Safe Assign


This tutorial introduces SafeAssign, an anti-plagiarism tool, which generates originality reports on students' papers. Also reviewed are ways to educate students about academic dishonesty, the importance of crediting sources, and methods of proper citation. You will have the best results if you first use the tool proactively, to educate students about how to cite properly, before you use it reactively, to correct for a failure to do so.

NAU Academic Dishonesty Policy

Academic Integrity fosters a mutually respected and trusting environment between the student and teacher, in which student truthfully represents his/her work without intended deceipt. Academic Dishonesty, which puts academic integrity at risk by affecting the learning context, is subject to displinary action. According to NAU's Student Handbook, misconduct that makes up academic dishonesty includes: cheating, fabrication, fraud, facilitating academic dishonesty, and plagiarism.

Image of Appendix G

Active Teaching Strategies on Plagiarism

While it is helpful to know all types of student misconduct that could lead to disciplinary action, for the purpose of this tutorial we will focus on plagiarism and guidelines to approach such violations. Keep in mind that students who arrive at the university may not know exactly what plagiarism is, and so it is a good idea to get your students up-to-speed about plagiarism during the orientation phase of your class. While including NAU's Academic Dishonesty Policy in your syllabus is highly recommended (and required by most departments), this effort may go on deaf ears if your students are not reading it nor understanding what it really means or is expected. To encourage students to read the policy in the first place, some instructors include questions about academic dishonesty in a Getting Started quiz online. Other instructors require students to submit a contract saying that the student agrees with the policy. These are certainly strategies, albeit passive ones.

A more active strategy an instructor can take is by including a Plagiarism module in the online course shell or reviewing plagiarism learning materials during the first or second week of class. An Introduction to Academic Integrity online tutorial is a good place to begin discussing plagiarism with your students in a more active way. In an in-person class, you can step through each of the links and videos and have your students respond to quiz questions using classroom response systems like iClickers or have students verbally choose the right answer. Actively discussing plagiarism with your students will allow them to think more deeply about the topic and give them an opportunity to talk about the multiple contexts where plagiarism can be confusing. This is your opportunity to mention APA and MLA Style Guides and refer your students to resources to help them become better and more responsible academic writers.

For a more active approach in your online or blended course, you may require every student to review the above academic integrity tutorial and set up a quiz that your students are required to take for required points in the class. If you desire, the e-Learning Center can show you how to import a pre-existing Academic Integrity Quiz into your Bb Learn course shell. In addition to requiring students to complete the quiz, some instructors go as far as to place a condition on future writing assignments; until students receives 100% on the quiz, they will not be able to submit any other written assignment. Finally, you may go one step further by facilitating an online discussion about plagiarism as part of your orientation discussions. By actively engaging your student about plagiarism, they should more clearly understand your expectations about plagiarism and their responsibilities.

Academic Violations Guidelines on Plagiarism

If you are able to confirm that your student has plagiarized, the NAU Acdemic Dishonesty Policy states that the instructor can enforce any of the following penalties on the student:

  • Assign the student extra course work.
  • Require the assignment or examination to be repeated.
  • Reduce the grade on the assignment or examination
  • Award a zero grade on the assignment or examination.
  • Reduce course grade by one letter grade.
  • Award a failing grade in the course.

It certainly is tempting to give your students the harshest penalty possibly whenever you confirm that they have plagiarized. However, if the goal is to make the student more aware of the importance of crediting sources and how to do it properly, you may be rewarded by a more measured approach. Consider the intent of the student where possible. Was the plagiarism a deliberate attempt to represent another's work as their own, or an unintentional failure to adequately cite the sources? Perhaps the penality for the first offense should be less harsh than the second offense. Perhaps offenses at the beginning of the semester or term should be less harsh than towards the end of the term. Whatever your strategy, make it clear to your students in your syllabus and in the first assignment what penalties they should expect with their first offense and then later ones. Try not to leave them guessing on what you might or might not do.

