Address Plagiarism in a Virtual Environment

Instructors at Coastline Community College use Turnitin to help students develop their writing voices and to teach them proper citation methods, especially in the context of distance learning courses.

Coastline Community College
Fountain Valley, CA
Community College
9,000 Students; 60% Taking Distance Learning Courses


Created as a campus without walls some 30 years ago, Coastline Community College in Fountain Valley, CA, now has students from all over the world. The college has approximately 60% of their students taking distance learning courses, while also offering traditional onsite classes for local students.


Cheryl Stewart, librarian at Coastline Community College, wanted to create awareness of the college's virtual library, while providing staff with a more efficient way of checking student work for originality. "Our students needed to develop their own voices when writing," said Stewart. "So much of the cheating is evidence of extreme lack of self-confidence and mistrust in the learning process." Also, teachers needed a more effective way to check student papers since their traditional way of checking was extremely time-consuming. "I found our staff was using Google to try to track down cheating. They were actually going online, printing out the papers, grading them and then checking them for any questionable content. I thought to myself, ‘This is crazy, there has to be a more effective way to go about this.'"


When Stewart discovered Turnitin, she felt it was the perfect tool to address what her students and faculty needed. "Turnitin has actually helped me and my instructors focus more on the students' need to develop their own voices and to learn how to use the work of others properly as evidence or support for claims." What Stewart needed was a tool that was extremely reliable, would allow for growth and was connected to ProQuest and EBSCOhost, which Turnitin solved. "By having the library host Turnitin, I was able to get students visiting the library, while reducing the amount of plagiarism and cheating found at the college," said Stewart.


Since implementing Turnitin years ago, Coastline Community College has seen a reduction in the amount of plagiarism and cheating. "Our teachers see so much value in using Turnitin. They can create rubrics online, grade online and it's all right there," said Stewart. In addition, Turnitin now provides staff with the ability to create a virtual dialogue with students around the importance of original writing. "One thing students have to do is learn how to trust their own thoughts and expressions. Previously, students would cheat in one class, but because the college is virtual, it did not have a good way of tracking work originality from course to course. With Turnitin, the teachers now have documents they can put in the students' folders. They can then meet with a student to discuss a paper in question and be able to have it available to all instructors."