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I firmly believe education offers equal opportunity. It does not discriminate against your socioeconomic status, how much money you have in the bank, or how many stocks you own. ... Education offers an opportunity to grow and really live out your dreams.
- Derk Riechers, Director of Modalities at Northeastern Technical College
Northeastern Technical College (NETC) is a public community college accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. NETC is one of the 16 technical colleges that make up the South Carolina Technical College System. They have been using Turnitin Feedback Studio for over nine years.
South Carolina’s educators face a specific challenge in their rural areas—what is called the "Corridor of Shame". This thin strip of rural territory suffers from lack of funding, a dwindling tax base and dilapidated facilities, which has an indelible impact on student outlook and learning. In a documentary on the topic, the challenge is stated plainly: “[T]hese schools are hard-pressed to provide a minimally adequate education for their students.”
NETC falls squarely within this geographical region. As such, this challenge goes above and beyond what most schools consider their typical pedagogical challenges. Motivating students to become self-confident, critical thinkers is at the top of the list for English Instructor, Mark Knockemus. More specifically, NETC is looking for ways to destigmatize, empower, and inspire their students.
As they saw it, NETC faced two considerable challenges above and beyond their geographical and demographic setbacks: 1) Helping students understand what plagiarism is by developing their own original thinking. And, 2) Understanding how to move from information to knowledge to application.
Professor Knockemus, and Director of Modalities, Derk Riechers, knew what they were up against, yet they didn’t falter in their unwavering commitment to providing high-quality education for some of South Carolina’s most vulnerable students.
In charge of implementing educational technologies, Derk Riechers saw an opportunity to leverage Turnitin Feedback Studio as a formative tool as opposed to a punitive measure. He worked with Professor Knockemus to reframe academic integrity at NETC with students and instructors alike, creating videos, presentations, and workshops on best uses of Turnitin throughout the writing process.
In the classroom, Professor Knockemus goal was to move students’ understanding of research and writing from information to knowledge to application. He first worked with his students to perform research for their assignments—the information stage. He then worked with students to infuse what they found in their research to form their own original ideas with what they found—the knowledge stage. Finally, he taught his students to apply their original thinking to real-world examples to demonstrate how new and innovative ideas can affect the environment around them.
—Mark Knockemus, English Instructor at NETC
This allowed him to build a stronger culture of academic integrity in the classroom, which created space for open and honest dialogue about research, writing, and originality. Professor Knockemus used Turnitin throughout the research and writing process so students could track how to incorporate supporting materials in their assignments. They performed various similarity checks, reviewed their similarity points to identify where there were weaknesses in their writing, and encouraged them to revise their assignments accordingly so they could clearly see when, how, and why to include outside sources.
Both Professor Knockemus and Derk Riechers recognized the opportunity to not only leverage Turnitin Feedback Studio to create learning opportunities for their students, but also as a way to reframe perceptions on educational technology—positioning Turnitin as a formative tool as opposed to a punitive tool.
Professor Knockemus found that when he used Turnitin to create those learning opportunities, it unlocked meaningful change for his students. He found that by building a culture of academic integrity through open dialogue and consistent access to Turnitin throughout the writing process, the incidents of plagiarism diminished. “It really lessens the load that's on me. It's made my work so much easier as an English instructor. And it really cuts down on the friction between me and students.” He continues to regularly advocate for this approach and shares his findings during faculty-wide professional development sessions, encouraging others to use Turnitin in a similar way.
Derk Riechers, Director of Modalities at Northeastern Technical College
Mark Knockemus, English Instructor at Northeastern Technical College