SafeAssign: An Online Plagiarism Detection Tool in Bb Learn

Despite your best efforts in preparing your students about plagiarism, students may intentionally or unintentially plagiarize during a written assignment like an essay, a discussion post, a term paper, a research paper, and so forth. SafeAssign, an online plagiarism detection tool in Bb Learn, creates originality matching reports that allow you to see at what percentage your students' text matches texts found on the internet and other online databases. While SafeAssign originality reports are not foolproof, they do provide you, the instructor, a way to gauge how accurately students are citing (or are not citing) and they can show when students are blatantly plagiarism (any originality report of 95% or greater matching is usually a good rule of thumb for gauging blatant plagiarism). With this said, if you ask your students to submit first and second drafts through safe assign then matching reports by the third or so assignment will detect a high percentage simply because the students are submitting revisions of the same paper. You need to factor this latter scenario in your analysis of the originality reports.

A Word of Caution When Using SafeAssign

You cannot assume that a high percentage matching report means that the student is guilty of plagiarism. When using SafeAssign, you must review each originality report and determine what might be happening. You might find that the student is having trouble citing properly or paraphrasing more or less verbatim. You might also find the student is citing properly with all resources listed. In other words, you have to determine why the matching report is revealing the particular percentage. A True Story - One instructor almost failed a student on a final paper based on high matching percentage until he realized that the student was revising an earlier version of the paper. Lessons learned.

While SafeAssign contains a fairly robust detection strategy, it may not always detect blatant plagiarism. The tool will not detect matches in more obscure print-based academic journals. Its best detection arrives with open internet materials and within the NAU generated database where students submit their papers to check for institutional plagiarism.

An Approach to SafeAssign

Using SafeAssign is most effective for you and your students coming from a pedagogical rather than a purely punitive approach. Make the assumption early on that students may not understand the breadth and depth of plagiarism and need to learn more comprehensively about plagiarism. For example, you can have your students submit a first "draft" (an option you can check in the SafeAssignment details), which performs an originality matching report for your students' work but is not included in the institutional database. They can then see for themselves what is causing a high matching percentage. You can then assist them in correcting their issues or refer them to resources that will help them do a better job. You can then have students submit a final version without checking the "draft" option, which will be included in the institutional and SafeAssign databases.

Steps to Creating a SafeAssignment

If you want you students to submit their own files to a SafeAssignment drop box, you must create a SafeAssignment, which needs to be made available to your students in a specified Bb Learn content area (i.e., folder, learning module, or lesson plan).

1. Create SafeAssign link by going to any content folder and clicking on to Create Assesments then SafeAssignment.

Select SafeAssignment from Drop Down list

NOTE: If you do not see SafeAssignment as one of your Assessment choices, go to to Tool Availabilty under Customization and then make sure Safe Assign and SafeAssignment are both checked. Be sure to Submit the change.

Select Tool Availabilty

SafeAssign and SafeAssignment should both be checked

2. Enter the assignment information for your SafeAssignment. You are required (noted by an asterisk) to enter the Name (of the assignment) and Points Possible. You can set the Points Possible as zero (0) if the assignment is not for credit. The following three screens will walk you through additional options you may want to include.

  • Make Assessment Available - If you would like the assessment to be made available to your students, click Yes
  • Track Number of views - Click on this option if you want to see whether or not students are clicking on the SafeAssignment link.
  • Avaliability Dates - condition based on date and time. For example, you may want to open your safeassignment on a date and time in the future (use Display After to enter this infromation. You may also want to restrict student access on a specfic date (use Display Until to enter this information)
  • Draft - Use this option if you want students to first submit a draft before it is submitted to the institutional database and other databases. If you want your student to understand the originality report before submitting their final work, the draft option will help your student know what is expected of them before they are penalized too greatly.
  • Urgent Checking - If you want you and/or your student to immediately see the originality report, check Urgent Checking.
  • Student Viewable - If you want your students to access the orignality reports, check this opion. Otherwise leave it unchecked.
  • Optional Announcement - You may elect to send out a custom announcement about the SafeAssginment to your students, which will appear in your Bb Learn Announcements tool.


