A couple thoughts about problems with Blackboard’s SafeAssign product.

  1. The product appears to be designed to be used by a single institution learning context from CE/Vista systems. We have an institution (InstA) which hosts collaborative programs. Faculty quite reasonably would like to use SafeAssign at InstA just like they do at their home institution (InstB). It appears the design of SafeAssign is such that the only way to share documents across institutions is to put them in the global area meaning anyone use SafeAssign could use them. Scary!
  2. Providing some sort of statistics on institution use helps administrators justify using a product. The total lack of any (like the competitor provides is a major problem.


I’m surprised I have not blogged here about the student lawsuit against An anti-plagiarism service, Turnitin has students or faculty members upload papers into the database. By comparing new papers to the database, it gives ratings as to whether it is likely a student plagiarized.

Now the search goes out for any student who has a paper that’s being held by TurnItIn that they did not upload themselves. Students Settle with TurnItIn

In theory I could be someone in this situation. Back in 2005, a coworker asked my mother if someone by my name was related to her. This coworker was taking some classes at the university I attended. Turnitin had threw up a cautionary flag on the Originality Report because it was somewhat similar to something with my name on it. The problem is this product came into use at the university after the time I was a student. So I never submitted anything to it. The department from which I got my degree kept a copy of my papers (many submitted by email) and used this product at the time.

Another possibility is this tidbit about the product: Over 11 Billion Web Pages Crawled & Archived. I was actively blogging before and at the time of the incident. Assuming it could identify my name out of all that content, this match could have come from my blogging.

When I contacted Turnitin about this back in 2005, they told me I would have to remove my paper. I re-explained that I didn’t submit the paper. So Turnitin explained that whoever did put the paper in the system would have to remove it. The guy acknowledged the difficulty of the situation in identifying who posted it.