Cheating university students face FBI-style crackdown

On a handful of university campuses around the UK, a new weapon in the battle against cheating is being quietly tested. The BBC reports.

Universities are already checking work that looks suspicious, to see if it has been copied from elsewhere on the web. But there is growing concern that buying essays for cash is being normalised on social media platforms.

Now software is being developed using what is called “forensic linguistics”. This analyses the composition of a document including vocabulary, punctuation and format.

It is a technique that has been used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States to piece together profiles of criminal suspects.

Coventry is one of the UK universities informally testing the potential of software using forensic linguistics and machine learning.

A sample of a student’s work can be compared to anything submitted which rings alarm bells with the tutor.

“What it will allow us to do is shortcut the detection process to flag up the type of work that is suspicious, so then an expert academic can look at that work,” says Dr Irene Glendinning, from Coventry University.

Once the system is in full operational use, Dr Glendinning believes it could prove to be a powerful deterrent.

At the moment it is not illegal to set up a company writing essays, dissertations or other assignments for students.

The new software is being developed by the tech company Turnitin, whose vice-president Bill Loller accepts it can never be a complete substitute for human judgement.

“How you write for economics can be vastly different from English literature – that’s OK. But if within a genre and within a reasonable amount of time we start to see differences, that’s when we flag something.”

Read the full article Cheating university students face FBI-style crackdown

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