Another dot in the blogosphere?

Sorry, no!

Posted on: January 10, 2022

I received this automated reminder in Canvas. This should be familiar to anyone who uses just about any university learning management system (LMS).

Message from Canvas admin about course removal.

Sorry, no! I am not worried that “courses will be removed” because I only use Canvas for announcements and the submission of student assignments.

I take pride in my course design and resources, so I keep them off Canvas and house them in Google Sites instead. This allows me to make incremental improvements instead of removing and reloading them at the whim of Canvas administration. 

I also received this dubious message in my Canvas inbox. It was an admin message about Turnitin service not being able for “checking of plagiarism” due to service maintenance.

Message from Canvas admin about Turnitin service not being able for "checking of plagiarism".

Sorry, no! Plagiarism cannot be detected by a machine algorithm. It takes a person to decide whether or not a student has plagiarised work. At least, it should.

Simplistic algorithms still look for matching patterns, not intent. For example, Turnitin cannot distinguish between plagiarism and legitimate quoting of someone else’s work or reference to one’s own work. The latter two are still highlighted as matches. Lazy people might call this plagiarism.

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on

Turnitin is a tool. It is not a decision maker of plagiarism any more than an allen key is an assembler of IKEA furniture. We should not relegate higher order thinking and a high stakes process to a service provider.

I am a champion of edtech. But I do not blindly support the slogans, claims, or practices of edtech vendors and systems administrators. If they put convoluted administration over critical pedagogy or effective learning, I call them out.

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