Eric Gibbs, President, Ouriginal, In Conversation with Edx Education


Eric Gibbs, President, Ouriginal,

In Conversation with Edx Education

Episode 32- Heather Welch from Edx Education and today we will be in conversation with  Eric Gibbs

Eric Gibbs  President for Ouriginal, safeguarding their academic integrity initiatives. Before joining Ouriginal, Eric high-growth educational technology leadership roles

Eric is an accomplished business executive with over 20 years of experience in the education technology industry. He has helped provide text originality assessment services to over 7,700 organizations in over 80 countries. Which we will chat about today…

Today we are chatting to Eric about Ouriginal, technology, trends and whats happening in education around the world.

Here are the highlights from this episode:

{1:25} Introduction to Eric
{2:29} How Ouriginal began
{5:38} How the language detection works when a language doesn’t fully translate into English
{7:03} How Ouriginal helps schools, colleges, universities as well as Corporations
{9:45} The surge in plagiarism
{11:42} How Ouriginal is different from other academic integrity tools on the market
{19:13} The threshold for an article to be considered to be plagiarised
{25:54} The biggest changes Eric has seen in the world of technology in his 20 year career

Heather Welch (00:01)

You’re listening to education experts with edX education. Education is evolving. Join Heather Welch for edx education, chatting with teachers, psychologists, parents, authors, creators, and other tons of experts to keep up with the trends and what’s happening from around the globe. This podcast series, mediates education discusses, home learning, school readiness, being creatives changes in education, discussing what’s next hands-on learning. Or as we like to say, learning through play welcome everyone

Heather Welch (00:33)

From education today, I’ve been conversation with Eric Gibbs. Eric is present for our regional it’s safeguarding. Is it safeguarding Eric? It is safeguard as a plagiarism, but safeguarding or plagiarism. Which one do we call you? Let me know today. Now Eric is an accomplished business executive with over 20 years experience in the education technology industry, he’s helped provide tax originality assessment services to over 6,000 organizations. That’s quite a feat in 80 countries. So I assume we’re going to talk about translations today to Eric today. We’re chatting to Eric about our original technology trends and what’s happening in education around the world. Welcome Erica is wonderful. You can join us today.

Eric Gibbs (01:15)

Thank you Heather, for having me in the opportunity to speak with your listeners.

Heather Welch (01:19)

Fantastic. Can you introduce your passion for education and technology to our listeners today?

Eric Gibbs


Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, first and foremost, I’m a first-generation college student, and really spent kind of the last 20 years in the education technology market. My first true exposure to the ed tech industry was, with a startup based in the Bay area called Appalachia that at the time was led by Stanford university, economist, and now, Nobel Laureate, Paul Romer, Heather, this kind of allowed me to the opportunity to meet when and what became my mentor, Sally Elliott, and provided a successful 14 year journey working at startups as well as kind of high growth companies, Thompson learning, which became Sengage learning.

Turn it in and really kind of is, is, has allowed me the experience and with her guidance enabled me to assist in launching original into the North American market and lactam region today

Heather Welch (02:19)

Because Eric you’ve had an amazing style with them. Amazing mentor. I must say that. Can you explain to our listeners more about our original and you know, how it all began?

Eric Gibbs (02:29)

So original was founded out of Uppsala university in Stockholm, Sweden. So it more from two plagiarism prevention companies. And you notice that I did not say plagiarism detection. There is no such thing as plagiarism detection. So you hear this in, in ed tech, you hear it in the market that you’re going to detect plagiarism. So I kinda like to throw that out as kind of the first misnomer, it’s a plagiarism prevention or tech similarity detection tool, but original was founded out of Uppsala university, as I mentioned, but it was from two companies merging together in September of last year ERC and which was the Swedish anti plagiarism company and plaque scan a German anti plagiarism company that came together to form original.

Heather Welch (03:21)

So it’s a fairly new startup, is that correct? It is

Eric Gibbs (03:27)

Relatively new, but with a rich lineage of over 20 years of of experience in assisting institutions K through 12 corporations in their academic integrity of initiatives.

Heather Welch (03:41)

So our original, so did the two companies have complimentary software that there’s better off to come together to come to market rather than doing it separately? Was that how it worked or

Eric Gibbs (03:51)

That is correct. So erkin was very good at the tech similarity detection. We had the ability to kind of do the cross language detection. So you mentioned talking about translations a little bit of the technology. If you think about characters, becoming words and words, becoming languages, that’s at the kind of the fundamental area of how tech similarity detection has done as well as plaque scan had a very good analysis tool to be able to, to not only detect text similarity.

But also the ability to do style allometry or writing analysis. And this is kind of the fusion of the two companies coming together. Now allow not just tech similarity detection, but now have the ability to do authorship recognition and being able to identify writing patterns of specific students, learners, submitters of specific artifacts, to be able to really submit, really protect that academic integrity of the school, college or corporation.

