Plagiarism and Creativity à la ‘millennial’

on December 11 | in Academic Industry News | | with No Comments

Image 1. Turnitin Education Network. (Rowell, n.d.)

The image above is a result of me looking for the exact title of Turnitin’s Workshop on Academic Integrity and Plagiarism Prevention. That red rectangle, which reads “Quote” and popped up as soon as I attempted to copy and paste the title of the workshop, led me to asking my self the very question: am I plagiarizing?

After attending Turnitin’s workshop this Friday, 30th of November, held at Impact Hub Madrid, I believe that if I had not included the source, it may very well be Plagiarism. Now, before we categorize this statement as an exaggeration, I am going to take you through the four different perspectives presented at such an event and then you can decide whether I am being picky.

Lluís Val, Regional Manager at Turnitin Spain & Portugal set the tone for the workshop: it was not about Turnitin’s potential; it was about the potential of higher education institutions to create a self-aware and ethical society.

After providing an international definition of plagiarism he reflected on this very concept and how factors such as the country or the generation affect its understanding: “Do we truly understand this concept the same way in Spain than in the UK?” or “Do our elders have the same understanding of plagiarism as our youth?” (Val, 2018). On the topic of our youth, it was inevitable to use the term “millennial”. However, far from using this term in a pejorative sense, his aim was to explore this generational gap, which he described as ‘unprecedented’.

A key differentiator among generations is the concept of ‘creativity’; according to Mr. Val, the new generation “fails in their ability to pay attention to detail and focus […]Before, we were able to create something from boredom; nowadays, it is hard for our students to tackle boredom and, especially, make something of it.” (Val,2018). However, this claim was not meant as a form of judgement towards new generations but as a reminder to older generations that the language and approach need to be different; they need to be stimulated and motivated further in order to create. The same approach should be promoted for plagiarism and it is our responsibility as teachers to make our students conscious about it; if not, we are not only losing great career potential, but we will lose social economic value in the long run.

Easier said than done, right? Therefore, it needs to be institutionalized and implemented with consistency via students, teachers and policies. Mr. Val closed with a quote by Marilyn Price-Mitchell which perfectly linked to the approach of the following speaker: “When students learn integrity in classroom settings, it helps them apply similar principles to other aspects of their lives.” (Price-Mitchell, 2015). This made it clear why we were all there for: the aim was not merely to reduce the percentage of plagiarism at universities; the aim was to understand why plagiarism occurs.

Teachers, teach. Lecturers, speak.

Alberto Carrió Sampedro, Lecturer in the Philosophy ofLaw at the University of Pompeu Fabra, provided his own view on the role of the teacher, especially in the domain of higher education. Contrary to W. H.Auden’s renowned quote “A professor is someone who talks in someone else’s sleep”, Mr. Carrió Sampedro described the role of the teacher as one responsible for the professional and personal development of the students: “We have to train students on specialized content and moral values.” (CarrióSampedro, 2018).

Who has not overheard a fellow colleague discuss this very topic? “Shouldn’t they know this by now?” Or “I am not here to educate them. I am here to specialize students on a given topic.”Whether or not it is our responsibility to teach integrity or ethics, it is blatantly clear that if we do not feel that it is, neither will they.

Chicken-or-egg dilemma: Does the tool lead to awareness or awareness to the tool?

Begoña Fuentes Giner, Tenured Professor in BuildingEngineering at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, provided great insights into how Turnitin has been integrated into their learning platform and the daily challenges for teachers and students alike. Implementation of Turnitin in the workflow of teachers and students in higher education is clearly a process that needs constant support of IT, Learning Platform Administrators, and each corresponding Faculty member that oversees the process.Ms. Fuentes Giner’s presentation had a recurrent theme which she referred to as the chicken-or-egg dilemma: “Does the tool lead to awareness or awareness to the tool?” (Fuentes Giner, 2018).Regardless of what is the cause, the effect should be clear: a university community working towards academic integrity.

The woman behind the prize for her academic integrity: Ms. Maria del Olmo Bañuelos

Some of you know her as the go-to person for Moodle issues, for referencing nightmares, for tech devices recurrent problems, and overall help in general. More importantly, you will identify with one of these cases whether you are a new entry, a new employee, alumni, or an employee that has been working here for over a decade. What makes someone a “go-to” person is that every time you have an issue or question, it will not only be solved every time, but it will be solved with a smile.

            In an industry such as ours, it is this very human component that makes great service from a standard one or that makes it a truly pleasant experience as a guest. But, can this helpful nature be learned? According to Ms del Olmo Bañuelos, she comes from a family of “nerds”, where studying and learning is a long-term plan. Moreover, aspects such as honesty, ethics, and transparency were key pillars in her upbringing; as the daughter of a former teacher and primary school director, she lived and breathed the immediate benefits of this type of social contact.

            She also provided attendees with practical examples of how she applies Turnitin in class and, more importantly, how she clarifies its use for students; without getting into further technical details here, this is also a clear sign of honesty and transparency which, let’s face it, we all highly appreciate. In relation to the role of the teacher, she made clear that she gives students as much as she asks from them, and this should be a rule to live by in any teacher’s manual.

            Another rule to live by and which all presenters agreed on is that students need to feel responsible for their learning; contrary to the traditional approach of a master lecturer who tells you about their research and provides evidence on their contributions, the current teacher interacts, learns, and develops with the student.

            Far from making this a prescriptive article establishing a line of action to follow, it is meant to be descriptive of the current scene in higher education and the reality of those teachers who strive for academic integrity and those you exel at it.


Carrió Sampedro, A. (2018). Integridad académica en el mundo universitario. I Jornada de Integridad Académica y Prevención del Plagio, Impact Hub Madrid, Spain.

Del Olmo Bañuelos, M. (2018). Claves para la promoción de la ética y la honestidad educativa. I Jornada de Integridad Académica y Prevención del Plagio, Impact Hub Madrid, Spain.

Fuentes Giner, B. (2018). La implementación de Turnitin en el flujo de trabajo del profesorado y alumnado universitario. I Jornada de Integridad Académica y Prevención del Plagio, Impact Hub Madrid, Spain.

Price-Mitchell, M. (2015). Creating a Culture of Integrity in the Classroom. Retrieved from

Rowell, G. (19/11/2018). Jornada de Integridad Académica y Prevención del Plagio. Retrieved from

Val, L. (2018). Integridad y sostenibilidad académica. I Jornada de Integridad Académica y Prevención del Plagio, Impact Hub Madrid, Spain.

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