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Growing Academic Integrity in a Vast and Culturally Diverse Setting

Erica Flinspach discusses how she uses Turnitin as an investigative teaching and learning tool at UNISA.

Laura Young
Laura Young
Content Marketing Specialist






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Here at Turnitin, we received 916 nominations in this year’s Global Innovation Awards, with the finalists representing 17 countries. We are extremely excited to announce that Erica Flinspach, Senior Integrity Officer and Turnitin Administrator for the University of South Africa (UNISA), is our overall award winner!

With over 400,000 students, including representation from over 130 countries worldwide, Erica strives to grow academic integrity by using a successful combination of educational technology and human intervention. Hosting such a vast, diverse, and geographically dispersed student body at UNISA, Erica and her colleagues encourage a culture of ethical behavior at scale:

“We are a very big mixture of different cultures. Our students approach academic integrity in different ways, as do our lecturers and other staff members. For this reason, we encourage integrity. That is also where I play a role, not only with Turnitin as a programme but to be a champion for integrity and the way that it is grown within the university.”

When UNISA initially purchased Turnitin, it was used as a punitive measure to rule out plagiarism. Erica swiftly sought to reverse this notion by championing Turnitin as a teaching and learning tool, so that problem areas can be addressed before disciplinary action is required. Erica is passionate about creating an open-communication platform at UNISA and encourages her co-workers to firstly promote original work and then take the necessary steps to eliminate plagiarism.

Erica understands that when students don’t understand plagiarism or the full spectrum, they tend to plagiarize unknowingly; she holds workshops to educate students about the ethical issues surrounding plagiarism and how they can avoid it. She tells them: “It's a teaching tool. Turnitin is your friend. It is there to help you so that you can learn about plagiarism and not fall into the trap of plagiarising.” Erica frequently liaises with her team of educators to ensure that they are adopting Turnitin correctly, using each Similarity Report as an investigative tool.

“Academic integrity is foundational to this vision. It requires dedication and innovation in the use of the tools and processes that support the cultivation of ethical practices in all aspects of the university’s operations,” says Professor Hugo Lotriet, Director for the School of Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Studies.

He also added: “UNISA is delighted that its dedicated champion of Turnitin and iThenticate, Ms. Erica Flinspach, has received international recognition for the work that she has done by developing an innovative and excellent approach for the effective and efficient use of these software applications in one of the largest universities in the world.”

Academic integrity is one of UNISA’s core values. Erica effectively builds this value into her students and coworkers so that they can develop into original writers and are prepared for any challenges they may face stepping out into society after education and the challenges they may face in the future. Thank you for your hard work, Erica!


Interested in reading more? Check out all of the 2018 Global Innovator stories here!