While the Internet is heavy with sites and resources to aid students in cheating and plagiarizing, professor Alan Jacobs writes in this blog post that educators increasingly are using technology to catch cheaters.

The latest of those tools to gain a following is one offered by CourseSmart that allows educators to track the total time it takes students to read a digital textbook.

While some have raised concerns over privacy, officials say students may opt out of the tracking feature. 

These are tough times for plagiarists and would-be academic cheaters. That may seem a counter-intuitive statement, given how much material is online, just waiting to be copied-and-pasted, and how many services are ready to write your papers for you for a nominal (or not so nominal) consideration.

But just as authoritarian governments can use Twitter to spy on their rebellious citizens, so too professors can turn online tools against their students. And now digital reading has become the newest frontier of scholarly surveillance, the newest tool for those of us who like to stand at the center of the academic Panopticon.

Some background: When I started teaching, way back in the 1980s, plagiarism presented a real challenge. I could read an essay and know that the range of its vocabulary and the subtleties of its syntax were beyond the reach of the student who had turned it in — but proving the point was usually another matter altogether.

On rare occasions the book or essay whose words had been snatched was so well-known that I could identify it immediately; and occasionally a colleague could spot the source; but far more often I would realize, with a sinking feeling, that if I wasn’t going to let the cheating pass I would have to spend a good deal of time in the library poring over academic journals.

When the age of the Internet arrived, opportunities for cheating increased but so too did tools for discovering it. Especially delightful were those papers whose “authors” had pasted in passages from online sources without changing the font, so that every stolen passage announced its presence — ah, good times, good times.

But the key development was the rise of Google: Once its spiders had crawled almost the whole Internet, it became trivial to search for the most uncommon phrases used in a suspicious paper and quickly pinpoint their sources.

Continue Reading:  The Atlantic

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