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Western Governors University, Utah
Nominated by, Amy Williams and Christine Gee, head investigators

Western Governors University (WGU), founded in 1997 by governors from across the United States to expand access to higher education, has been recognized by Fast Company, CNN, NPR, and other media outlets for being a major innovator in higher education. It was the first online university to receive accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), and it’s one of the few online universities that is competency-based.

Amy Williams and Christine Gee work in Assessment Security and Authenticity at WGU. They explain that the university has been able to rapidly grow enrollment and build a respected reputation among employers by insisting on rigor and demonstrated acquisition of workplace skills. They have achieved this with a clear mission and strong technology platform. “The integrity of the WGU degree is of utmost importance to the university’s credibility,” Williams says. “Turnitin is the tool and our resource to be able to, ultimately, protect the integrity of the university.”

Gee noted Investigators are always looking at different reports and metrics to identify authenticity concerns, whether in student work, a given assignment, or a specific class. Williams says that if a student needs help learning how to cite references, they will be invited to join a screenshare to review a Turnitin report with an advisor and they will be referred to the writing center for extra support. If there’s an egregious problem identified, such as intentional contract cheating, Williams says Turnitin helps provide a track record over time and supporting evidence for further investigations.

Williams and Gee state that WGU has used Turnitin for 13 years to evaluate student work, and in 2011 made the tool available to students and faculty through the learning management system (LMS). Now students check their work every day, using Turnitin reports to resolve any potential problems with their writing or citations. “We want them to be able to learn. Additionally, the best way to learn is from your mistakes,” Williams says.

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