Coursera adds 'honor reminder' to combat cheating

The disruptive online course provider has added a new feature on the back of plagiarism complaints.

After a recent report highlighted dozens of cases of plagiarism on Coursera, the startup project  has added honor code reminders to try and curb the trend.

coursera anti plagiarism honor code reminder

Coursera, which has recently reached over 1 million users worldwide, rolled out the new feature which students must acknowledge reading before submitting essays. It's a small step, but does show that Coursera does take cheating seriously.

Currently, only three courses which include essay submission are affected -- but these three do have thousands of students enrolled.

Before submitting work, students now must check a box next to the statement:

"In accordance with the Honor Code, I certify that my answers here are my own work, and that I have appropriately acknowledged all external sources (if any) that were used in this work."

When students first enroll for courses, they must agree to the honor code. However, after a story in the Chronicle of Higher Education which reported dozens of plagiarism offences that received complaints from other students and professors on the platform, the startup needed to react -- or potentially, the value of this kind of distance-based learning would be diluted.

According to the story, plagiarism has been detected in at least three humanities courses. Assignments are peer graded, and some people expressed "disappointment" that essays had been lifted from Wikipedia and other online sources without citation.

Daphne Koller, a co-founder of the company told the publication:

"A large part of the plagiarism arises from lack of understanding of the expected standards of behavior in U.S. academic institutions, especially among students who have not been trained in such institutions. We believe that this language will be quite helpful."

16 schools currently participate in the scheme, including Princeton University, Rice, Caltech and Stanford University. Most of the platform's students come from Brazil, India, the United Kingdom and Canada. The University of Texas at Austin is reportedly in talks to join Coursera and edX.