Heather Welch (04:58)

This is amazing because even as a company, we write educational resources all the time. We changed them into Arabic to Chinese. Did you change them into German to French, to English? And we do have, you know, I suppose what I want to know is how do you do because the English doesn’t go directly into Chinese. It doesn’t go directly into Arabic. You have to completely change the way that it’s worded to a degree because we have sound, some words in English don’t make sense in Arabic, or they don’t make sense. And if they are directly translated like you do, if you’ve ever played with Google translate, it doesn’t always work. It doesn’t always make a full sentence. Is how does that happen? How do you actually, how does original language detection work for plagiarism? Yeah,

Eric Gibbs (05:38)

You touched on the main point here most translations. When you think about how, how to actually translate something, the fundamental root goes back to Google translate and everything goes back to English. We actually have a proprietary tool that we developed that does the direct correlation and the translation from German to French or French to Dutch Dutch, to Japanese. So there’s seven specific languages that we currently support in doing that specifically, that direct translation from those seven languages.

So that heavy lift is done amongst all the content that we’re aggregating and indexing to truly be able to see if it’s, if a learner or a submitter submitted a document that was in Swedish or in Japanese, and then claimed it as their own in English or in Dutch, the system is going to be able to provide to the evaluator that cross language detection and provide that original source as well as the match text side-by-side for the evaluator to have that analysis for the evaluator.

Heather Welch (06:46)

That’s really interesting. I mean, as a brand, Oh, here’s a question for you. Would we be able to use it? We get a lot of counterfeit products and they copy everything. Was it just for education? Would we be able to use it say as a company, as a brand to say where else work is being plagiarized?

Eric Gibbs (07:03)

Absolutely. So not only, you know, I mentioned secondary post-secondary colleges, universities, but also corporations. So the, this idea of academic integrity is the idea of integrity is at the center of the conversation. So for a corporation, think about a publishing house or a newspaper. What we want to do is for a newspaper, let’s say we want to be able to see where there could be potential non, attributing the, the source for a specific article.

Likewise, let’s say a specific publishing company might want to pre certify or run through the artifact or the writing, manuscript to be able to actually ensure that it does have originality. So what we would do is not only do the text similarity detection, but it also then has that cross language detection to ensure that there’s not additional sources out there, not just in the natives, in the native source or the native written language, to be able to have that safeguard that going back to that word that we, we spoke about at the beginning, safeguard the actual potential for originality.

Heather Welch (08:17)

So actually many companies should be using this in the next few years as well, even smaller companies. I imagine there are small universities that use it. So there are different ways that it can be implemented in different systems. Am I correct? Yep,

Eric Gibbs (08:30)

Absolutely. And we do have several corporations that we actually work with in, in doing their pre-publication work to, again, just, it, it, it comes back to risk assessment, right? It’s, it’s utilizing the technology, not for academic integrity, but actually for potential non MIS misconduct of potentially plagiarizing another individual source. The other thing that I would mention Heather, a good example would be a law firms. Utilizing the actual tools or the technology to actually turn the model upside down. This is where we would want to be able to actually see where there’s actual precedence.

We would want to see potential plagiarism in the sense that we’re talking about, because that would actually be a K for a case and actual precedents that the law firm or the actual lawyer would actually be able to utilize for future cases.

Heather Welch (09:26)

Oh, that, that would be very helpful. Indeed. I can imagine that, you know, even with the past four months, I suppose, you know, you’re in the U S I’m in the UK, but it’s been a very unconventional year for,particularly our two countries. Actually, there has been quite an unconventional year. Has there been a surge in plagiarism, I suppose as a question too.

Eric Gibbs (09:45)

Yeah. I think, you know, if you look in the media, it seems like daily, there’s always reports of new academic integrity cases. You know, I’ve been talking about over the last few years, this digital sharing economy and what the, the digital sharing economy, I think for your listeners all to kind of think about this as academic file sharing sites and these academic file sharing sites pose a real risk to the academic integrity of the institution.

And that institution could be higher ed, or it could be specifically a school. So, you know, we have started to see that the high incidents of academic integrity cases have increased during the global pandemic and it’s not a us or a UK issue, it’s a global issue. And I think we would all agree that student collaboration is often encouraged within an educational setting, but where it crosses the line is when the, those artifacts or those assignments are shared by students.

Eric Gibbs (10:51)

When in fact the files or artifacts as I like to call them are owned by the instructor or potentially that university. And that’s where they get shared with the, that this digital sharing economy or these academic file shares sharing companies. And this is where it becomes an issue. So it’s basically infringing upon that instructor or the teacher’s rights in actually building out that high quality assessment or that high quality assignment that, you know, we, we don’t feel that that’s actually that, that that’s, that that’s a right for a student or a learner to be able to submit that, and then actually use that, have the company use that for, for potential cheating or playground.

