How Free Online Courses Plagued By Plagiarism
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How Free Online Courses Plagued By Plagiarism

It seems today there is a wave of online universities, such as Udacity, Khan Academy and, of course, the most famous Coursera, providing numerous online courses taught by professors from Princeton, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan and many others. Most people agree that online courses are the future of higher education.

However, there is a problem concerning Coursera free online courses, which use peer grading. In the peer grading system students are asked to review other students’ works, to comment on them and to grade them. Some students have noticed numerous cases of plagiarism and different kinds of cheating.

One of the Coursera founders Daphne Koller says she does not think plagiarism online is more frequent than in traditional classrooms. Also, as University of Michigan professor noted, an accusation of plagiarism is a serious act and should be made only with strong evidence that proves it. At the same time, there are some cases when students were falsely accused of plagiarism. College and university professors are afraid that some of the students may be too enthusiastic in hunting for cases of plagiarism.

There are many reasons why students cheat in their papers and use other people’s work without proper referencing. One of the reasons is the lack of time. Students are worried about their grades, they are faced with the lack of time, and under pressure, they prefer cheating on the assignment to submitting no assignment at all. Other students, especially non-native speakers, really try to write but panic and turn to “copy and paste” business.

People who enroll in Coursera courses do not receive academic credit for participation and completed assignments. Instead, they get a certificate. Prior to being enrolled in an online course, a student must agree to support honor code and make sure that all answers and all of the work are their own original work. In the future, Coursera may add some software, such as plagiarism detector, which will help to detect plagiarism. The example of such software is noplag.

Teachers and professors were not surprised to hear about plagiarism cases among Coursera online courses participants. They say that there may be much more of it than it has been revealed until now. Especially common are cases of “patchwork plagiarism”, in which students take a few sentences here and there, changing them just a little bit, in order not to be detected by the paper checker and plagiarism finder. It is very easy and very tempting, thus very common in the modern internet era.

One of the ways to combat plagiarism is having students to write their assignments in class and by hand. In this case, teachers may be sure that a student’s assignments are their own.


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