This week I’ve been marking my first proper batch of essays. They’ve been a real mixture of good, bad and ugly. The good ones have encouraged me that I have successfully communicated some of the course content. The bad ones have appalled me somewhat – basic sentence construction seems beyond some of my students and truly makes me wonder how they passed A levels. The ugly has been one particular assignment which I suspected was plagiarised. Putting it through our computer service revealed that over half of the content was very similar to material on the internet. Some of this was legitimately quoted. Some of it could be described as soft plagiarism – the source was cited but quotation marks were not used where they should have been. At least two paragraphs had been lifted wholesale from internet sources but passed off as the student’s own work.
I’ll have to wait to see what the relevant Vice Principal and committees decide, but it was my choice to refer it to them. Apparently I could have just failed the student without formally raising the plagiarism concern. I am feeling a bit sad and conflicted about it but I wanted someone else more senior to be part of the decision. In addition to it seeming quite a clear cut case, letting it slide seems unfair to other students who have submitted their own work. The omission of quotation marks could be put down to ignorance or oversight. I was a bit paranoid that I hadn’t properly referenced every source in my thesis, and quite relieved that my examiners didn’t have complaints about the way I used their work (except that I needed to consider a couple of more recent papers in my minor corrections). Cutting and pasting large extracts from uncredited internet sources seems rather more flagrant.
It has made me more suspicious of other essays – I expect I shall be searching for unusual phrases on the internet as I mark the rest of the batch. I wonder if many students cheat the system without getting spotted – it doesn’t sound like it’s that frequent an occurrence although the internet makes so much material so easily available. Most days I get spam email offering me a 100% verified Degree in 4 weeks – I wonder how many people are tempted to use that route, even if it is a spam scam.
Even so-called reputable companies seem to be keen to get as much money out of you as possible. I’m sure I’m not the only one suspicious of the electrical items which seem to last just past the warranty date and then develop some mysterious fault. My Sky plus box died over the new year and my options seemed to be to pay Sky to service it (with a repair that would be guaranteed for 3 months), to buy another box second hand (which might not last long at all), to pay someone else to service it (ditto), to pay a lot for a new box or to get a free HD box (which they are plugging incessantly) but have to pay a monthly subscription for services I can’t use.
I didn’t like any of the options and have been dithering about what to do. I just wanted it to be sorted without costing me a fortune. Then this evening I had a visit from a Virgin Media salesman. I spent more time listening to his spiel than I would usually, before taking the details from him to think about. The special deal on offer seemed a bit cheaper, but I would be tied into the contract for a while. Then my housemate suggested I get back in touch with Sky to see what they could offer if I was considering leaving. Genius suggestion, and I seem to have accessed a good offer which involves a free new HD plus box without having to pay for HD services. Of course, this offer was only available because I said I was thinking of changing provider. How far I’ve got round them and how far they’ve got round me is perhaps debateable.