Center for Teaching Excellence

Blackboard SafeAssign®

What is SafeAssign?  

SafeAssign is a plagiarism prevention service offered by Blackboard. This service helps educators prevent plagiarism by detecting unoriginal content in cadet papers. In addition to acting as a plagiarism deterrent, it also has features designed to aid in educating cadets about plagiarism and the importance of proper attribution of any borrowed content. 

SafeAssign is centrally hosted by Blackboard. It is based on a mature and proven technology that Blackboard acquired and enhanced to offer even better stability, performance, and integration with other Blackboard products.

In our current version of Blackboard (October 2014 Release), the Assignment and SafeAssign tools have been combined. 

How does the tool work?
  • SafeAssign can be used in two ways.
    • Instructors can set up SafeAssignments in their courses on Blackboard and let cadets submit papers to complete these assignments, in a way very similar to the one provided currently by Blackboard Learning System. The papers will then be delivered to instructors through the Blackboard Learning System together with the SafeAssign Originality Reports, which details the results of the matching process.
    • Instructors may upload papers directly, without cadet involvement through the Direct Submit feature. 
  • What information does SafeAssign provide in its reports? 
    • A SafeAssign Originality Report highlights any blocks of text in submitted documents that match reference sources, and links back to the matching documents on the Internet or in supported content databases. SafeAssign reports also show similarity ratings for each matching sentence and allow instructors to view a line-by-line comparison of potentially unoriginal text from submitted papers and the matching external documents.
  • Can cadets view reports?
    • If instructors enable cadet viewing, each cadet can view the reports for their own submitted papers.
  • What training materials are available? 
  • What kind of user support is offered with the product?
    • This document explains how SafeAssign works, how to submit a SafeAssignment, how to view submissions, and explains the SafeAssign Originality report.
  • What databases does SafeAssign currently use for plagiarism checking? 
    • SafeAssign currently checks all submitted papers against the following databases:
      • Internet – comprehensive index of documents available for public access on the Internet
      • ProQuest ABI/Inform database – more than 1,100 publication titles and about 2.6 million articles from 1990s to present time, updated weekly (exclusive access)
      • Institutional document archives – contains all papers submitted to SafeAssign by users in their respective institutions
      • Global Reference Database – contains papers that were volunteered by cadets from Blackboard client institutions to help prevent cross-institutional plagiarism
  • What is the Institutional Database?
    • The Institutional Database is the archive of papers submitted by cadets at West Point. USMA's Institutional Database is stored in the central SafeAssign service and kept separate from other institution's databases. Papers are automatically added to this database upon submission and are stored in the central service to be checked against other papers submitted from USMA. The Institutional Database is completely separate from the Global Reference Database which extends across institutions and to which cadets must volunteer their papers.
  • What is the Release Statement?
    • The Release Statement is text included with every SafeAssignment to inform cadets that their paper will be compared to other sources through SafeAssign. 
  • Will the tool be offered in multiple languages?
    • SafeAssign can generate originality reports for papers written in all alphabet-based languages with left-to-right writing. The user interface is currently only available in English.
  • Who owns the intellectual property rights for each submitted paper?
    • Blackboard does not claim any ownership rights on the content submitted to SafeAssign.
  • How long does it take to generate plagiarism reports?
    • Reports are not generated instantaneously - it usually takes from several seconds to few minutes to receive a report. Results are normally available within 10-15 minutes.
  • What file formats does SafeAssign support?
    • SafeAssign only accepts certain types of files, including:
      • Microsoft Word: .doc and .docx
      • PDF: .pdf
      • Web page: .htm and .html
      • Plain text: .txt
      • Rich text: .rtf
      • Instructors can also submit packages of multiple files: .zip
  • How should cadets name their files?
Global Reference Database
  • How does the Global Reference Database work?
    • Blackboard's Global Reference Database is a separate database where cadets voluntarily donate copies of their papers to help prevent plagiarism. It is separated from each institution's internal database, where all papers are stored by each corresponding institution, and cadets are free to select the option to check their papers without submitting them to the Global Reference Database.
  • Does Blackboard claiming ownership on the content submitted to the Global Reference Database?
    • No, Blackboard is only authorized to store extra copies of cadet papers that were volunteered and use them for plagiarism prevention purposes.
  • What is the size of the Global Reference Database?
    • The Global Reference Database is a new product, so its current size is not an indication of its future potential. Blackboard expects accelerating growth, based on rapidly increasing adoption of this new service among their clients. 
  • What if a cadet decides to remove a paper from the Global Reference Database?
    • cadets submit their papers to the database voluntarily and agree not to remove papers in the future.
  • Are cadets forced to submit papers to the Global Reference Database by Blackboard or by institutions they are enrolled into?
    • All papers are submitted to the Global Reference Database voluntarily, and cadets are free to choose not to submit their papers to this database. Instructors can still use the service effectively, even when cadets choose not to submit their papers to the Global Reference Database.
Copying or Moving SafeAssignments to another course
  • Why doesn't my SafeAssignment work after a course copy?
    • After performing a course copy or moving an individual SafeAssignment to another course, instructors must perform an additional step to activate the SafeAssignment in the new course.
      • In the Control Panel, select Course Tools.
      • Click SafeAssign.
      • On the SafeAssign screen, click SafeAssignments.
      • On the SafeAssignments screen, click the Synchronize this Course button on the far right. This will establish the link between the SafeAssignment and the Central SafeAssign server
      • You will see a notice, "Please wait. This course is being synchronized with SafeAssign. The page will load as soon as the synchronization is over."
      • You will be brought back to the SafeAssignments screen.  

Contact Patrick Gill via email or at 938-4670 with any questions