Encouraging originality and celebrating diversity on a mega scale

Erica Flinspach is the Senior Integrity Officer and Turnitin Administrator for Unisa and winner of the 2018 Tii Global Innovator Award.

Internet-based plagiarism detection service Turnitin has presented Unisa’s Erica Flinspach with its 2018 Global Innovator Award. This recognises a single educator who goes above and beyond to cultivate academic integrity through innovation in training, professional development, sharing best practices and otherwise championing the use of Turnitin products across the curriculum.

The Senior Integrity Officer and Turnitin Administrator for Unisa said that she was honoured to be the receiver of the Global Innovation Award and extremely humbled to be granted recognition as global innovator. "I am speechless. It is an absolute privilege to work with Turnitin and I trust that this award will pave the way for our vision for academic integrity at Unisa."

Flinspach said that when Turnitin requested an interview with her, she did not even know that she was nominated. "Acknowledgement of the value Turnitin holds for academic integrity among our supervisors and their postgraduate students is encouraging."

With over 400 000 students, including international representation from over 130 countries worldwide, Unisa is one of the largest university systems in the world and the largest distance education institution in the southern hemisphere.

Accordingly, Flinspach recognised that promoting academic integrity among the university’s vast, diverse and geographically dispersed student body would require more than simply adopting a technology. She and her colleagues put policies and practices in place that encourage a culture of ethical behaviour at scale. Turnitin serves as one of the bridges that convey this culture between the students and supervisors.

"We are a very big mixture of different cultures...Our students approach academic integrity in different ways, as do our lecturers, our staff members. For this reason, we put policies in place to encourage integrity. That is also where I play a role, not only with Turnitin as a programme but to be a champion for integrity and the way that it is grown within the university.”

Ethical practices in all aspects of Unisa’s operations

"Unisa‘s vision is to be the African university shaping futures in the service of humanity," said Prof Hugo Lotriet, Director for the School of Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Studies.

He added: "Academic integrity is foundational to this vision. It requires dedication and innovation in the use of the tools and processes that support the cultivation of ethical practices in all aspects of the university’s operations."

"Unisa is delighted that its dedicated champion of Turnitin and iThenticate, Erica Flinspach, has received international recognition for the work that she has done by developing an innovative and excellent approach for the effective and efficient use of these software applications in one of the largest universities in the world,” he said.

Meaningful connections between educators and students

Along with Flinspach and Unisa, Turnitin commended seven other winning educators and institutions from Australia, Columbia, Korea, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. It praised the honourees for their commitment to promoting original writing and authentic work across disciplines and educational levels.

"This year, a topic that resonated throughout the Global Innovation Awards applications was the role that academic integrity played in cultivating meaningful connections between educators and students," said Turnitin CEO Chris Caren. "Each year, we are struck by the dedicated educators that go above and beyond to instil integrity, deliver formative feedback, and support students in discovering their authentic voices. We are honoured to hear and share their stories."

There were 916 nominations in this year’s awards, with the finalists representing 17 countries. An international panel of academics and previous finalists picked this year’s winners from each of the seven global regions in the category of Excellence in Academic Integrity. An overall Global Innovator and runner-up who have gone above and beyond were selected from the finalists. In its four-year history, the Global Innovation Awards have recognised over 200 individuals and learning institutions for outstanding efforts and contributions to education with integrity.

See the Global Innovation Awards webpage for individual stories and a full award list, including honourable mentions.

*Compiled by Sharon Farrell

Publish date: 2018/10/30