‘Academic fraud’ filtering hopes to crack down on plagiarism

Technology companies hope to curb students' access to term paper sites and crack down on plagiarism.
Some education technology companies hope to curb students' access to term paper sites and crack down on plagiarism.

For years, schools have struggled to crack down on web-savvy students who purchase or download term papers online, and a new option from OpenDNS aims to make plagiarism that much harder.

The free internet security service launched an Academic Fraud Filtering option earlier this year after the company’s users suggested OpenDNS create a filter for term paper sites.

In addition to content filtering, OpenDNS provides anti-phishing security and domain name system (DNS) resolution. DNS is a database system that translates a domain name or URL—which is how the average internet user calls up a web page—into an IP address.

“The idea for Academic Fraud Filtering came from our community’s IdeaBank, a place where OpenDNS users can suggest new features and functionalities,” said Allison Rhodes, the company’s director of marketing. “We recognized [blocking term paper sites] as an excellent idea right away and delivered the service to our customers within weeks.”

Users—including school district administrators, teachers, and parents—can submit sites for inclusion in the Academic Fraud Filtering system. Once the site is verified as academic fraud, it is automatically blocked by OpenDNS. To date, users have submitted thousands of sites to be filtered.

“Academic fraud—including plagiarism, the buying and selling of papers and reports, and other forms of cheating—is a problem plaguing academic institutions around the world. By preventing students from accessing the fraud sites on the school networks, academic institutions can add a simple and effective first line of defense to their effort to prevent academic fraud of all kinds,” Rhodes said.

Although OpenDNS allows for entire categories to be blocked, the service allows for individual exceptions. For instance, a district might choose to block all social networking sites from its computers, but a teacher’s classroom blog can be entered as a permissible site so the teacher and students can access the blog from school.

M86 Security is another provider of secure web gateway solutions that offers a way to block term paper sites.

“We have a category [called Educational/School Cheating] to address cheating and student access to term papers,” said Alison Norris, who does K-12 marketing for M86, adding that sites where students can purchase or download term papers are added to the school cheating category as the company becomes aware of them.

Another tool that many school districts use to try to curb plagiarism is Turnitin.com, a software program that checks the originality of students’ papers. Turnitin allows teachers to compare students’ work to millions of online submissions and internet sources, ensuring that assignments are not too similar or identical to any other published works online.

According to effectiveness research conducted by Turnitin, institutions that use the software see significant reductions in the number of serious incidents of papers with large amounts of unoriginal material.

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