Plugin Review: Ephorus Plagiarism Plugin

Three years ago when writing some articles, I used a number of plagiarism prevention tools to help check my writing for any citations or references that I had missed. Since then I reviewed one of them (Urkund) in the Moodleaddons.com book, and here is a review of another such integration with Moodle.

This review is about the Ephorus https://www.ephorus.com/ integration with Moodle 2 – specifically tested with Moodle 2.6+ which most will be updating to this summer.

Background to plagiarism support in Moodle

Moodle has a built-in plagiarism plugin support. This enables the different activities in Moodle to send user submitted content to Plagiarism Prevention systems. This is currently supported by the Assignment tool but there has been some work regarding other areas which is tracked on the Moodle tracker – > https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-32225

How the plagiarism integration generally works:

  • When Plagiarism tools are enabled, the admin then has to install a plagiarism plugin and configure it.
  • Once it is available, teachers can then enable it in the assignment.
  • When a student enters some content/submits a file inside the assignment the system then sends this to the Plagiarism platform.
  • Eventually the system responds and provides a report and information to the assignment through the plugin.

So this review takes on the Ephorus plugin and answers the usual questions I ask in reviews:

  • Background of Ephorus
  • What does it do?
  • Is it simple to install?
  • Is there documentation for it?
  • Is it easy for the teacher/admin to use?
  • Is it easy for the learner/student to use?
  • Does it do what it promises?

Background

Ephorus is a tool for helping to tackle plagiarism. Founded by a teacher 10 years ago, the company now produces the software used by over 5000 institutions globally.

What does it do?

It compares a student submission that is uploaded it to a range of sources. It states that it accurately compares:

  • billions of internet sources;
  • work previously submitted at the school or university;
  • work submitted at the 5,000 other schools and universities that use Ephorus*;
  • other relevant documents: journals, reference material, etc.

Once a submission is compared, in Moodle at least (which is all I checked) it produces a report like the below with lists of sources that have similar content and a detailed view showing the lines the same. This enables the teacher to have a discussion with the student about the issues it brings up.

ephorus_assignment_report-working-all

ephorus_assignment_report-detailed

Is it simple to install?

The plugin is available to download from https://www.ephorus.com/about-integrations/existing-integrations/moodle/ – be sure to get the correct version for you Moodle version.

It is also now available on Moodle Plugin Directory for Moodle 2.6 and 2.7.  This means that you can either download the zip from there, or you can use the Moodle interface to install directly into your Moodle site – if your server allows you. You will also get notifications as an admin from your Moodle site when there is an updated version.

It is now also publicly available on Git repository so those wanting to manage their code this way can pull the code from https://github.com/gerkekok/moodle-plagiarism_ephorus/

Depending on your preference of re-zipping that folder and uploading through your interface, or copying the code into the Moodle code into the plagiarism folder, once you complete this step the plugin installed nicely for me.

ephorus-install-notification

Once completed I needed to set up my connection to the Ephorus platform.

ephorus-install-settings

Configuring it after the install is important to provide the details the Ephorus account manager has provided namely:

  • Hand-in code
  • Hand-in address
  • Index address

After adding these settings, I next added a simple one liner to the Student Disclosure text which is shown to students before they submit when Ephorus is enabled. After saving, it did a check to see if it was talking home okay (checking the connection to Ephorus system) – which went fine.

ephorus-install-settings-success

The processtype aspect is quite interesting.

There are three options to choose from when sending submission to Ephorus:

  • Default: The documents you send in will be checked for plagiarism and will be used as reference material in the future.
  • Reference: The document won’t be checked for plagiarism but will be used as reference material.
  • Private: Your document will be checked for plagiarism but won’t be used as reference material.

So teachers could configure an assignment which is a soft-submission, with a private setting so the submitted item will not show up in the future. I like this feature.

Is there documentation for it?

There is an installation manual and a user manual available in the download zip. The User Manual is the same manual as for 2.4 and has not been updated. The Installation Manual also has not been updated in a year, so does not mention the option for uploading via the UI of Moodle for an addon which is available now where hosts allow.

Also the installation documentation states in the introduction that it requires XSL to be installed,  I missed this until after the install – Oops _ I should really read all the documentation !. If it is not installed on your server you will need to get your sysadmin or hosting company to sort it out.

The PDF documentation overall is very clear and provides step by step guidelines for usage.

There is no Moodle docs page for the integration, nor how-to-videos which some prefer as maybe that will come in time.

Is it easy for the teacher/admin to use?

For the teacher this is really a very simple and easy to use service. To enable the Ephorus system for an assignment it requires just ticking a box in the assignment settings as below and choosing which way it is processed:

ephorus_assignment_settingsOnce a student has submitted the assignment, it is then handled by the scheduled cron and sent to Ephorus for checking and then the report information is sent back.

ephorus_assignment_view_list_waiting

Clicking on the 100% in this example will load the report. There are two possible reports – a summary and detailed one.

The summary report shows the

  • link to the document,
  • lists possible sources
  • and summarises the similarities

ephorus_assignment_report-working-all

The detailed report enables you to choose one of the sources and see the specific similarities with the document and that source.

ephorus_assignment_report-detailed

I used a text copied from a page from Wikipedia as my test assignment. I will be repeating the test with some assignments in coming days.

 

Is it easy for the learner/student to use?

The student is really un-aware of the software with the exception of the message that the admin configures to let people know the Ephorus system is being used. It would be nice to have a default example text here as people may not be sure what is best to place in this box as below:

ephorus_assignment_user_upload2

Does it do what it promises?

All in all this plugin provides a nice integration with the Ephorus plagiarism system using the existing Moodle Plagiarism API. This is important as it means that users can avail themselves of all the great features of the Moodle Assignment tool (offline grading, Rubrics and so on…) whilst still using plagiarism or similarity detection systems.

I would like to see the students getting visibility on the report, however I understand from a teaching point of view as to why this was not done.

I hope that they submit the documentation to Moodle docs as I am sure more would be interested in this slick simple integration.

(Updated 22/7/14 when plugin was available on github/moodle plugin directory)

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