Andreas Ohlson, CEO
The quest for knowledge is undoubtedly a daunting in academia, filled with uncertainties disguised as stress, anxiety, insecurities, or traumatic experiences that tend to deviate individuals for the ethical path. Without any intent to harm, students or learners resort to short cuts in the face of such a dilemma, to reach their destinations quickly. Be it the unintentional plagiarism or the sly copy-paste techniques--a result of procrastination--that students succumb to, these practices not only hinder progress but also prevent individuals from truly unleashing their full potentials as content creators. An organization that empathizes with students and offers a practical tool to spark personal development in academia is Ouriginal.
“We believe that promoting and developing original thinking isn’t just the responsibility of a single person, parents, teachers, or mentors. Unlocking one’s full potential is OUR responsibility and our goal, and hence the name – Ouriginal,” explains Andreas Ohlson, CEO of the company. A result-oriented thinker, Ohlson believes in providing students, academic institutions and businesses alike the solution to adopting the right and ethical methodology to prevent not only plagiarism but also validate the originality of content.
Forged through Technology and Shared Ideologies
Ouriginal is the fusion of two organizations— Urkund and PlagScan—that created equally meritorious and cutting-edge plagiarism detection, driven by similar goals and values in the educational industry. With more than 7 700 institutions as customers in more than 80 countries, Ouriginal is a true global player in the EdTech sector.
The two organizations discovered the need to safeguard something that was seemingly endangered by modern-day technologies: the freedom of expression among students to develop their potential through creativity and original thinking. “Ouriginal was born out of the need to provide teachers a tool to uphold academic integrity, empowering them to save valuable time when correcting or validating the work submitted by a student, be it during an examination or continuous assessments,” adds Ohlson. “Together, Urkund and PlagSan are stronger than ever, capable of delivering the best of breed technologies across many facets of the academic playground.”
Ouriginal, through the shared competencies of its former organizations, optimizes all of the existing products into one robust solution that addresses a plethora of requirements. The company’s cross-language text-matching software is infused with artificial intelligence and deep learning algorithms, designed to support educators in delivering the best learning experiences possible for their students. Case in point, the company has designed its solution to be lean, with only the essential features and functionalities. “We decided to keep our software minimal, even though we could technically include quite a few of tools and functions, as we want the setup, maintenance, and especially the usage of our product to be as simple and easy as possible,” explains, Peter Witasp, Chief Product Officer.
The company’s plagiarism detection and prevention software perfectly blends into existing educational workflows and processes, with plug and play feature sets that integrate with a variety of learning management systems (LMS), digital exam platforms and feedback tools, collectively delivering a utilitarian experience to users. Invariably, the solution becomes an integral part of the LMS and the institutional workflow, while educators can concentrate on the more important learning processes and developmental programs for their students.
Building Academic Integrity through Innovation
Unlocking one’s full potential is OUR responsibility and our goal, and hence the name – Ouriginal
“When we talk about plagiarism prevention and detection, we should focus on not only software tools but also the roles and responsibilities of educators as well,” says Ohlson. Figuratively, some educators believe that merely implementing a ‘similarities detection tool’ would solve all of their plagiarism problems, preventing students from malpractices through the element of fear or scare of getting caught in the act. In stark contrast to this belief, Ohlson says that true education is about the relationship shared between students and teachers alike, cultivating a positive and creative mindset within the academic setting to preserve the integrity of the developed work. Ouriginal advocates the idea of how content creation across academia is about building the right kind of expectations among students before solving the problem of originality.
Such a positive educational mindset proved its merit against the pandemic that wreaked havoc in the academic landscape, causing schools and colleges to shut down. Not so long ago, digital tools were considered as a bonus or an added advantage over the traditional classroom-based teaching methodologies. COVID-19 changed that perception and forced academic institutions to adopt these tools to cater to their educational and tutoring needs while the students reside within safe quarters. These solutions have paved the way for a new modus operandi that involves distance and remote learning through intuitive digitalized solutions. At this juncture, the plagiarism detection and prevention solution offered by Ouriginal ensure the necessary academic integrity in the digital world. “What we have learned lately is, that educators in a digitized world need support in understanding who a student really is, and develop tailored tactics to nurture them further. This is why we are currently researching new solutions to address the need for Learning Analytics and Personalized Learning,” elaborates Peter. For instance, the bottlenecks of digitalized and remote learning can be classified into two distinct categories: Cross-Language Plagiarism and Unethical Ghostwriting.
Resolving the Bottlenecks of Digitalized Learning
Owing to the vast and exponential increase of students enrolling into programs taught in English or any language that is not native to their region, there looms the threat of cross-language plagiarism, wherein students essentially translate resources materials from a different language to the one that is used for academic assessment.
Without necessarily citing the source of information used, malpractitioners get away with such transgressions. Similarly, digitalization and globalization of the academic setting have resulted in a ‘gig economy’ that could potentially risk academic integrity and the originality of written work. This has allowed ghost-writers to lend their content creation services at meagre prices. Some students have misused this opportunity to pay another individual to draft their assessments, complete academic, or even write a doctoral thesis in exchange for money. These two quintessential problems of the digital world are addressed through Ouriginal’s solution by ‘tailoring educational tactics to the need of every student.’ The company has developed features to eliminate both of these occurrences through unique AI-driven algorithms that safeguard academic integrity in the digital world.
"What we have learned lately is, that educators in a digitized world need support in understanding who a student really is, and develop tailored tactics to nurture them further"
A case that substantiates Ouriginal’s value proposition, particularly in the upholding academic integrity is a collaboration with Dr Mark Glynn, the head of the teaching enhancement unit at Dublin City University. Dr Glynn switched from a punitive usage of text-matching software to a preventive one by adopting Urkund’s solution, allowing a student to learn and understand the importance of proper citation right, all the while demonstrating the idea of writing in an ‘original voice.’ He concurred that most of the instances relating to plagiarism of content were due to ignorance (without any harmful intent or malice) and decided to help students with the aforementioned writing and citing skill sets. “This approach gave academic integrity a whole new meaning,” mentions Ohlson. “From a product perspective, instructors were also very positively surprised because the product integrates seamlessly into their learning management system - a Moodle environment.” More importantly, before the collaboration with Ouriginal, the faculty’s academic workflow was distributed across stand-alone systems, which caused interruptions in the learning process. Upon implementation of the Urkund solution, instructors could save time that would otherwise be spent in circumventing the relevant constraints. Such success stories have served as the foundation for the two companies—Urkund and PlagScan—to build upon their value proposition while engaging with clients.
The company, through their disparate solutions sets, have aggregated a portfolio of 7700 such organizational clients and over 100 partners worldwide. Ouriginal intends to enhance this geographical footprint, all the while transitioning the intellectual and technological assets of its parent companies into one unified solution set. “Our focus is to merge the companies both from an organizational and a product perspective. This is, of course, a challenge, especially since we are in the middle of a pandemic, with high usage of our product and many new customers. It is our firm belief that when we have finalized this stage, we will have an organization and a product ready to serve and support our current and new customers even better,” adds Ohlsen in his conclusive remarks.