Upholding academic integrity has always been a top priority for academic institutions, but the subject has had renewed focus in recent years partly due to the growth in online education. From teleconferenced proctors to plagiarism checkers, universities have a variety of tools to choose from to combat dishonesty, though they sometimes come with a stiff price tag.
Unfortunately, students also have a plethora of online cheating tools from which to choose: essay repositories, quiz banks, and even services that will take entire courses for paying customers, to name only a few. Despite the broad array of existing web sites that help students cheat, instructors that require paper submissions need to be aware of a new category of tool: text spinning applications.
Text spinning applications essentially take existing text and make minor changes to it to make it seem different enough from the original, with the intention of evading plagiarism-detection software (such as TurnItIn, SafeAssign, or Unicheck). Most of these applications (understandably) don’t reveal the specifics of how they work. Some appear to leverage tools like Google Translate, possibly translating text into another language and then back into English. Others appear to consult online thesauruses to replace particular words.
To get an idea of what these applications do, we’ve inserted a table below that contains outputs from a few text rewriter applications. The input for these various applications was the first paragraph of this article.
|Free Article Spinner||Maintaining scholarly respectability has dependably been a best need for scholastic establishments, however the subject has had recharged center lately mostly because of the development in online instruction. From video chatted delegate to written falsification checkers, colleges have an assortment of apparatuses to look over to battle contemptibility, however they here and there accompany a hardened sticker price.|
|QuillBot||Adherence to academic integrity has always been a top priority for academic institutions, but in recent years, partly due to the growth in online education, the subject has been raised. From teleconferenced practitioners to plagiarism checkers, universities have a variety of tools to choose to fight dishonesty, although sometimes they come with a stiff price tag.|
|Paraphrasing Tool||Maintaining scholastic trustworthiness has dependably been a best need for scholarly organizations, however the subject has had recharged center as of late mostly because of the development in online training. From remotely coordinated delegate to copyright infringement checkers, colleges have an assortment of devices to browse to battle untrustworthiness, however they here and there accompany a hardened sticker price.|
|SEO Magnifier||Upholding educational integrity has usually been a top priority for educational establishments, however the problem has had renewed cognizance in latest years partly because of the growth in on-line education. From teleconferenced proctors to plagiarism checkers, universities have a diffusion of equipment to pick from to combat dishonesty, though they once in a while include a stiff charge tag.|
The results clearly range from somewhat legible to absurd. The challenge, however, is that the use of such tools can help students evade plagiarism-detection software, and, with a minimal amount of proofreading from the student, perhaps even pass instructors’ “smell tests” of student work.
Strategies to Address Text Spinners
The question arises, then: what can online instructors do to combat the use of text spinners for assignments that involve text submissions? Particularly if the student uses the tool throughout the course, instructors may not gain an accurate perspective of his or her authentic writing style. Below are some suggestions on how to address the potential use of text spinners in online courses.
Scaffold Writing Assignments
“Scaffolding” refers to breaking writing assignments down into component parts or adding milestones for drafts, peer reviews, or revisions. While breaking large assignments into smaller tasks is an overall best practice (insofar as the instructor is able to provide feedback and insight to help students progress towards mastery), creating smaller assignments makes the time investment as well as corresponding risk for the student higher, when it comes to plagiarizing (Ambrose et al). Providing targeted feedback will require even more time investment on the part of the student, since they’ll need to familiarize themselves even more with the arguments they presented.
Instructors could, for example, request that students submit an outline of their assignment a week before it’s due, consulting the outline when grading the final paper to ensure alignment. As such, scaffolding becomes a preventative measure in that the time required to cheat may be more than simply doing the work oneself.
Request One-on-One Meetings After Submission
Students who plagiarize are less likely to be familiar with the material they copied. Depending on the size of the course, instructors could request to meet synchronously (over the phone or using teleconferencing software) to discuss the feedback on their papers. If the class is large, instructors could do this only with students whose papers exhibit suspicious signs of text spinner-based plagiarism. Given that this kind of plagiarism is likely meant to be used as a time-saving measure, it’s unlikely that the student will be familiar with the content of their submitted assignment, and discussing the ideas contained within may reveal their academic dishonesty.
Some students will always find ways to cheat, and the wide availability of tools for a variety of purposes enables new methods that can foil licensed institutional approaches like plagiarism-detection applications. In the end, there’s only so much that instructors can do to prevent cheating outright. Instead, while vigilance is always necessary, they must also consider best practices in approaching the design of their assessment to ensure they’re doing what they can to encourage meaningful learning and promote academic integrity.
Ambrose, Susan A., Bridges, Michael W., DiPietro, Michele, Lovett, Marsha C., & Norman, Marie K. (2010). How learning works: 7 research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Newton, D. (2015). Cheating in online classes is now big business. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/11/cheating-through-online-courses/413770/.
WCET, UT TeleCampus, & Instructional Technology Council. (2009, June). Best practice strategies to promote academic integrity in online education (Version 2.0). Retrieved from https://wcet.wiche.edu/sites/default/files/docs/resources/Best-Practices-Promote-Academic-Integrity-2009.pdf