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Universidad del Istmo
Ciudad de Panamá, Panamá

"Everyone uses Turnitin in the institution: administrative staff, teachers and students use it," says Rodrigo Bañez, Vice-dean of Academic Affairs at Universidad del Istmo when explaining the impact that Turnitin Originality Check has had within the academic community. 

It was in 2018 when they decided to incorporate the similarity checking technology in the different departments and courses in the university to continue sharing about the value of academic integrity, manifested in the creation of original work and development of critical thinking among students. "We have found in Turnitin an ally that has allowed us to continue forging critical thinking skills in students and to continue adopting tools that are part of the skills that today are required in all professions and jobs that we know exist and we do not yet know will exist," added the Vice Dean. 

For Bañez, using this tool has generated a "mirror effect", which allows them "to look at themselves in the construction of knowledge so that students integrate to their personal vein the development of a self-reflective thinking that motivates them to give something back to society, such as building knowledge and co-create from transformed information, not merely absorbed."

Nearly 8,000 students -who are part of the Universidad del Istmo community- have been part of a digital transformation that has allowed them to reinforce the culture of academic integrity they have been building since its foundation. According to the experience reported by the Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, they have managed to significantly reduce the percentages of similarity in those papers that previously marked 75% or 100% of similarity. In addition, they have increased the range of submissions with 0% similarity. How have they achieved this?

Communication as a key strategy

Although the Universidad del Istmo has a long history of promoting and disseminating academic integrity, the pandemic demonstrated the need to remember more than ever the good practices of the teaching-learning process. Therefore, the Vice Dean's Office based the successful implementation and use of the tool on a robust communication strategy based on the identification of the three recurrent users of Turnitin: students, teachers and administrators.

To generate identification with students, an animated character called "Juan Juegavivo" was created. "Juan does not know how to paraphrase, he gets his work from third parties, he copies on tests, in other words, he is everything that a student should not be, so this character plays a fundamental role in our communication campaigns, because no one wants to be recognized as Juan Juegavivo," adds Bañez. 

As for the teachers, the strategy was focused on raising awareness of this tool that allows them to grow professionally and to accompany students from a different perspective. In the case of administrative staff, communication was aimed at ensuring the processes that were planned for adopting this technology and promoting the success of the integrity culture that has been established. 

In just two years, the use of Turnitin has boosted good practices in different departments of the Universidad del Istmo, so the tool continues to be part of its strategic plan for the future. "Turnitin is going to stop having its central focus on academic originality, it is going to be something organic, it is going to be something basic in the development of the teaching-learning process and I think we are going to have the challenge for the academic and student community to start incorporating habits that allow them to develop technological and digital skills. Turnitin will be a great ally in this line.”