Recently, I ate lunch with the Biology Department to discuss the Blackboard Building block, SafeAssign. After the meeting, I realized that there isn’t yet a great source of information for the tool, so I decided to do some homework and answer some of the questions I’ve received over time.
What is SafeAssign?
SafeAssign is a building block in the Blackboard Learning Management System that checks students’ work for plageriazation.
How does it work?
SafeAssign checks a submitted work against four sources:
||All documents/pages publicly available and indexed by the tool
|ProQuest ABI/Inform database:
||Over 2.6 million articles from 1990-present
||A scholarly article in a peer-reviewed journal
|Institutional document archive:
||Documents submitted through SafeAssign at the same institution
||A document submitted by a student from a previous semester
|Global Reference Databaset:
||Papers volunteered by students to prevent cross-institution plagiarism
||A document submitted by a student from another institution
More information about these databases can be found here.
Can others see work in the institutional database?
No, the only works that are visible are ones that you, or your students have submitted.
Sounds great! Are there any drawbacks?
Being that this is a building block, and not a part of out-of-the-box Blackboard functionality, there are going to be a couple issues:
- Syncing across multiple sections/courses is an issue if you are reusing a SafeAssignment. Information on this particular issue can be found here
- You must make the tool available for each course to be able to use it.
- You cannot use this tool with Blackboard groups. (Though, you can have one student submit an assignment for their group)
- Sometimes the tool is overly zealous about what it selects. Sometimes the results are not indicative of whether a student has plagiarized.
Is there any way to eliminate work from the institutional database?
Yes. If you have DirectSubmitted a document to the database, you can delete this submission. This will remove it from the institutional database.
Is there a way to check a paper against the databases without submitting?
Yes, create your SafeAssignment as a draft.
Students will be able to verify that their work, but their documents will not be added to the database. This is especially helpful when a final work is to be submitted later.
What kind of documents can be evaluated?
The following formats are supported by SafeAssign: .doc, .docx, .odt, .txt, .rtf, .pdf, and .html. If you have another kind of document, try exporting it as a pdf. This should maintain all of the text. SafeAssign cannot check for image plagiarism.
What is the difference between a SafeAssignment and a DirectSubmission?
A SafeAssignment is set up to look much like an Assignment in Blackboard, with some limited functionality (see my list of drawbacks above). Students submit to these the same way they would in a normal assignment.
A DirectSubmission is a document submitted by the instructor. An originality report can be run on all documents submitted this way. More than one document can be submitted if the instructor compresses the files as a zip folder first.
Ok great! I’m ready to use the tool. How do I:
|Create a Safe Assignment
||Turn on the SafeAssignment tool, and then go here.|
||Instructions can be found here
|Run an originality report
||Instructions can be found here
|DirectSubmit a document
||Instructions can be found here.
Do you have any other questions about SafeAssign? Any other Blackboard tool? Ask away in the comments!