic integrity, check for text similarity, verify authorship and support teachers and students in developing original thinking skills. 

Brazel says online or flexible learning is not entirely new in the Philippines.   "Online education has already been offered by some institutions as a hybrid model especially with Open University programs for adult education. We feel that online education is set to grow in the Philippines especially when quality education becomes in demand even in the most remote areas," he says.

"Online learning has been a feature of universities in the country for a long time. The country is very well positioned to accept a shift to online learning, as the population is generally technology savvy and the educational system is not only professional but also extremely passionate," he says.

"For the Philippines, it is an ongoing process to ascertain what online learning technologies and infrastructure will be most effective. But the nation's great attitude towards technology means that it can be successful," he says.

He says online degrees are actually a good form of education as it allows students who might not have had an opportunity to take an on-campus undergraduate course and pursue education in a format that suits them. 

"The focus for educational institutions needs to be on the development of the online curriculum, and on the resources and infrastructure to support it. Improving perceptions of online learning begins with recruiting and developing quality instructors, who are passionate about delivering positive learning outcomes for their students. Around the world, online learning is increasing because for many people, getting to a in-person class is a fundamental challenge and technology is helping to bridge that gap," he says.

Brazel says while there is a recognition of the need to uphold academic integrity in the Philippines, what is lacking is the ability to execute on a focused agenda of academic integrity. 

"The challenge for many institutions is in implementing procedures that have a formative impact on students and being able to train students on basic expectations effectively, such as citing sources correctly, attributing quotes and utilizing technologies such as plagiarism detection tools. We have certainly seen a positive development of universities’ investment in this area and the desire to progress in that direction in the Philippines," he says.

This is where Turnitin comes in.  "When implemented correctly, a student would use Turnitin during the writing process to help improve their writing, gain feedback from their educator, identify areas of similarity to existing original work and subsequently take corrective action. As a tool, Turnitin, enables educators to also check the quality of students' written work and identify underlying learning challenges to work on with the student individually," he says. 

Brazel says Turnitin works with academic institutions to instill academic and research integrity as part of the learning processes and workflows. "We also support fair and consistent online assessment through our platform to help educators be more efficient with their grading process. To help institutions maximise the use of our solutions, we offer training for educators to help them achieve positive learning outcomes," he says.

Brazel says the shift to remote or online learning in the Philippines should be supported by robust infrastructure.

"The unplanned and sudden move to remote learning in the Philippines has resulted in an unprecedented volume of students logging into virtual learning environments simultaneously, and institutions must ensure they have a robust infrastructure to support this move," he says.

"As academic institutions in the Philippines have different budgets and resources to work with,  along with differing teaching faculty and employee skill levels to cope with this sudden change. Apart from building a solid technology infrastructure, institutions should look into building up their learning technology stack which may include learning management systems, formative and feedback tools, plagiarism detection platforms and online assessment and grading systems," he says.

"Investing in such infrastructure and tools will allow institutions to provide students with a higher quality learning experience, support teaching staff to be more efficient, and mitigating data security risks," says Brazel.

Topics: Turnitin , Philippines , online , learning , integrity
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