New software at WNCC offers powerful tool to prevent plagiarism | NevadaAppeal.com

New software at WNCC offers powerful tool to prevent plagiarism

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer

For the first time, WNCC students returning to campus will be happy to see a zero associated with their assignments. In fact, it’s their goal.

Western Nevada Community College is starting a pilot program at all of its campus locations for a new online software program called Turnitin, which will provide an enhanced defense against plagiarism. It’s designed to help instructors cut down on what is seen as a prevalent problem on college campuses, including WNCC.

For example, in one English class last year, the professor found seven papers with incidents of plagiarism from the 20 final papers submitted. As a test run, 17 of the papers were run through Turnitin, resulting in nine papers with incidents of plagiarism, including one that was 76 percent plagiarized.

That echoes national statistics, including one on the software’s Web site that surveyed college-bound students and found that 84 percent of them admit to committing plagiarism. Of those who cheated, 95 percent said they weren’t caught.

“We just want to level the playing field. The person who cheats has an advantage over the person who doesn’t and we want to make it equal,” said Leonard Mackey, WNCC coordinator of Web education. “Realistically, only the people who are plagiarizing have to worry about this program.”

When a paper is submitted, the system checks it against more than 5 billion stored texts, periodicals and Web sites. In addition, the system stores a copy of every paper submitted for use in future checks. All personal information is removed before the papers are stored.

After the assignment is checked, it is given to the professor with a percentage of the document that could contain plagiarized material, 100 percent is completely plagiarized, zero means no similarities.

“It’s important to know that the program doesn’t determine plagiarism, it just allows the instructors to look at similarities and decide. Maybe it’s an honest mistake, where they did everything but cite it or maybe they are just cut-and-pasting large blocks of text,” Mackey said. ” But we don’t want to turn this decision over to a machine.”

The pilot study makes the software available to every instructor at WNCC with enough licenses for 2,500 student accounts. The cost to the college for the software is $1.25 per student account.

The program will also allow students to turn in papers, receive feedback, make corrections, get a peer review and receive a grade all without using a single piece of paper.

“With so many of our students being part-time, working students. This extends the WNCC community. It eliminates the dog ate my homework excuse,” Mackey said.

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.

College classes begin

• All Western Nevada Community College campuses start classes Aug. 28.

• University of Nevada, Reno classes begin Aug. 28.

• Truckee Meadows Community College classes began Thursday.