When students enter seventh grade at BSGE, their teachers introduce them to a website called, Turnitin, the self-proclaimed “Leading Plagiarism Checker.” The process involves a teacher creating a class that students can enroll in using the proper class ID and password. Students can then submit assignments by uploading files to the website. While the website offers services like GradeMark and PeerMark, which allow teachers to put up the grades for the assignments and students to review their peers’ work, respectively, the teachers at BSGE usually choose only to make use of the OriginalityCheck. This service includes the site comparing the submitted assignment to all other assignments and works that it has in its database and finding similar sections of writing. For both students and teachers, Turnitin’s main purpose is to ensure that work has not been plagiarized, though it may be inconvenient in other ways.
Students at BSGE seem to view the website as a nuisance, though not because it proves to be an effective tool against plagiarism. Sayeed Akbar ‘14 said, “I think the main disadvantage is that the time I need to submit my work by interferes with my schedule.” Most BSGE teachers decide that the time assignments are due should be late at night, with a hard copy due in school the next day. However, this seems to contribute to procrastination on the students’ part. Anish Gosala ‘16 commented, “On the last day, I get stressed and have to work late.” The midnight deadlines cause students to save their work until later, meaning they work late and for a long time in order to meet the late night deadlines.
BSGE students mentioned many other problems they have with the service before listing the plagiarism checker. For Bassam Morsy ‘16, the biggest disadvantage is the difficulty he had remembering to upload assignments to Turnitin. He said, “Uploading work usually isn’t on my mind when I go home, and I might forget.” Forgetting to upload assignments to Turnitin can result in teachers giving zeroes as grades, which makes the forgetfulness of some students a distinct disadvantage.
Even with their discontent with some aspects of Turnitin, students are also able to understand the advantages of the site. Allison Malaluan ‘13 said, “It makes us work independently and think for ourselves, and it’s good practice for college, where plagiarism won’t be tolerated at all.” Teachers have explained why Turnitin is such a useful tool. Using the service will be expected of students in most cases once they enter college, and it promotes the kind of work ethic that students should carry with them through college and after.
While students may not be entirely happy using Turnitin, it seems that teachers think the advantages are too great to pass up. Just like many other aspects of BSGE, the use of Turnitin aims to prepare students for life as serious and professional students and workers. Teachers at BSGE require students to turn in their work via Turnitin beginning in seventh grade, but Turnitin is more popular in high school classes. Older students are generally enrolled in more classes on the site than the younger ones. This emphasizes teachers’ insistence that using Turnitin teaches students a valuable lesson that they will be thankful for once they are attending college.
Teachers at BSGE warn students every year that plagiarism in colleges can have consequences as severe as expulsion. In 2012, news broke of a cheating scandal at Harvard University. More than 100 students were accused of cheating on a take-home test. According to Harvard Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, all the students were in danger of a warning or probation. The probation would have required them to take a leave from school for up to a year. Punishments such as these, as well as even harsher ones, are common when a college student cheats. Services like Turnitin make it much easier for teachers to catch plagiarizers. It is for this reason that BSGE teachers are adamant that students use Turnitin seriously, as no matter how much of a nuisance using it is, it is only a benefit in the end.