Why students need help avoiding plagiarism coming out of the pandemic

A 2021 report indicates there was a global spike in incidents of plagiarism, especially among high school students.

In January 2022, 40% of all public schools were offering fully remote instruction. That number dropped to 33% in June, according to the most recent data from the Institute of Education Sciences’ 2022 School Pulse Panel.

While the number of schools offering fully remote instruction continues to decrease as more schools return to in-person learning, it’s important for districts to break unhealthy writing habits that students may have developed during the pandemic.

A 2021 report from CopyLeaks, an AI-powered plagiarism detection company, indicates a global spike in incidents of plagiarism, especially among high school students. Data were collected in two periods, both before the pandemic—April 2019 through March 2020—and during its first full year, April 2020 – March 2021.

The largest spike in accounts of plagiarism was seen among high school students, revealing a 43% increase during the latter period. At the graduate level, there was a 31% increase in plagiarism; at the undergrad level, it increased by 29%.

The results point to an increase in paraphrasing in students’ work. And although the practice is permissible to an extent, “Paraphrasing with the intent of plagiarizing and deceiving a plagiarism detection system is unethical,” the report states.

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Alon Yamin, CEO of CopyLeaks, attributes this to a lack of proper education on plagiarism in high schools. “We’re seeing that older students better understand academic integrity,” says Yamin. “In undergraduate and graduate programs, there’s an emphasized importance of academic integrity and originality. I think in lower grades there is a lack of awareness.”

Unfortunately, he notes, many students don’t realize they’re plagiarizing until their assignment has been submitted. A variety of plagiarism detection software only works at the post-assessment level, causing students to turn in assignments that are riddled with similarities to others’ work.

Yamin advocates for schools to implement plagiarism detection software, such as CopyLeaks, that works with the student, rather than serving as a punishment strategy. “Use these tools, not just from the assessment side, which is important, but also let’s not just focus on the negative side of it being like a ‘gotcha’ tool,” he says. “Help the students understand the importance of originality and academic integrity and provide them with the tools to learn and be able to understand if what they’re doing is right or not.”

CopyLeaks is working on gathering more “post-pandemic” data now that schools are returning to in-person learning. “So far, we’re seeing that we’re getting closer to how it was pre-pandemic,” says Yamin. “It’s not as high as it was at the peak of the pandemic when everyone was online… plagiarism was everywhere.”

Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttp://districtadministration.com
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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