Ouriginal chief defends Turnitin takeover against monopoly jibes

Merger of two of the biggest plagiarism checkers will help combat more sophisticated forms of cheating, Andreas Ohlson says

五月 5, 2022
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The chief executive of plagiarism checker Ouriginal has defended the company’s buyout by rival Turnitin despite it handing the California technology giant a near-monopoly in the market.

Andreas Ohlson, who has become Turnitin’s senior vice-president for strategy and business development as part of the takeover, said the coming together of two of the biggest text-matching services will allow them to develop better products to combat the ever more sophisticated methods of attempted cheating being seen worldwide.

Speaking at the European Conference on Academic Integrity and Plagiarism, Mr Ohlson said the prospect of technology behemoths such as Google and Microsoft entering the industry, and the burden of regulatory frameworks, convinced him that the companies would work better together.

“We wanted to do more; we wanted to do a broader thing, and that is difficult to do when you are a small company. We decided it is better to be part of a larger organisation that, long-term, can make better products. We can use our joint resources to do what is best for our students,” he said.

The merger has been criticised by some who said it handed too much power and data to Turnitin, which is estimated to now control 97 per cent of the plagiarism detection platforms market in Asia, 88 per cent in Europe, 86 per cent in Oceania and 67 per cent in North America. Regulators in both the UK and Australia investigated the acquisition, but it was eventually cleared in November 2021.

Appearing on the same panel, Tomáš Foltýnek, a computer science lecturer and academic integrity expert at Masaryk University in Brno in the Czech Republic, said he feared that a downside of the acquisition could be a loss of competition, which “is always the incentive for improvements and it is how the tools become better”.

Mr Ohlson denied that the two companies had different approaches to the use of text-matching software, saying they broadly agreed on how much access should be given to students before they hand their work in, amid fears that some are using paraphrasing software to get around the checks.

He stressed that early adoption and using the software throughout students’ university careers, as well as developing different assessment formats, could make it much more difficult for students to cheat.

Mr Ohlson agreed that giving a percentage score for the amount of text matched could be problematic because it will vary by subject, and he cautioned universities against setting policies that say a student’s work should always be below a certain set percentage every time.

Discussing the future direction of the company, he said Turnitin hoped to launch a “comprehensive assessment solution” that catered for a range of different submission types.

“What we really want to do is to broaden what we offer today into the full assessment spectrum. I think ongoing assessment is key here, that you don’t just teach and assess at the end with a final document or test,” he added.




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