Melissa Anderson, PlagiarismSearch: “the problem of the digital divide has not been resolved yet”
The pandemic brought on many challenges, and the effects of them still linger in the air. The digital divide and increased instances of plagiarism in the education sector are one of them.
And while dealing with the digital divide problem might be a lifetime project for governments all around the world, the issue of increased plagiarism is something that is being tackled for a while now. Scouring open databases and comparing different documents to detect cases of unlawful stealing of ideas has been made possible by today's technology, and the pandemic created an even bigger demand for it.
To discuss the challenges and growth of technology in the education sector, Cybernews sat down to talk to Melissa Anderson, Communications Manager at PlagiarismSearch, an online plagiarism checker solution for schools, workplaces, and individuals alike.
How did the idea of PlagiarismSearch originate? What has your journey been like?
The idea of PlagiarismSearch originated more than twenty years ago, but it was possible to launch this in-demand solution as far back as 2008. We had a list of priorities in mind which had to satisfy the needs of all clients, even if they are really demanding. Thus, we laid emphasis on continuous improvements and updates in the functionality, a gradual increase in the number of languages we could use in a multilayered check, and absolute confidentiality of the provided services for our customers.
From the very beginning, we decided that not only universities but also content companies all around the world should have a chance to benefit from our professional plagiarism detection services and we managed to adjust our work to this need.
We guarantee the maximal level of efficiency, but the client does not have to get a full plagiarism detection package at once. We offer everybody an opportunity to get a free API trial with a 30-day period and 100 text submissions to test what we do without any costly commitments. We wanted to make the registration procedure as simple as possible and ensure the best guidance and support to our customers via live chat. Besides, we had an ambitious goal to make sure that our plugin can get integrated with all the forums, workshops, and Moodle tasks. We are happy to say that our journey has been rather challenging but successful and we still have a lot of ambitious goals to achieve.
Can you introduce us to what you do? What technology do you use to detect plagiarism?
PlagiarismSearch uses technologically advanced algorithms to detect both the copy-pasted content and cases of careless paraphrasing. We offer an option for personal storage along with a huge internal database of our company so that our customers could submit and save their texts to compare against the newer content. In addition, we introduced Telegram and Viber Chatbots to ensure a higher level of flexibility for our tool and higher efficiency of prompt checks.
The benefits of PlagiarismSearch include first-rate text analysis, scanning texts against the latest databases and web sources, promptness of plagiarism detection, identifying the references and citations, and a high rate of the relevance of the check results. Our clients get interactive plagiarism reports with links to possible sources colored in red, yellow, blue, violet, and turquoise depending on the nature of similarities with the interpretation of those markings. We would like to pay special attention to the option of switching the text direction and making use of either left-to-right or right-to-left scripts. We prioritize the security of our customers and use only the encrypted connection SSL to ensure the confidentiality of all data. Extra options of a Readability score checker and a Grammar, Style, and Spell Checker are gaining more and more popularity among our clients as well.
What are some of the worst things that can happen if plagiarism goes undetected?
Our team tolerates no plagiarism as we truly believe that without it, the world will be a better and fairer place to live. Our mission is to encourage appreciation of original ideas and giving due credit to authenticity. We aim at educating the general public and promoting the prevention of stealing ideas. For sure, there are some types of plagiarism that are extremely difficult to determine; still, PlagiarismSearch flags up the issues which later on should be analyzed without taking the numbers at face value.
At the individual level, undetected plagiarism results in worse grades, failures in some courses, probation period, academic suspension, or even expulsion. In a broad context, plagiarism is a severe professional offense. While detected plagiarism implies limiting future prospects and even ruining a career, undetected stealing of ideas is gradually breaking the cornerstones of academics and professionalism. We view our objective as trying to fight this destruction in the spheres of education and research and prevent the disastrous consequences of borrowing ideas without due credit to genuine authors.
How did the recent global events affect your field of work? Were there any new challenges you had to adapt to?
Having ruined the usual routine in all spheres, COVID-19 has also brought a lot of changes in the area of education, affecting the field of plagiarism detection as well. The pandemic made schools much more dependent on digital tools, making the option of distanced education one of the most popular at present. Thus, the ideas about attendance, control over the students’ activities, and searching for plagiarism in the students’ papers have been rethought and amended in accordance with the global transformations.
Statistics refers to a dramatic increase in the number of plagiarized papers, online tests, and quizzes lately. This tendency at the global level increases the level of responsibility PlagiarismSearch is holding and brings more clients willing to stop the pandemics of plagiarism. Higher workloads related to the introduction of online learning and transition to new approaches in helping students acquire knowledge make the level of demand for plagiarism detection services higher. Because of that, the tasks that the teams of such companies have to tackle get much more complicated. The students keep inventing new creative forms of providing plagiarized content.
