Academic integrity within online learning courses requires upholding higher educational standards by all instructors and administrators. Yet, copy/paste plagiarism by students exists and will never completely go away, no matter how many detection sites spring into existence. Ideally, online courses include interaction, trust, and a sense of community within discussions, as well as measures in place to prevent plagiarism. How is it defined and what strategies can be used to detect and remedy plagiarism?
What Plagiarism Is
The Council of Writing Program Administrators assert: “Plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, or other original (not common-knowledge) materials without acknowledging its source.” The official Plagiarism.org site defines plagiarism as "an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward."
To uphold scholarly integrity, you properly give credit to those you reference, quote, and paraphrase or summarize. There are several standardized styles of doing this. Among them is the Modern Language Association (MLA) and American Psychological Association (APA) style. According to the creators of the American Intellectual Properly Law Association website (AIPL), when used correctly, these styles are tools by which we "honor...the fruits of mental labor...called intellectual property."
Proposed Strategies for Plagiarism Prevention
In order to uphold integrity and honesty in higher online education, Melissa Olt, in the 2009 "Journal of Online Learning and Teaching," provides seven strategies of "plagiarism-proofing" online courses. According to Olt, plagiarism can be avoided in by: promoting questions that "encourage higher-order thinking skills"; relating general questions to the "course as a whole"; rotating the curriculum; inclusion of interaction between students and instructors; encouraging instructors to participate in online discussions; promoting a manageable workload; assessing discussions; and providing feedback.
Trip Gabriel, in a 2010 "New York Times" article, states: "The Internet may...be redefining how students...understand the concept of authorship." Online cheating detection methods are currently employed by national institutions, but according to Paul Craft in a 2010 "Washington Monthly" article, in the minds of some administrators, "forcing all students to use Turnitin runs counter to their trust and expectation of high-quality work."
Based in Florida, Karen White has written about online learning and teaching since 2000. Her articles have appeared in "Military Education" and "Distance Learning Education Magnapubs." She teaches online courses for both Mercy and Excelsior College in NY. Her Master of Arts is in English literature and writing pedagogy from Norwich University of Vermont.