Report: Students Plagiarized More When Instruction Moved Online

Plagiarism among students jumped by 10 percentage points after the pandemic, when classes went online — an increase in the average rate of copying in student work from 35 percent to 45 percent. The finding came out of an analysis undertaken by Copyleaks, which sells a plagiarism detection program.

The company analyzed anonymized data from 51,000 students worldwide at both the high school and college level. The analysis found a "significant increase" in plagiarism overall within student papers turned in during April and May 2020, compared to those turned in during January and February 2020.

The bump was driven by the actions of high school students, where the average rate of plagiarism detection rose from 33 percent pre-COVID-19 to 46 percent post-COVID. Among college students, there was a decrease, from 45 percent to 38 percent.

Also, the prevalence of plagiarism was greater in documents more than 1,000 words (35 percent after March compared to 30 percent before March). It was less in documents shorter than 1,000 words (dropping to 36 percent from 45 percent).

Recently, the company added "cheat detection" to its plagiarism platform. The purpose of the new functionality is to find characters that are included in texts "with the intention to cheat the plagiarism scans," such as character replacement and use of "white ink," the company noted in a blog article. "To the human eye, these characters are undetectable, but when it is in a .txt format our system can find characters that do not belong. This is a common technique used to disguise plagiarism."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.