In the world of online learning, LMS platforms like Blackboard have played a pivotal role in the educational experience. With a variety of tools for course management, student feedback and grading, Blackboard has become indispensable. But with the growing reliance on online resources and submissions, a significant challenge has arisen: maintaining academic integrity.
This is particularly true when it comes to detecting and preventing plagiarism, an issue made worse with the rise of ever more sophisticated Ai writing tools. Blackboard also includes a wide range of integrated systems, like SafeAssign, which can help detect plagiarism. However, it also comes with its own set of limitations, particularly when it comes to detecting AI-generated content.
Being able to understand how Blackboard detects plagiarism and AI-written content is vital for educators as they work to refine their teaching strategies in an increasingly digital world. This article is designed to help you better understand Blackboard’s capabilities, how it goes about detecting plagiarism and what can be done about AI-generated writing when using an LMS platform.
What is Blackboard?
Blackboard is a Learning Management System or LMS. It provides an online platform for the delivery of educational content and resources. With Blackboard, educators can create, organize and distribute course material including lecture notes, readings and even multimedia content. The system also includes features that enable communication between instructors and students including announcements, discussion boards and one-on-one emails.
Within Blackboard, students can submit their assignments directly through Blackboard. Instructors can then grade those assignments online and submit feedback. Teachers can also create online tests and quizzes, each having different types of questions and grading options. Students are also able to view their grades and see instructor feedback online.
Blackboard and AI, Cheating and Plagiarism
You may not realize it, but Blackboard itself uses AI to accomplish several tasks. For example, it uses AI algorithms to help automate grading certain types of assignments and provides instant feedback to students. With its adaptive learning option, it can change the content based on each individual student’s progress and performance. Through its backend data and analytics, instructors can better understand student engagement and learning patterns.
One of Blackboard’s biggest selling and usage points revolves around its ability to detect plagiarism and prevent cheating. To help prevent cheating, Blackboard offers several tools including:
Lockdown Browsers - To prevent students from going to other sites to look up answers while the test or quiz is in process.
Timed Assessments - To limit the amount of time students have to complete the test.
Randomization of Test Questions - To prevent students from swapping answers, test questions and answers can be randomized.
Integration with Test Proctoring Software - Blackboard also integrates with third-party test proctoring software to detect any unusual behavior that might indicate cheating.
Blackboard’s Anti-Plagiarism and Anti-Cheating Tools
First and foremost among Blackboard’s anti-plagiarism tools is SafeAssign. SafeAssign compares student submissions against a database of internet sources, previous submissions and individual students submissions as well as other academic papers to spot if there is any overlap.
In addition to SafeAssign, Blackboard also generates an originality report. This report indicates the percentage of the assignment’s text that may match other sources, helping instructors to root out any potential plagiarism. Depending on whether or not the instructor has enabled it, students may also be able to see originality reports of their own submissions. This can help them to understand how citations are properly done and help them avoid any unintentional plagiarism.
Beyond SafeAssign, Blackboard also tracks student performance across a variety of metrics. Sudden changes in performance (be they for better or worse) can indicate cheating. Blackboard also monitors the frequency and timing of logins. Multiple logins from different areas in a short amount of time, or from very different IP addresses could raise a red flag.
When it comes to exams, Blackboard’s assessment tools also analyze patterns in how questions are answered. For example, if a student answers a complex question correctly in a short amount of time and does so repeatedly, it might be a reason for concern. Other changes in how students interact with course materials, discussion forums or group work can also be flagged for further review.
If you are particularly concerned about Blackboard and cheating or plagiarism, it’s also worth noting that the LMS integrates with additional third party educational tools and software that goes beyond the program’s original capabilities to help detect unusual patterns beyond what Blackboard can do right out of the box.
How Blackboard’s SafeAssign Detects Unusual Patterns
SafeAssign, Blackboard’s primary anti-plagiarism tool, first compares student submissions against its own comprehensive database. This database consists of billions of internet pages, millions of academic essays and papers and the school or university’s own repository of previously-submitted student papers.
After scanning these databases and repositories for any matches, SafeAssign then generates an originality report that includes an Originality Score which tells the student and teacher what percentage of the paper’s text matches sources already in the database.
From there, the report also offers detailed information about each match it has found, including the specific sentence or phrase and where it was found among the database sources. Generally this report is available just a few minutes after the article is submitted, although it could take longer if it’s a longer paper or if there are several assignments in the queue to check.
Keep in mind that instructors must review the originality report to see the matching text in context. Not all of the text that SafeAssign highlights will be plagiarized. It might include correctly cited quotes, idioms and other common phrases which are clearly not examples of plagiarism.
From there, the instructor will need to make a judgment to determine if the matches are plagiarized or properly referenced. Depending on the settings selected, students may be able to see their originality report as well. This can help them learn from their mistakes and understand how to properly cite their work.
Also, depending on how the instructor has set it up, sometimes students can submit their drafts to SafeAssign before they make their final submission. This can help the students identify any improper citations or potential plagiarism before turning their work in for a final grade. On submission of the final version of their paper, students can opt to allow it to become a part of SafeAssign’s database.
