Google is introducing a handful of updates to its Google for Education program today — including a new tool that helps teachers check students’ work for possible plagiarism.
The broader announcement Google is making today relates to Course Kit, a toolkit launched last year that enables teachers to use Google Docs and Drive to collect assignments and provide better feedback to students. Moving forward, Course Kit is no more — instead, it will be called Assignments, and can now be used as a standalone tool alongside a school’s learning management system (LMS), rather than having to be integrated with the LMS first.
But perhaps most interestingly here, Assignments will ship with a new feature called originality reports.
Briefly, originality reports are used in the education sphere to check whether there are any similarities in a piece of work submitted by a student and existing work in databases or on the internet. Plagiarism detection is a sizable market, with Turnitin — one such plagiarism detection service that offers originality reports — recently acquired for $1.7 billion.
“Today’s students face a tricky challenge — in an age when they can explore every idea imaginable on the internet, how do they balance outside inspiration with authenticity in their own work?” said Brian Hendricks, G Suite for Education product manager. “Students have to learn to navigate the line between other people’s ideas and their own, and how and when to properly cite sources.”
Originality reports are not designed purely for spotting plagiarism — they can also detect missing citations, allowing the student to go back through their work and ensure they have attributed any ideas they’ve “borrowed” from third-party sources. Originality reports are in fact aimed at both assessors and students, with the latter able to generate up to three reports before submitting their work, giving them the chance to remove any copy-paste misdemeanors and add missing citations. When they submit their assignment, Google automatically generates a fresh originality report for the person grading the work.
According to Hendricks, instructors routinely copy and paste paragraphs from students’ work into Google to check it against existing passages on the internet — but this is a time-consuming, laborious process, something that originality reports will help automate.
“They [instructors] also often spend a lot of time giving feedback about missed citations and improper paraphrasing,” Hendricks added. “By integrating the power of Search into our assignment and grading tools, we can make this quicker and easier.”
For now, Google’s originality reports verify students’ text against hundreds of billions of web pages, and millions of digitalized books. Shortly, however, Google will also enable schools to set up their own private repository of past student submissions, which will enable teachers to check for matches from students in the same school — this means no more borrowing from previous work submitted by your big brother or next-door neighbor.
Originality reports will feature both in the new Assignments product, and in Google Classroom, which the internet giant launched back in 2014 as a platform that connects teachers and learners for the purpose of sharing information, assignments, and general networking. When this launches properly, schools will be able to access originality reports for up to three assignments in each course they teach; if they want unlimited access, then they will have to upgrade to G Suite Enterprise for Education.
During the initial testing phase, instructors will be able to access unlimited originality reports for free.