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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Plagiarism Detection and Prevention

One area of any learning environment centers on plagiarism and cheating. Cheating has existed for centuries. Since the Internet was invented, it seems as though this technological environment has made it easier for those who are going to cheat to do so in an easier manner. But is that necessarily the case? Is plagiarism more of a problem in formal educational institutions or also part of the corporate environment? Let’s first define these two terms. Plagiarism is “when a writer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, or other original materials without acknowledging its source” (Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006). Cheating can be performed in different ways. “Sabotage is deliberately setting a classmate up for failure. Fabrication is simply making things up, Collusion – working with someone without instructor permission” (Wassenmiller, 2013) to name a few.
Now, let’s take a few moments to look at the differences between a formal education institution and a corporate training environment. Formal education deals with plagiarism and cheating mainly with assignments and tests. In this environment, LMS/CMS are used to provide ways to monitor course work through the use of “statistics for test taking, lockdown browsers, and Turnitin” (Fang, 2012). The corporate environment on the other hand contains no formal assignments. This type of training is normally focused on specific skills for an individual’s job. Cheating becomes more of a problem for those companies that have strict guidelines related to operation qualifications. In these situations, if an employee does not pass the test, they can very well lose their job. In that particular situation, there may be a higher rate of cheating on the written exams. For example, the company that I work for has strict policies on individuals having to pass not only the operation qualification tests but any training that they take. This means that any course that the employee takes is graded in such a way that the employee is only able to miss a certain percentage of the test. This percentage is based upon using the Angoff method (Wheaton & Parry, 2012) that is scored by experts within a defined skill area. This method takes the average score given by each expert for each question and then comes up with an overall percentage. If the individual fall below a specific percentage, they fail the course and are not allowed to continue in their job. This may seem unfair, but if the course is designed properly, then there is normally no cause for concern. I have personally never had a person fail a course that I have developed. This type of pressure on any student does provide a high possibility of cheating in order to keep their job.
As you can see although both of these learning environments are different, there is still the possibility of cheating. Despite the fact that corporations do not train on the area of plagiarism, it is still an area that should be of great concern to corporations. As an instructional designer, I have seen individuals grab pictures and parts of material from the Internet and not ask for permission from the original author or company let alone cite where they got the information. Many times, they take credit for the information. Though this act of plagiarism may seem to be deliberate, many times it is not. The fact is that they do not understand that they are indeed plagiarizing.
As an ISD or instructor, is it of upmost importance to design an instructional solution with cheating or plagiarism in mind. There are many ways in which the design of the course, itself can cause a diversion from either plagiarism or cheating. Parker states that “providing practical testing in which there is observed performance of the learner completing the task” (2012) eliminates the ability to cheat. Fang states that “it is essential for students to develop skills that enable them to learn in more informal settings” (2012). This can be accomplished by focusing on collaboration, randomizing test questions through question pools, assessing based on real-life expectations and scenarios, and providing authentic assessments” (Laureate, 2010).
So what does all of this mean for the instructor or ISD? It means that in order to quench the ability to plagiarize or cheat we need to educate learners on the definition and also provide examples. The design needs to be developed in a way that allows for individuals to share their strengths and develop their own original thought when wrestling with a question or problem presented through a course scenario, etc.  


Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Fang, B. (2012). Addressing Academic Dishonesty in the Age of Ubiquitous Technology. Retrieved from

Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by adult learners online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15.

Parker, K. (2012). Power of Connections. Retrieved from

Wassenmiller, A. (2013). Understanding Cheating in Online Courses. Retrieved from

Wheaton, A & Parry, J. (2012). What’s the Score” Did You Really Pass: Using the Angoff Method to Set Cut Scores. Retrieved from


  1. Teri,
    Thank you for your blog post. It is a very well written and comprehensive piece on the subject of plagiarism.

    In your last paragraph, you mention the need to educate students on just what exactly is and is not cheating. I whole heartedly agree. I have students that complete a project and use images and information from all kinds of sources without citing anything. When I ask the students where they got their information from and where they cite it, I get a lot of excuses and blank looks. A lot of the students do not know that what they turned in is plagiarized and without properly citing and referencing the other’s work they are basically stealing it for their own purposes.
    All of my student’s classes expect them to not cheat and to hold themselves to a high stand of academic honesty, but rarely does anyone take time to actually teach them what it is.

  2. Hi Teri,

    I like the way you broke it out into the two different scenarios of corporate and educational settings. I think many times when we discuss plagiarism, we automatically think of academia only. I can recall from of the earlier courses (distance learning) that I took at Walden, the professor was really adamant about us citing not just the print sources we used, but also the multimedia sources as well. For as long as I can remember, I've known what it meant to plagiarize text, but it had not occurred to me that I needed to account for the images I used either. (That one is still a little hard to remember, but I'm working on it.) Thanks for sharing!

  3. Teri,
    Thanks for providing some great examples from the corporate world. Since I work in a college, I tend to be more focused on the problems of plagiarism and cheating in educational settings. However, we are preparing many of our students directly for the workplace, where integrity and ethics are extremely important. Many of our faculty who teach online give tests that the students take through Moodle. In discussing the problem of cheating this past week in a Faculty Senate meeting, a faculty member said he prevents cheating on online tests by creating enormous question banks to decrease the likelihood of students getting the same questions, which is one of the strategies you mention in your post. I especially like the strategy of designing assignments that are difficult to plagiarize because students have to use examples from their own experiences or collaborate to come up with a solution to an authentic problem in a case study.

  4. Teri,

    I really like how you incorporated how plagiarism or cheating is a problem both in academia and in with workplace environment. I agree the best way to diminish the practice of plagiarism and cheating is through education, what it is and how to avoid it by properly citing and giving credit to the originator. Another comparison that struck me when I was reading your post is the Academic Code of Integrity for Academia is very similar in nature to what many companies have as an Ethical Code of Conduct. I know for my organization this is something we have to complete training on annually. During the training it posses many scenarios specific to the workplace where ethical behavior can become blurry from those that do not clearly understand the concepts. This training definitely educates employees on what is not acceptable. This should be no different in academia.

  5. I am guilty (in the past) of appending art work and photographs on my blog, and some course material I have designed. I don't really think people think the artwork was designed by me, but I will in the future include a citation like the one Teri has.

    Does anyone know if it is okay to append clip art without attribution?

  6. Hi Teri,

    I agree that it is necessary to educate students. According to Pallof and Pratt students plagiarize and cheat without recognizing it. Therefore, it is essential to specify what constitutes plagiarism and cheating (Council of Writing, 2003 as cited in Simonson et al. 2012) from the beginning of the course/training.



    Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

  7. I find it interesting to contrast conversations about plagiarism and cheating across generations, and student/instructor roles. The question that arises for me is one of whether it is realistic to assume that non-plagiaristic behavior is due to morality and ethics, or fear of the law. Thanks for the information you have provided.