Microsoft’s new “Rewrite” feature: A challenge to academic integrity?

April 20, 2020

Microsoft has just announced a new feature in Word: “Rewrite”. Microsoft shared details of the feature in this blog post last Friday.  The feature is designed to provide “sentence-level suggestions” to help users improve their writing. Microsoft reports that, “This feature is powered by cutting-edge, neural-network, machine learning models, which are trained on millions of sentences.” Zhang Li of Microsoft writes that the new feature:

Improves fluency: These suggestions aim to improve the flow of the wording, including mechanics like grammar and spelling.

Concise phrasing: The goal of these suggestions is to express an idea clearly, without extra words.
Paraphrased sentence: These suggestions offer synonyms for alternative wording.

Improves readability: The goal of these suggestions is to make the writing easier to read for people with different reading abilities. In general, suggestions will include shorter, simpler wording.”

Reading through the blog post comments, users are anticipating this will replace services such as Grammarly. People in the tech world are already calling it a “game changer”.

From an academic integrity perspective, it certainly could change the game. Drastically. Scholars such as Ann Rogerson and Grace McCarthy started publishing articles about the impact of paraphrasing software a few years ago. Their article “Using Internet based paraphrasing tools: Original work, patchwriting or facilitated plagiarism” prompts us to consider how paraphrasing software impacts our notion of writing, plagiarism and “originality”.

Microsoft reports that the new feature is currently only available in English and requires a subscription to Microsoft Office 365.

My prediction is that this new feature will change writing as much as spell check has, but in ways that are infinitely more complex. Spell check offers suggestions on individual words. Grammar check highlights possible grammar errors. A feature designed to re-write entire sentences has the potential to shift writing in significant new ways.

This may challenge our notions of “original writing” in ways we cannot yet predict. Educators and administrators will have to figure out how, if at all, this will impact our understanding of plagiarism, authorship and originality. Only time will if assisted and augmented writing will become the new normal.

_________________________________________

Share or Tweet this: Microsoft’s new “Rewrite” feature: A challenge to academic integrity? https://wp.me/pNAh3-2ss

This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.


Tenure in the time of COVID-19

April 2, 2020

T&P excerpt

The e-mail came amidst a bunch of others, all with words like “COVID-19” or “urgent” or “time-sensitive” in the subject line. I almost missed it, to be honest. Then there it was: A simple two-line e-mail from Human Resources: “Please see the attached e-mail from the Provost. Should you have any questions regarding the attached, please do not hesitate to contact us.”

I bawled when I opened the letter. It wasn’t the reaction I was expecting to have, but then again, nothing about getting tenure during the middle of a global pandemic is what I expected it would be like… Staying at home, practicing social distancing, and unable to go out and celebrate.

My mind immediately went to those who are losing their jobs, have already lost them or are still struggling to get one. A wave of guilt swept over me. I moved past it. Each of us is on our own journey. My journey has involved working for 26 years in higher education – 22 years as a sessional (or for friends outside of Canada, as an “adjunct” or “part-time lecturer”) and 4 years full-time, so to say the road has been long is an understatement. To paraphrase Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, I have grown old waiting.

I moved past the tears, then the guilt, and finally felt happy.

Old or not, we find ways to celebrate. A quiet glass of wine at home. A virtual happy hour with the family. A hand-made card from a dear friend that arrived via “snail mail” because we can’t go out to celebrate. The card shows how we practice social / physical distancing… and still celebrate. (Of course, I washed my hands after opening it.)

card

So, this is what getting tenure in the time of COVID-19 looks like.

_________________________________________

Share or Tweet this: Tenure in the time of COVID-19 https://wp.me/pNAh3-2rU

This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.


%d bloggers like this: