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Ilia State University, Georgia
Nominated by, Giga Khositashvili and Nino Zhvania

Post-Soviet and Eastern European countries may have a history of plagiarism, but change is happening. A few years ago, Ilia State University in Georgia launched a small-scale pilot to see if Turnitin could detect, reduce, and prevent plagiarism on campus by improving the quality of teaching and learning. It was the first university in Georgia to use such a tool and to approach the challenge in a positive, not punitive, way.

The pilot project showed that success depended on effective use of the tool and the quality of instruction. When used correctly, the results were “absolutely amazing”, says Giga Khositashvili. As well as being the project’s instigator, Mr. Khositashvili is also a lecturer and Head of Library Funds Management at the university. Since adopting Turnitin in 2015, he says statistics indicate that unoriginal work has been reduced by about 50–70%.

One tactic Mr. Khositashvili, alongside the university’s Head of Quality Assurance Office Ms. Nino Zhvania, used to ensure successful implementation is to require bachelor-level students to take two mandatory courses. The courses – Introduction to Contemporary Thinking and Techniques of Academic Working – cover expectations for academic integrity and effective use of Turnitin. Each year they reach about 4,500 BA students and 80 instructors. By the time those students reach graduate-level studies, they should be well-prepared to submit an original thesis that meets the highest academic standards.

News of Ilia State University’s Turnitin project spread. First across campus, then to other universities. The momentum inspired the university to apply for an Erasmus grant to fund a nationwide initiative to raise academic integrity standards across Georgia through quality teaching and learning. It’s a two year project that involves 12 public and private universities, as well as the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia.

“I do believe that our case is quite remarkable,” he says, referring to the progress that’s been made in a relatively short amount of time. Ilia State University is only 11 years old, and its innovative, interdisciplinary approach to education and academic integrity is changing behavior and creating new opportunities. Mr. Khositashvili says: “I just cannot highlight well enough how we are focusing on prevention and feedback rather than penalty and detection.”

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