Can Canvas Detect AI Cheating and Plagiarism

Explore Canvas' effectiveness in detecting AI cheating and plagiarism. Learn how it handles AI-generated content, including ChatGPT and Bard, in this in-depth analysis.

How good is Canvas at detecting AI cheating and plagiarism? Can Canvas detect ChatGPT, Bard or other AI-written content? In this detailed article, we’ll take a closer look at Canvas’ capabilities in terms of what it can do and what it cant when it comes to AI generated text, plagiarism and cheating. Let’s take a closer look. 

Understanding the Canvas Platform

In order to better understand how Canvas handles AI writing and plagiarism detection, we first have to take a step back and understand what Canvas is and how it works.

What is Canvas?

Canvas is a learning management system or LMS. It’s well-known for having a user-friendly interface and allows teachers to create and organize courses, share assignments, communicate with students and provide helpful feedback. Canvas prioritizes usability and accessibility and is used in various institutions ranging from kindergarten to higher education and even corporate training. 

One of Canvas’ biggest strengths is its ability to integrate with a wide variety of third-party tools. This allows it to go beyond an ordinary LMS and incorporate a wide range of technologies including multimedia content, real-time updates and feedback, interactive learning modules and perhaps most importantly, plagiarism detection. 

Because Canvas is used in so many schools and higher learning institutions, it’s important for the platform to incorporate the latest in technology, including technologies designed to detect and flag the use of AI, plagiarized content and much more. In order to understand how Canva treats AI and plagiarism, we first have to look at how AI and LMS solutions like Canvas have become so intertwined. 

The Use of AI in Academia

AI itself has become invaluable in academia; paving the way for a variety of uses. It has been used to analyze complex data sets, automate tasks and process incredible amounts of data in order to make predictions and find patterns. AI is used in academic research to speed up scientific discoveries as well as give researchers a virtual environment in which to test their hypothesis. This type of in-depth exploration simply hasn’t been available until now

AI is also used by teachers to allow more personalized learning. AI can tailor content to meet individual student needs, changing to their pace and breaking down complex or difficult–to-understand concepts in a way that the student can grasp them more easily. With the use of chatbots, students can also ask the AI questions in order to get clarification on an assignment. 

But AI in academia isn’t without its challenges. As it continues to evolve, AI writing tools in particular have drawn a great deal of attention and concern from those in the academic world, and for good reason. 

The Rise of AI Writing Tools

AI writing tools have significantly changed the content creation landscape. By using advanced machine learning algorithms and natural language processing, AI writing tools look for language patterns in order to mimic human writing styles. Although these tools were initially developed to help with sentence flow and grammar checking, they’ve advanced to the point where they can now write essays, compose poetry, craft stories and even create detailed technical resorts with minimal human intervention or input. 

Because of AI writing platforms like ChatGPT and Bard and their ability to write human-sounding text, it’s not surprising that students from all educational levels leverage these tools to write their essays for them. Whether or not it can be considered plagiarism is still up for debate among legal scholars, since a machine can’t actually author a text. However, for many institutions and grade levels, using AI is akin to plagiarizing, and there are harsh academic penalties as a result. 

What AI Writing Means for Academic Integrity

AI writing has become a hot issue of debate at academic institutions around the world. On one hand, AI has the potential to help students with proper essay structure, grammar and the overall writing process. For those students who struggle with learning disabilities or language barriers, AI can help them articulate what they want to say. 

But the technology is very much a double-edged sword in that because it can create high-quality, original-looking text with minimal input, it has also cultivated a culture of misuse. Students may be tempted to pass off AI-written content as their own, preventing them from learning valuable skills like critical thinking. 

AI plagiarism detection has also become more sophisticated. This has led to the development of plagiarism detection tools built into LMS platforms like Canvas. 

How Does Canvas Detect Plagiarism? 

Canvas itself doesn’t have a built-in plagiarism detection tool. It generally integrates with third-party tools like Turnitin to handle its plagiarism scanning. Rather than go off-site to scan for plagiarism, these tools are designed to integrate within Canvas, making it easy and familiar for educators and students to work with them. 

How Canvas Searches for and Flags Plagiarism

With most tools, the plagiarism detection process starts when students submit an assignment. If Canvas is set up to check assignments for plagiarism, the assignment automatically goes to the plagiarism detection service. From here, the tool then compares the content to its databases. These databases may include websites, other academic essays, subject-specific databases and more. Various algorithms are used to help detect plagiarism beyond what’s possible with simple text matching. The plagiarism detection tool then creates a report that often flags which sentences or passages (if any) may be plagiarized and the percentage of similarity that matches other sources. It will also show where those sources were found. 

Keep in mind that although these plagiarism detection tools can help identify similarities between a student’s writing and a passage that already exists in a database, this in and of itself does not indicate plagiarism. That judgment ultimately lies with the instructor. 

Integrating Canvas with Third Party Plagiarism Detection Tools

Canva’s integration with third party plagiarism detection tools happens through a framework called LTI or Learning Tools Interoperability. This allows for external tools to be integrated with it in a way that’s familiar and localized within the Canvas environment. The process is designed this way to keep it easy to use for instructors and students, so that plagiarism checks can become a part of the assignment submission and grading process. 

