Plagiarism and Collusion

Amongst the many policies and procedures we request you to understand as an REIV student, the policy on plagiarism, cheating and collusion is especially worth highlighting. In short, plagiarism is stealing the work produced by someone else, and collusion is submitting work produced by a group rather than an individual.

Our highlighting of these issues is not due to the fact that this problem is particularly chronic within the VET or tertiary sectors or at the REIV in particular.  Rather, it is because it is a murky ‘grey zone’ in the minds of many learners. In the calendar/academic year 2014, of the many plagiarism & collusion cases addressed by the REIV Senior Trainer, fully 90% of the students involved truly had no idea that what they had done was actually contrary to generally accepted practices on written assessment work in competency-based training let alone a violation of REIV policies to which all students had agreed upon their enrolments.

To help the student better understand the implications, here are the three most common scenarios we have seen in the past year:

A.) Student X has submitted work which is exactly WORD FOR WORD the same as that assessment submitted by another student in the same class.  This is often not direct plagiarism.  In many cases, students do in fact work together on their assessments outside of class.  This is not in itself a bad thing; however, this work is a product of a collective effort.  The problem is that competency-based training is looking at whether an INDIVIDUAL has provided evidence of the required skills. 

Think of it this way: if six people meet over the weekend to work together on the assessment for unit CPPDSM4080A, and all six submit an identical assessment response, how is the assessor in good faith able to conclude that each one of those six has mastered the performance criteria?  This can be especially complicated in learners from cultures of origin where group-based work and outcomes are actually required, not merely encouraged.  While we recognise the value of working in groups, the assessment responses MUST be unique and produced by the individual student. 

Outcomes: In many cases, students were required to sit and resubmit the same assessment here at the REIV under supervision.   Often a different assessment against the same performance criteria is required to ensure that the ‘competent’ responses are not simply memorised parroting.  This formed the second of three chances all students here have for each unit. In many of those instances results clearly show that the student had no idea what he/she had previously submitted and the result was (not surprising) “Not Yet Competent”.  This left these students with one final opportunity at completion & submission (in some cases supervised again here on site to prevent further collusion). In most cases competency was NOT achieved and the student was NOT awarded a Statement of Attainment.

B.) Student Y is in a far more dangerous position.  He/she has submitted work which is exactly WORD FOR WORD the same as the assessment submitted by another student from a previous class.  When the earlier work has already been assessed as competent and the first student granted a Statement of Attainment, this is CLEARLY plagiarism and cheating.

Outcomes:  In these instances, while we cannot revoke the Statement of Attainment of the student who has ‘provided’ the answers, we can (and have) expelled the ‘recycler’ of previously submitted work.  The REIV may also at its discretion cancel the REIV membership of any former student who is proved to have provided assessments to current learners under Section 6.4h or the REIV Constitution.  Of course a student or member accused of either role has the ‘right of reply’ but (not surprising) there is no credible justification and no possible ‘margin of doubt’ that identical work does not serve as evidence that a student understands the skills required or demonstrated the competency required by the performance criteria of a unit.  In most cases, these expelled students have also been prevented from re-enrolling at the REIV.

C.) Student Z has simply cut and pasted words directly from the legislation or a Google search directly into his response.  The assessors are well-trained to identify when an ‘answer’ is simply sections from the legislation strung together with no proof of comprehension.  Plagiarism software also assists in identifying so-called “Google-ised” responses.  Whether or not the student understands that this is unacceptable should be answered by the fact that the response provided is merely a cut/paste.  Certainly there are responses where legislation must be quoted but this should have a clear citation reference so that by “”, () or contrast in font, the assessor can determine what sections of a response are the student’s own words.   Often when merely parroting the legislation the student may in fact understand the response, yet the product is not his/hers and therefore his or her competency cannot be fully assessed.

Outcomes: In most cases resubmission is required.  However in some instances where EVERY element of a response was obtained from outside sources, enrolment has been cancelled.

Conducting plagiarism cases is time-consuming for both the learner and the REIV and the results of these investigations are often not pleasant for the learner.

You, the student, also must understand that as the peak industry body in Victoria, it is not in either the REIV’s short or long-term interest to award Certificates and Statements of Attainment to students who, because of either consciously plagiarised or innocently submitted group-based work, have no individual skill at compliant and ethical conduct as an industry professional.

In other words, we will take what measures we can to ensure that students who wish to achieve competent ratings in this way will NOT be given a free pass to practice in Victoria alongside those students who have worked hard and produced original assessments as testimony to the acquisition of industry competencies.

Being appraised of our expectations as an RTO is the best start for the student. The full plagiarism policy is located here.  Please consult it and abide by it.  If you are still unclear as to the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable student work, please consult your trainer or the staff at the REIV Learning and Development Department.

Students and staff may also refer to the REIV Plagiarism and Cheating Policy & Procedure.