Cadmus, Again

15 May 2017

Cadmus, a Google Docs style software designed to target plagiarism, is undergoing further trials at the University of Melbourne this semester.

The online program stores students’ keyboard movement patterns, such as typing speed and rhythm, and tracks information about the time when a body of work is being written. Algorithms detect whether slabs of text have been copied and pasted into the document.

This data could be used in the event that suspicion arises about the validity of a student’s work and could be used as evidence in an academic misconduct hearing.

University of Melbourne Student Union’s (UMSU’s) Education (Academic) Officer, Caley McPherson, is taking action to make sure students’ best interests are known before the software is implemented University-wide.

“Our main areas of concern are around kinks in the system and policy, specifically access for students with disabilities or with limited internet,” McPherson said.

A public information session hosted by UMSU was organised on 30 March to hear students’ feedback on the use of Cadmus at the University.

Students feared that those without a smartphone would also be disadvantaged. In order to use the software, an app must be downloaded in order for Cadmus to establish a biometric keystroke profile. Whilst there is a way around this step for non-smartphone users, students involved in the trial said it was tedious.

Additional criticisms from students concerned accessibility for students with disabilities, the implementation and training of faculty in how to appropriately use the software and the ethical dilemma of the University possessing so much data.

This year the trials are taking place in five classes in the Arts, Science and FBE faculties with 50-100 students enrolled in each class. The use of Cadmus in these classes is compulsory for all students in the subjects.

Plagiarism is a serious issue that universities across Australia are trying to combat. Deputy Provost (Academic and Undergraduate) Professor Richard James said that the existence of contract cheating diminishes integrity of all university assessment and undermines the value of the University of Melbourne degrees.

“We’re not prepared to stand by and do nothing in this space,” he said. He did admit that the implications of implementing such a program are unclear.

“We’re a long way away from considering what a future implementation might or would look like,” he said.

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