Traversing the Landscape of Plagiarism-Detecting Software Tools: A Faculty-Driven Comparison Review

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Explore features of two plagiarism-detecting tools, SafeAssign and Turnitin, from a faculty user’s perspective.  What key factors did faculty identify when using both tools, and how/why/when did they use plagiarism-detecting tools?  This session will use active engagement using technology tools, discussion, and group sharing as well as slides.


Lori is a Sr Educational Technologist in IT, Educational Technology & Media Services at UNI. She has a BA in Elementary Education with emphases in Early Childhood Education and Math, an MA in Computer Applications in Education, and a second MA in Elementary and Secondary Administration. Lori taught for ten years at the elementary and early childhood levels in private education, followed by six years as a Computer Teacher/Building Technology Coordinator at the middle school level. She also served as District Technology Coordinator of a K-12 school district for 2 1/2 years. Lori joined the Educational Technology and Media Services team at UNI in February 2000. Along with her colleagues in IT-Educational Technology & Media Services, Lori provides instructional design and development support to faculty as they seek to use technology to support teaching, learning and research. Other responsibilities include developing and teaching technology professional development workshops for faculty and staff. Lori enjoys researching emerging technologies that may enhance instruction and student learning and collaborating with colleagues on special projects related to technology in an educational environment. She is certified as a Peer Reviewer for Quality Matters, a nationally recognized peer review process designed to certify the quality of online courses and online components. Lori has peer reviewed courses for several institutions, including a number of courses for Allen College in Waterloo, Iowa. Additionally, Lori served for a number of years as course designer for the National Program for Playground Safety, designing their original online professional development playground safety courses for child care providers and schools. Lori has served for over ten years on a project management team for grant-funded programs that focus on inquiry-based professional development to Iowa K12 teachers focusing on STEM related curriculum and technology integration. In addition to her work at UNI, Lori served for six years as an ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) mentor for K12 educators throughout the United States through a grant program funded by Hewlett-Packard. Apart from her work at UNI, Lori is actively engaged in breast cancer advocacy. Co-representing the Cedar Valley's Beyond Pink TEAM on the National Breast Cancer Coalition Board of Directors in Washington, D.C., Lori regularly meets with Iowa's members of Congress to help influence funding and public policy for effective breast cancer research that focuses on prevention of metastasis and primary prevention of breast cancer in the first place. Lori also volunteers behind the scenes on the tech team at Orchard Hill Church in Cedar Falls. In her free time, Lori enjoys spending time with her family, pets, camping, ATVing, traveling, and caring for the lawn/garden on her acreage. Publications: Chatham-Carpenter, April; Seawel, Lori J.; & Raschig, John (2009-2010). Avoiding the pitfalls: Current practices and recommendations for eportfolios in higher education. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 38(4), 437-456. Seawel, Lori; Smaldino, Sharon E.; Steele, Jeannie L.; & Lewis, Junko Y. (1994). A descriptive study comparing computer-based word processing and handwriting on attitudes and performance of third and fourth grade students involved in a program based on a process approach to writing. Journal of Computing in Childhood Education, 5(1), 43-59.
Michelle Kosalka leads a dynamic team of online instructional developers in the division of Continuing and Distance Education at the University of Northern Iowa. She holds BAs in English and Psychology and an MA in English Literature from the University of Northern Iowa, and a PhD in English (Modern Studies) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, with an emphasis in post-colonial theory and literature, contemporary travel writing, and globalization. She began teaching at the college level in 1997, and has experience teaching face-to-face, blended, and online courses. In 2008, Michelle began teaching exclusively online and began working as a Curriculum Management Specialist (instructional development). At that time, she began exploring her research interest in enhancing engagement for online learners, and has presented nationally on engaging adult learners, embracing student experience to enhance learning, building community in online courses, designing effective online faculty communities for distance educators, and using synchronous tools in asynchronous courses. She was named the National Educator of the Year by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities in 2011 for innovative design in her online English courses. Along with 20 years of experience teaching face-to-face, blended, and online courses in higher education, Michelle has served in teaching and administrative roles as a Curriculum Management Specialist, University Curriculum Committee Chair, Humanities Curriculum Committee Chair, and Program Chair of Humanities and Communications. She is passionate about standards-based course development and assessment, and has completed certification through Quality Matters, Inc. in Applying the Quality Matters Rubric (APPQMR), Designing Your Online Course (DYOC), Using Instructional Materials and Technology to Promote Learner Engagment (UMTE), and is a certified QM Peer Reviewer (PRC). She currently serves as the UNI Quality Matters Coordinator, and facilitates on-site Quality Matters professional development workshops at UNI. In community life, Michelle is active in the foster parent and foster-adopt network in both Wisconsin and Iowa. She volunteers time and presents information at local and regional conferences related to foster care, foster-adopt parenting, parenting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), and trauma-informed care for special needs adoption in children ages 6 and older. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys planning adventures and traveling with her daughter, who is an amateur rock hound and delights in collecting rocks and minerals from each trip they take. She also enjoys watercolor painting, writing, gaming, all things science fiction, and playing the flute.

Extended Abstract

“If you plagiarize others' techniques, you steal their emotions and tell your spectators a lie with your work. Works as such equal zero.”  -- Wu Guan-Zhong    

The University of Northern Iowa utilizes two plagiarism-checking programs, Turnitin and SafeAssign (integrated within Blackboard’s Assignment tool). A team of five faculty, an Educational Technologist, and an Instructional Support Services Manager recently conducted a comparison review of these two programs. In this session, two members from this team will share details of the review, relevant observations, and what they learned. Their review included a literature review, a feature comparison, usage data for both programs, surveys of users, and a direct comparison of plagiarism reports for fifteen actual student papers.

Attendees of this Emerging Ideas Session will:

  • Review a study conducted to learn more about Turnitin and SafeAssign with Blackboard at the University of Northern Iowa.

  • Examine differences the comparison study identified between features of Turnitin and SafeAssign, including both plagiarism and grading markup features.

  • Discuss the importance of teaching students how to properly interpret and use a plagiarism report.

  • Assess the limitations of plagiarism detecting software and reports generated by such tools.

Throughout the presentation, attendees will have the opportunity to ask clarifying questions as well as share their thoughts and ideas concerning plagiarism and how instructors can best address it. Participants will also have the opportunity to engage in a real-time online survey about plagiarism-detection software. Handouts will be available. These will include a feature comparison of Turnitin and SafeAssign, works consulted in the literature review, and a PDF copy of the slide presentation.