Enter Name, Points Possible. Say Yest to make assessment available

Checkmark next to Urgent Checking and Yes for Student Viewable

3. Be sure to click on to Submit to create your SafeAssignment. You may edit any of the options after the fact.

Select Submit


4. You should see the message SafeAssignment Successfully added as well as see the SafeAssignment listed in the content folder where it was added.

SafeAssignment successfully added message

Note: You can access all of your SafeAssignments directly through the SafeAssign tool listed under Course Tools. This is the quickest route to view student submissions and edit the properties of any of your SafeAssignments.

Select SafeAssign under Course Tools


Students Submit Work

1. Student will click on to View/Complete to access the SafeAssignment.

Students select View/Complete to submit

2. Students will click on to the Browse... button to locate the file they want to upload. "SafeAssign accepts files in .doc, .docx,, .odt, .txt, .pdf, and .html file formats only."

3. Students may agree or not to submit the paper to the Global Reference Database. The paper minimally will be submitted to the institutional database without students checking this option.

4. After the students click Submit, they can access their originality reports (it can take up to five or more minutes) only if you checked yes for the Student Viewable option for the SafeAssignment properties.

Students check that they agree to submit paper to Global Database


Accessing Originality Reports for Grading

SafeAssignment directly interfaces with the Bb Learn grade center. This means that you may view reports and grade assignments simply by going to the Bb Learn grade center and viewing the students' submissions. You may also view your students' orignality reports by going directly to the SafeAssign tool under Course Tools. This is the approach for this tutorial.

1. As mentioned earlier, the quickest route to access submissions is by clicking on to SafeAssign under Course Tools.

To find students' submissions, click SafeAssign under Course Tools

2. Next, click on to SafeAssignments to access the list.

Select SafeAssignments

3. Next to the SafeAssignment name click on to the action link and choose > View Submissions.

Select View Submissions in drop down menu for assignment

4. As long as you checked the Urgent Checking option, you will see the originality matching reports for every student who has uploaded a submission. To access the origniality matching report for the student, locate the SA report column and scroll down to the green check icon next to the student's name.

Select SA Report next to student's name

5. Click on to Highlight All button to view all the matches in the student's text.

Select Highlight all to see matching texts within paper

6. You will then see the student's text along with where the text creates a match. Every numbered item is a match. In the case below, the student's resources were matched, which makes perfect sense. While the matching report seemed initially high, the matches really pointed to the sources. This underscores the importance of you viewing originality reports connected to the student's text to fairly assess the student's work.

View of student's paper with matching fields


7. You may also highlight a specific source by selecting the magnifying glass.

Select magnifying glass to see a particular reprot

8. If you find that the student properly cited the source, you can choose to check the source and "Re-process the paper without the selected sources". This re-processed paper may represent a more accurate report that it is more instructive to your student.

Uncheck sources that seem accurate and reprocess

Next, you should see "The paper is being reprocessed message" in red text with the new orignality report soon after becoming available to both you and your student.

Sucessful message that paper was re-processed

Direct Submissions

Instructors use direct submissions when they are directly submitting a student's work. For example, they become suspicious of a research paper thinking that they read it before and directly submit the paper using Direct Submissions in SafeAssign.

1. To access Direct Submissions, select SafeAssign under Course Tools.

2. Next, select DirectSubmit.

3. Next, check Submit as draft.


4. Upload the file attachment by selecting Browse and locating the file on your computer. You may also elect to paste the text under Copy/Paste Document. Be sure to include a paper title. Select Submit in the lower right hand corner.

5. A SafeAssign Report is generated for the direct submission. Click on the SA Report icon to the right of the student's name to access the orignality report.

6. Review the report to determine the quality of the origninality report of student's work.