You would be hard-pressed to find a student who has something positive to say about their experience with Turnitin. Most of them know little about the company and the work that is done: Turnitin is perceived as nothing more than a policing tool for teachers. What students don’t realize is how putting time and effort into their work now, with a little help from Turnitin tools, actually sets them up for success in the future.
The value of creativity and originality is something that cannot be emphasized enough. However, there are always improvements that can be made. Giving students the chance to share with Turnitin how they feel is an invaluable gift. After all, isn’t feedback what the company is all about? After having had the chance to discuss my view on Turnitin, I thought I would give another student the chance to do the same and tell their story.
“I know it sounds weird, but I just really like Turnitin.” Alex Hedrick, an incoming freshman at the University of California, Los Angeles, says as we laugh and mutually acknowledge how rare his opinion is amongst the student population. He went on to explain that he values Turnitin because it’s easy to use: “I like that I can receive comprehensive feedback from my teachers. It’s well-organized and I like being able to label my work and get creative with how I approach the revision process. I compare it to Google Classroom, and I definitely prefer Turnitin.”
Alex truly values Turnitin as an educational tool. Throughout his interview, it was clear that regardless of how his peers felt, Alex was entrenched in the belief that Turnitin brings something useful and unique to the table.
When I asked Alex if he knew about any of our other products, such as Revision Assistant, he told me that he was not even aware that the product he was using, Feedback Studio, had a name or that Turnitin offered other tools. This lack of awareness is something I have seen throughout the student population, and not only is it causing a misrepresentation of Turnitin’s mission as a company, but it shows just how many students do not have access to some of the most useful technology that Turnitin has to offer.
Alex also mentioned his familiarity with contract cheating, the practice of engaging third-parties to complete assignments. “It was a huge problem in my high school physics class,” he said. “Kids would pay people to do the homework for them. My teacher took it very seriously after a couple students were caught and made us all sign ‘contracts’ in which we agreed not to cheat.”
Students today are facing the most ruthless and competitive education and employment environments of any generation. Alex revealed to me why he thinks students feel the need to cheat: “I think because they feel like their work isn’t good enough. The world is getting more and more competitive and I think a lot of students feel like they can’t keep up.” It simply isn’t enough to be good anymore--you must stand out amongst tens of thousands of students. This is not an easy feat and contract cheating is just one way that students cope with these rising standards. If they believe that their work is not good enough, then they will find someone else’s work to replace it.
As our interview came to an end, Alex made an interesting point that deeply resonated with me: it is more fulfilling to write about things for which you are passionate. These days, education standards put undue pressure on teachers to assign projects that fulfill a state or national need, instead of choosing topics that might inspire or align with the students themselves. When individuals have the chance to choose their topic, not only are students more motivated, but the work they produce will be of higher quality when they are invested in the subject. Yes, it is important for students to learn about the great literary geniuses of our past, but the importance of giving students a platform to speak their minds and develop their own voice is equally, if not more, essential.
Without a doubt, Alex brought a unique and refreshing perspective, as he conveyed both appreciation for Turnitin tools and empathy for the struggles that modern students and educators face. It’s clear that the way we learn and teach writing skills is dynamic and ever-changing. As the expectations for students continue to amass, it is important for students, educators, and companies, like Turnitin, to create dialogue and work together in order to transform the education landscape for the better.