Blackboard’s Limitations in Detecting AI-Written Content
So far, we’ve talked a lot about how Blackboard is designed to help detect plagiarism and cheating, but what about AI written content? As AI-generated writing becomes more sophisticated, the limitations of existing LMS platforms like Blackboard become even more glaring. Here are a few of the many limitations and challenges Blackboard faces when dealing with AI content:
Limited Focus on Text Matching
SafeAssign and other plagiarism detection tools rely primarily on text-matching algorithms in order to uncover plagiarism. Submitted texts are compared against databases of existing content and when one string matches another, it’s highlighted. If a student paraphrases the content or idea in their own words, it becomes harder to detect a match.
Original AI-Crafted Content
Artificial intelligence can generate content that doesn’t plagiarize existing texts, so it would come up with an excellent originality score in the report. This presents a challenge for educators since the text that’s submitted doesn’t seem to be copied or resemble anything from other sources.
MImic a Student’s Writing Style
Some AI models are so sophisticated that they can mimic a student’s writing style, making it hard for plagiarism detectors and instructors alike to determine what was actually written by the student and what was generated by a machine. Considering how quickly AI developments are being published, today’s plagiarism detection tools need to keep pace with new methods of content creation. This in itself is a highly resource-intensive process to the point where many LMS platforms struggle to keep up.
Just Scratching the Surface
SafeAssign and other plagiarism detection tools only analyze the surface level of the text (as in “are these words the same words arranged in the same way on the student’s paper versus this academic source?”) These tools don’t understand the context or meaning behind the text and for this reason, struggle to identify AI-written content.
SafeAssign and other plagiarism tools are highly dependent upon how large and comprehensive their databases are. Although millions of academic essays and billions of web pages sounds like a lot, if AI generated content doesn’t match any of them, SafeAssign likely won’t flag it.
Best Practices Avoid Plagiarism on Blackboard
If you’re a student looking to avoid plagiarism on Blackboard, follow these tried-and-true strategies:
Learn what plagiarism actually is – it’s not just copying text but also using ideas, concepts and even images without proper attribution.
Learn how to cite appropriately - Follow the style set forth by your instructor, whether it’s MLA, APA, Chicago or another type.
Cite everything - When you’re not sure, cite it anyway: books, journals, websites, videos and anything else you talk about in your paper.
Put it in your own words - Understand the material well enough to be able to explain it in your own words. Just swapping out a word here and there isn’t enough. Don’t forget that even if you express an idea or concept in your own words that was originally someone else’s, that you cite it appropriately!
Mix it up - Your assignment should be a combination of your own thoughts and analysis, backed up by reputable quotes and cited sources.
Keep track of your sources - Use a tool like Zotero to keep track of your sources so that you’re not scrambling at the last minute to remember them all.
And last but not least, if you’re not sure how to cite something, ask your instructor or a librarian. Get familiarized with SafeAssign and Blackboard as a whole to avoid any unintentional plagiarism.
How to Check for AI Writing Using Originality.AI
If you’re concerned about AI generated writing, it’s a good idea to use a tool that was designed specifically for that purpose. Originality.AI was designed to detect AI-generated writing from ChatGPT, Bard and other AI writing programs and platforms with 99% content detection accuracy.
Check for Plagiarism and AI Writing
Although Originality.AI is designed for content writers and marketers, it’s also an excellent resource for institutions and educators who are looking to prevent plagiarism and AI writing from harming academic credibility and student learning outcomes. You can choose to scan for AI detection, plagiarism or both simultaneously on a case by case basis. Originality.AI accepts document links (like Google Docs), Microsoft Word files, OpenOffice and web page links, allowing you to check for Ai and plagiarism detection across multiple formats.
Check Readability, Fact-Check Verification and More
In addition to checking for AI writing using Originality.AI, you can also take advantage of other tools built into the platform, such as our detailed readability checker and our fact checking tool. Originality.AI also generates reports highlighting potential plagiarism and which passages and sentences (if any) are believed to be AI-generated, with high probabilities.
Unlimited Team Members + Unlimited Scans
Add unlimited team members, conduct unlimited scans and view a history of your scans and their results, all from one centralized hub. Although Originality.AI is not part of Blackboard, it does offer a standalone dashboard to see the big picture of plagiarism from submitted assignments. If you’re concerned about AI writing affecting your students’ abilities to think critically and write to convey their own ideas, Originality.AI can help you know with greater certainty if an assignment was written with AI or not.
Multilingual AI and Paraphrase Plagiarism Detection
Originality.AI is the only plagiarism checker that can accurately detect paraphrase plagiarism. Unlike traditional plagiarism detectors and clunky AI detectors, Originality.AI also lets you check for AI writing across multiple languages including English, Russian, Spanish, French, Chinese (Traditional and simplified) Vietnamese and many more.
Go beyond what’s possible with Blackboard and SafeAssign and try one of the most reliable plagiarism detection and AI writing detection platforms available online today!