Safe Assign and Freshman Writing

The Safe Assign feature on Blackboard is great for detecting and deterring plagiarism. But I’m finding an additional use fot it in teaching freshman core writing courses. If you teach a course in which students have to submit a draft, get feedback (and perhaps a grade) on the draft, and then revise the essay and submit it again, Safe Assign will give a “false positive” of a high likelihood or certainty of plagiarism, because it will match that assignment against the student’s earlier one, assuming both were submitted through Safe Assign. This will in fact allow you to highlight everything that is the same in both papers, providing a helpful visual indication of what has stayed the same, and what, if anything, has been changed between the first draft and the final version. I find this a very useful function of Safe Assign, even though it presumably isn’t what it was designed for. And I thought that other educators might find this a useful tip. If you do, let me know!

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  • Katie

    That's a creative hack; I like the way you think. If you have both versions as Word DOCs, you also have the option of performing a document compare or a document merge. Those functions can highlight all changes (including reorganization of otherwise unrevised material). For those without Safe Assign, they are useful maneuvers.

  • Landon Hedrick

    James,Thanks for the tip. Safe Assign is very helpful!

  • Anonymous

    I get a real kick out of Moral Relativists who get so excited about Plagiarism.Jeremy Mancuso

  • James F. McGrath

    Actually, plagiarism is a good example for discussing moral relativism, and there was an article by Stanley Fish not long ago, if I remember correctly, on that very topic. Clearly in New Testament times when the Gospels were written, plagiarism was not a concern the way it is now. Our notions of intellectual property are different than those of past civilizations and cultures. We are defining the theft of intellectual property as a form of theft, not discovering this written into the fabric of the universe or as some other form of objective, observable reality.


    Very clever!What's more, in our version of SA at least, you can "uncheck" a given source. So, in the final draft, you could "uncheck" the draft copy as a source for assessment, and still be able to look that final draft over for its use of *other* sources.Very nice.

  • James F. McGrath

    Wow. I just had to delete a comment for use of profanity, but I was somewhat sorry to have to move it. It illustrated nicely that there are people out there who think it is their right to steal others’ work and get credit for it as though it were their own, and that such people lack the sorts of skills in communication and clear expression that are taught in those institutions where plagiarism is prohibited.

    Of course, intelligent students sometimes plagiarize too, if they have not managed their time well or are afraid of failing, but usually they are smart enough to know that what they have done is unacceptable.