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Wednesday, 5 April, 2000, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
Anti-cheat software to hit UK students

Trials are underway
Software which detects plagiarism in students' work is to be piloted for use in the UK.

The American software from the website checks students' work against reference material and material available in online resource banks.

It can also compare an assignment with those of other students, and check consistency of style through a number of pieces of work submitted by a student.

students using computers was set up in the US to counter the growing number of students using the internet to "cheat" - either by copying chunks of reference material found online into their own work, or by downloading essays and assignments from internet "essay banks".

US websites such as School Sucks, or Cyberessays, which offer students a wealth of pre-written essays and term papers, have become extremely popular.

Now the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), which oversees university computer networks in the UK, is considering bids from universities who want to pilot the software.

It will give grants to one or two to help them install and run the software for a year, before reporting back on its feasibility for widespread use in the UK.

Anonymous marking

Professor John Slater, JISC chairman and Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kent, said: "The problem is that there is a blossoming business in websites offering students essays on all sorts of things.

"It is also a growing problem in computer programming, where it is possible to modify programs written by someone else, but making it very hard to detect."

He said that the increased movement towards the anonymous marking of coursework by UK universities, in an attempt to increase fairness and equality, made it more difficult for markers to detect plagiarism, as they could not check students' work for consistency of style.

"I want to stress I am not saying plagiarism has increased - it's that the opportunities for plagiarism have increased.

"There is a growing amount of possibility for plagiarism, but also a growing amount of possibility for detecting it, which is why we want to try out this software."

He said that JISC would be likely to give the one or two universities chosen to pilot the software enough money to pay for its installation and first year running costs - about 80,000 for a university with between 7,000 and 8,000 students.

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See also:

27 Oct 99 | Education
Catching the internet cheats
27 Aug 99 | Scotland
Second university in 'cheat' probe
25 Aug 99 | Scotland
E-mail 'cheat' student to sue
13 Aug 99 | Education
Students 'used e-mail to cheat'
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