In order for any type of tool to work with an LMS like Canvas, it needs to be LTI-compliant. The LTI standard was developed by the IMS Global Learning Consortium that allows different learning tools to communicate with each other. An administrator or instructor must then set up the necessary permissions to make the tool available in Canvas. This is usually done at a per-institute level to keep the process uniform across all courses. 

From there, when an assignment is created in Canvas, instructors can toggle on and off the plagiarism detection feature. Instructors can then set up the individual options and configurations depending on the tool selected. 

How Has AI Affected Traditional Cheating Methods? 

With the introduction of AI, the landscape of cheating has become even more sophisticated and at times, difficult to track. AI writing tools, for example, can write original essays and reports which makes it harder to detect plagiarism using traditional methods. This in and of itself goes well beyond just copying or paraphrasing text from other research. 

AI doesn’t just stop at writing, though. AI algorithms are engineered to solve complex problems ranging from mathematical equations to coding and much more. Students can submit AI-generated solutions as their own and completely bypass the learning and understanding process. 

But with these advanced tactics to cheat, AI has also been its own savior, making it easier to detect cheating as well. AI plagiarism detectors are now able to analyze writing and compare student submissions against online sources which include academic databases and AI-generated content to determine if it’s truly their style of writing. 

AI has also helped the learning landscape to evolve so that learning is no longer just about memorizing and repeating but rather critical thinking and problem-solving. These skills take longer to develop but are also more valuable and harder to “cheat’. 

How Does “AI Writing” Actually Work? 

When an AI like ChatGPT “writes”, some pretty amazing things are happening in the background. AI writing tools are trained on large data sets that include lots of information, including books, websites, articles and more. This allows the AI to learn how human language works across different styles and structures. 

AI also uses different types of machine learning models like neural networks. One of the most popular types of neural network is the Transformer model. This model looks for patterns and relationships within the training data and learns how to “predict” the next word or sentence in a sequence. It does this so quickly and with such naturality that it seems to be “writing”. 

Last, but not least, there’s also NLP or Natural Language Processing. This field of study focuses on teaching the AI (or computers) to understand, interpret and generate human language. NLP is also used to output text that makes sense when presented with a prompt by the user. 

AI essentially uses the same patterns it learned in training to generate text that matches the inquiry. In the case of tools like ChatGPT, the next word or phrase that appears is whichever one has the highest likelihood of being appropriate for the sentence given the context. 

How Does Canvas Detect AI-Generated Text? 

For all its capabilities, Canvas cannot detect AI generated text. If you’re concerned about a text potentially being AI-generated, using a tool like Originality.AI can help you discover the answer with greater probability. Beyond just AI-generated text, Originality.AI can also detect  plagiarized text by searching through a comprehensive number of databases, websites and other sources while flagging potential plagiarism. 

However, it’s worth noting that Originality.AI isn’t integrated with Canvas. It does, however, accept documents in a variety of formats for plagiarism detection and/or AI writing detection, including Google Docs, Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, LibreOffice and direct copy/paste. You can optionally choose to have documents examined for plagiarism, AI writing or both.The process itself only takes a few seconds, and you’ll get a percentage along with highlighted areas showing potential plagiarism or AI-written content. 

Strategies for Educators to Prevent Cheating, AI Writing and Plagiarism

Some of the best strategies to help educators prevent cheating, AI writing and plagiarism involve a fresh, new perspective at how assignments are handled. Look for ways to personalize assignments or tailor the content of the course to students’ individual experiences. Focus on assignments that require students to submit drafts, outlines or annotated bibliographies throughout the term. This makes it harder to cheat but also improves the learning process. 

Be aware of the limitations of plagiarism detection tools. Teach students how to properly research and cite their work. Give varied types of assignments. Instead of always requiring essays, use different methods like group work, individual projects, presentations in class and more. This will let you evaluate how each student learns from a variety of angles to get the full picture of their understanding of the topic. 

Above all, promote open communication in your classroom. If students are having difficulties with their assignment, encourage them to come to you. Sometimes they resort to cheating if they feel unsupported or overwhelmed. Keep an eye on their writing style. If it changes drastically it could be a sign that they’ve plagiarized material or are using an AI writing tool.

And last, but not least, AI and plagiarism methods are always changing and evolving. You may need to adapt your strategies for assessment and the technologies you use in order to be prepared for when new methods of cheating come about. Being informed about the latest advances and discoveries in AI also makes it easier to keep a finger on the pulse of its development so that you can confront the issue head-on and with greater confidence overall. 

Try Originality.AI now for both plagiarism and AI writing detection and take advantage of cutting edge machine learning and NLP technologies to uncover potential AI writing, patchwork, mosaic and other advanced forms of plagiarism.

Sherice Jacob

Plagiarism Expert Sherice Jacob brings over 20 years of experience to digital marketing as a copywriter and content creator. With a finger on the pulse of AI and its developments, she works extensively with to help businesses and publishers get the best returns from their Content.

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