The Chronicle Herald reports that Mount Saint Vincent University has outlawed the use of the popular TurnItIn.com plagiarism detection service. The service has been instituted at other Canadian Universities in the past several years due to the rise of digital plagiarism.
The announcement is timely for me as I just finished facilitating a workshop on academic integrity, digital plagiarism and intellectual property (presentation available for download). One of the things I stress throughout the workshop is that when you come to the point of policing the problem, you’ve already lost the battle. Turnitin.com does just that … policies incidents of digital plagiarism, and I feel that resources and efforts need to be placed at earlier intervention points instead.
I’ve included a graphic from my presention to help you understand what I mean:
In practice, there are three approaches toward eliminating digital plagiarism. Academic integrity/character approaches, preventative approaches (e.g., assignment design, learning vs. grades, elimination of competition) and policing/detection approaches (e.g., TurnItIn.com). And with these, there are three junctures for applying these approaches. I think the rest is self-explanatory.