Reflections of a 30-ish-year-old young professional

My Experience with Plagiarism

This semester I taught my first course. It was a 400- & 500-level course, consisting mostly of graduate students. The title was Audio/Visual Instruction: Methods, Media, & Technology. We spent the semester learning about and exploring a lot of tools, in a variety of categories. In fact, only about 3 weeks was spent with audio/video tools. We covered social media, mobile technologies & apps, as well as several weeks talking about accessibility, pedagogy, and needs assessments. Throughout the semester, the students worked on projects that were designed to be reusable when they began teaching.

The final project required students to submit a proposal to a fictitious school board, requesting support for implementing a technology of their choice. The project spanned 2 weeks, during which time they had to submit a rough draft for peer review, submit a final written proposal, and create/submit a multimedia presentation showing how they would present the project to their school board. The project was fairly clear, but I ran into an issue when 1 student plagiarized the research review for their proposal…

The student in question submitted everything on time, but I was concerned when his research review did not include any citations or quotation marks. After reading through the proposal, I decided to run it through Turnitin, a plagiarism detection website that our institution uses. My concerns were validated when I saw that the entire research section was taken from various sources. I scheduled an appointment with our institution’s Academic Integrity Coordinator to discuss whether this was a case of academic dishonesty worth pursuing. She told me that since it was, by definition, plagiarism and that I should report it to my department chair. So I did…

My chair and I talked through the necessary procedures and she asked me to begin the process by completing some basic paperwork. She notified the student in writing and the student then requested a hearing to state his case. Institutional policy states that the accused student is allowed to bring an adviser with them to help  during the hearing, and so the student did. The adviser happened to be someone that I knew, which made the process a little more awkward. The student’s statement was essentially pleading ignorance—that he did fail to cite the sources properly but that it was not meant to be intentional or malicious. After some discussion, the student and adviser left so my chair and I could discuss further. Her and I both agreed that the plagiarism did occur (intentional or otherwise) and that intent should only used to determine the appropriate punishment (institutional policy). The conversation ended with her needing to make some calls and make some inquiries.

The next day, I get an email from the chair, which was sent to the student and I had been copied. The chair dismissed the entire case as if nothing happened. No explanation or anything. What the hell? If she thought there wasn’t a case, then why didn’t she say anything prior to my initiating this whole process? Now I come across as a jack ass instructor who’s just out to get the student. Wonderful…

Anyway, that was my first experience with plagiarism. Let me know your thoughts!

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