Global Innovation Awards 2017: Winner

Category: Writing with Integrity | Europe

Rashit Zagidullin

Rashit Zagidullin

Professor: Kazakh-British Technical University, Kazakhstan

“Write locally; check globally. I think this could be a motto/slogan of Turnitin.”

“In the Kazakhstani academic community, plagiarism was not considered to be a problem in the classroom,” says Rashit Zagidullin. He is an English professor at Kazakh-British Technical University (KBTU), which is the No.1 top ranked technical university in Kazakhstan. It offers internationally accredited programs in three languages (Russian, Kazakh, and English). Historically, claims Zagidullin, sharing a paper with a friend has been viewed “as an act of goodwill. Those who did not share their papers were labeled as 'individualists' (as opposed to 'collectivists'), 'careerists,' and so on.”

Zagidullin has had to overcome cultural, linguistic, and technology challenges to improve writing and boost academic excellence on campus. He says he wants his students to be able to adhere to international standards for writing, not just in their own language but also in English. This approach has been adopted to help them compete in the worldwide market.

“When many British and American colleagues of mine come to Kazakhstan they are impressed by the level our students managed to achieve in reading, listening, and speaking. However, all of them said that writing was the students’ Achilles heel,” says Zagidullin. That started to change in 2015, when KBTU introduced Turnitin to all first year students. That pilot project led to a cross-departmental Academic Honesty Working Group, which investigated ways to strengthen academic values and conduct. Use of Turnitin has since expanded to other departments on campus.

Students readily understand the advantages of using a digital platform to submit work, says Zagidullin. They don’t mind checking their work for originality against Turnitin’s database of international content, because they like being part of a global academic community. Unlike students, teachers have been slower to adapt. Zagidullin explains: “Many colleagues of mine, in trying to follow the Academic Honesty Policy of the university, have spent hours surfing the Internet to detect sources of student papers that seemed suspicious. Before introducing Turnitin in the KBTU environment, they just used Google when sentences seemed too good to be true. However, this was time consuming.”

Zagidullin has been a longtime user of various plagiarism-detection softwares that are free, but are limited in their functions and database. “Turnitin is a valuable tool. It managed to turn the disadvantages of new technologies for teachers into advantages for the teaching process, in general, and teaching writing, in particular.” He uses the software service to check for originality and grammatical correctness, but he also uses it to provide feedback and track student progress as they revise. For assessing his undergraduates’ and PhD students’ papers, Zagidullin widely uses the rubrics available in the Turnitin Rubric Library. He also creates his own rubrics by adapting the IELTS rubrics for use with Turnitin.

Thanks to Turnitin, Zagidullin says, the number of students plagiarizing has been drastically reduced. The university has been attracting top academics and experts from other countries, in part because of this willingness to adopt new technologies and update its pedagogy to meet new market demands. “Write locally; check globally. I think this could be a motto/slogan of Turnitin,” he says.

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