The double-edged sword of digitalisation

A phrase often attributed Nobel laureate Paul Krugman is that everything that can be digitised will be digitised, and also copied.

While the first promise is working as a catalyst for innovation, the latter is what we in Sweden would call a little tuft that often overturns a large load.

The ease of which research and academic work can be plagiarised today is undermining the innovative strength and integrity of our institutions. If we are not keeping up with ever more sophisticated ways to take academic shortcuts, we allow our innovative systems to be corrupted and ineffective. In a time when AI can write convincing arguments and articles, we must put more emphasis on teaching our students how to synthesise information and create knowledge.

In our pursuit of promoting original thinking, we need to be good at spotting cheats, but more importantly, we need to work proactively to deter any academic impropriety. To be proactive, we should strive to approach academic integrity and plagiarism as a coach rather than a referee, helping instead of policing. But to be able to coach, we need to understand who needs coaching.

Being accurate in detecting straightforward plagiarism is one thing, helping educators understand where the student is struggling is another. So when you set out on your coaching mission to promote original thinking among your students, make sure the plagiarism detection software supporting you tick the following boxes:

  • It should be easy to use, as in being intuitive and adaptable to your needs, interoperable with what else is in your toolbox.
  • It should be efficient, as in being accurate in its matches, warn about attempts to fool the system and work regardless of and across languages.
  • It should be reliable, as in it need to have impeccable uptime and delivery time, besides complying to rigorous privacy and data security regulations.

The true preventative effect comes with implementing the right software as part of a wider programme. Your students often take shortcuts out of reasons that are very much preventable. It might be a lack of confidence in the subject, misinterpretation of the assignment, or just unawareness of what constitutes plagiarism and its consequences for them as students. Raising awareness at all levels while backing it up with the right solution is what will put you one step ahead.


Urkund is an automatic text-matching system primarily used in educational institutions to prevent and detect plagiarism and promote original thinking. 

Urkund was a sponsor of FutureScot’s EduTech – The Future of Higher & Further Education – conference on November 14 in Glasgow.