We have adapted to a new challenge of a huge workload, and we help the teachers trace the similarities not only against the online sources but also against the databases of assignments completed earlier. An accurate check with a comprehensive report on plagiarism in the paper is what a college or university instructor needs to save time and ensure fair treatment of the students. We make sure that it can be done efficiently and fast.
Besides plagiarism checking solutions, what other technologies do you think would greatly enhance operations for institutions?
At present, the tech-savvy students cannot benefit much from traditional learning as their way of thinking, approach to making decisions, and reactions to what is happening are absolutely different from those of previous generations. We believe that a better understanding of the material to learn could be ensured with digital models and simulations so that the students had access to interactive tasks, various modes of activities, and versatile texts. Besides, convenient and simple tools of online cooperation in the framework of completing different projects are of great use both for virtual and traditional classrooms.
Interactions between teachers and peers help both of them address their concerns about the study, request clarifications, or provide feedback to others. What is more, effective online assessment software would make it possible to do a real-time evaluation of the knowledge and skills the students have. The teachers would have access to all records and notes to be updated on the number of submitted assignments, percentage of late submissions, average time the students take to do particular tasks, and so on. It is absolutely impossible to assume that technologies would be somehow separated from the area of education; so, the students and their professors should be ready for further changes and even revolutions that should raise the level of providing such services.
In your opinion, what are some of the biggest issues that schools and universities face today?
In line with the issues of insufficient funding, affordability of studies and staying on campus, digitalization of all resources, a growing level of plagiarism in the students’ papers, and others, all schools and universities are facing the problem of obsession their students have to their electronic devices. Sleep deprivation, lack of focus on the subject, and distractions both in class and after do not let the students pay adequate attention to their studies.
After the global emergency, the schools have to decide on the future prospects of online learning and its balance with face-to-face studies. Moreover, the problem of the digital divide has not been resolved yet, still calling for immediate measures taken at the national level. Additionally, there is a problem of distrust and skepticism in terms of schools; so, they need to address all the issues and appeal to the emotions and reasonable minds of the students and their families to maintain their good standing.
Talking about staying safe online, what security tools do you consider to be crucial nowadays?
Internet access is an unavoidable need of every modern person. Doing banking transactions, using social media, ordering food, playing games, and even getting an education requires staying online. Everybody turns into a target for scammers, looking for those who cannot ensure their protection on the Internet. There are numerous safety protocols all over the web, but still having an account hacked is possible. We believe that it is essential to use one’s skepticism, clicking on the links, visiting websites, choosing between online stores, and downloading files of various types. It is a great way to increase one’s security online, which no other security tool can ensure.
PlagiarismSearch never shares any files our customers store in their individual databases. We give a guarantee to every new client that their data are secure in terms of unauthorized access. Privacy of our clients is among our priorities and all data are encrypted with connection SSL to prevent all threats and ensure the security of information.
Since the education sector is your main field of focus, how do you think this industry is going to evolve in the upcoming years?
Observing the current tendencies in the education sector, it is possible to notice essential drawbacks and inconsistencies in the system overall, which serve as detonators for the explosions and further evolution in the industry.
First of all, a new approach to assessment is a must. It should go beyond mere measurements and percentages. Instead, it should disclose the weaknesses to improve and the strengths to emphasize. Besides, learning feedback as part of the evaluation, not only from the teachers but also from the peers, will impact the popularity and social image of a person.
Secondly, the future will definitely be related to personalized learning with an individual pace of studies and in-depth analysis of learning resources. For us, the mere concept of curriculum sounds a bit outdated as it should be flexible and able to react to all innovations and updated approaches to learning. Limitless access to information, new requirements for an employee at the workplace, and democratization of life, in general, create the basis for changing the key goals of studies and working on the writing assignments. There has been a considerable shift in the consciousness of the students, and that should be reflected in the things they learn and the critical approach to gaining knowledge.
Tell us, what’s next for PlagiarismSearch?
The team of PlagiarismSearch.com has a number of ambitious goals which imply further development, continuous improvements in the service, and increasing global awareness about our service. We are exerting tremendous efforts to send our message to as many people as possible; so, we invest in translating the website content into different languages and we are getting in touch with representatives of universities from different countries of the world. We have developed a free trial of our service for them to see the advantages of our approach and then make use of our packages of services if they find it suitable. We are eager to serve people and contribute to the protection of the principles of academic integrity and professional honesty.