Heather Welch (11:35)

That’s really interesting, I suppose, how is it our original different from other academic integrity tools that’s out there on the market now?

Eric Gibbs (11:42)

Yeah, Heather, that’s a great question. You know, I think for us core to our mission, you know, we, we really have three pillars, fairness, innovation, and trust. You know, we, we, we strive to provide an environment which kind of fairness, sparks personal development enables people to strengthen their original voice.

The innovation, you know, plagiarism prevention tools have been around for nearly two decades, but we’re constantly evolving and pushing the boundaries when it comes to meet the needs of our customers and those customers, as we talked about schools, colleges, university, the trust part is, you know, we have decades of proven experience in the field of text matching and plagiarism prevention. So this is really our commitment to our customer first mentality that allows us that assurance of results. So, you know, I want to first start by saying text similarity detection tools always have to be learning and optimizing through their machine learning algorithms, incorporating some of the AI tools and functionalities that I mentioned for, with the authorship recognition.

Eric Gibbs (12:49)

So the way that original actually thinks about this, we want to stay in our kind of lane of being able to support only academic integrity initiatives. So having this proprietary cross language text matching that is something while it might sound trivial and you might think that it, you know, there’s always Google translate. It’s very different. So I think for originals different and being able to provide that optimized and award-winning text similarity detection, this authorship authenticity component and the cross language text, text matching.

I think that the biggest, the biggest fundamental difference from other tools is we’re providing this award-winning solution at an economical cost. So we know budgets don’t go up for school districts or for colleges or universities. So we’re really trying to be able to work with those individually, our individual stakeholders to have a long-term partnership.

Heather Welch (13:43)

So over the past six, I suppose, six months, have you found that there’s been a huge increase because we are learning much more online everyone’s, you know, in some countries we’re still at home, we’re not even at the office yet. And I know that there’s been a lot of online learning courses. And so this would actually be quite a hot topic among, you know, every Institute educational institution.

Eric Gibbs (14:04)

Absolutely. And, you know, I think, I think the one thing that I would say Heather is during the pandemic are prior to the pandemic individual students chose whether they wanted to take an online or a fate traditional face-to-face class fast forward to the pandemic. Everybody was remote and online. So, you know, welcome to the online learning. You really didn’t have a choice today. You know, I think in, in doing that in kind of looking back and reflecting upon that we did see a huge increase, not only in load and, and, and specifically increase in volume of, of our clients.

But we saw as we’re kind of exiting, especially here in the U S exiting out of the pandemic, we’re seeing a amount of, of demand for tools like academic integrity. And it goes back to that conversation. If there are needs for a tool to combat this digital sharing economy, if you need to actually bolster your academic integrity initiatives and really have that quality control, a tool like original is really, it really adds value to the institution. And so we feel that, you know, certainly the business and growth is there, but also the, the core utility of the product is, is what we’re seeing institutions tell us is, is the value for them.

Heather Welch (15:29)

I’ve seen one of the most amazing things, is it cross translates for me, that’s, you know, I think that’s an amazing, I’m not sure whether any other there is any other software that can do that. You know, as I said, you know, we do it ourselves. We translate things all the time and it just doesn’t go directly. But we know when we can see when we’ve had plagiarism or counterfeit products, and they’ve taken our safe example where you worked with a lot of professors to develop products and we can see when they’ve taken the product. So that’s, that’s why it’s really interesting for us. I wonder if there’s a way that we could use this as an organization and see if we could get a look, could we find plagiarism or turn, is that format products? Could you do that?

Eric Gibbs (16:10)

Absolutely. It goes back to, to where the content is actually, resides. So our content repository, going back to what makes original unique when we match our content, we constantly have spiders and crawlers that are, you know, crawling the web. We, we primarily are targeting academic websites, but 20 years of archived, internet websites, scholarly journals, and academic publications, and then 20 years of student materials that we’ve archived.

And again, from a data privacy perspective, those schools and colleges have the ability to choose whether they, they submit to our global repository or they keep it in themselves and only check against for collusion within their, their, their database or their school account. So it’s just these massive amount, this massive amount of, of content that we’re constantly updating as well as then archiving, for our individual clients. But you’re exactly right that the utility of a tool like this could show value in, the UK. So the use case that you suggested

Heather Welch (17:17)

That’s, what’s interesting is do you find now that it’s not just used for universities and maybe I’m hot, do you call it high school, secondary college? What do you call it? Sort of the last few years of children’s school in the USA

Eric Gibbs (17:29)

Is high school. So secondary, but we also are seeing Heather where writing, you know, if we’re trying to move into eliciting, more critical thinking, designing courses and assessments that are going to elicit deeper thought, you’re going to have to have more writing. And so we’re starting to see in grade seven and eight, even more use and more need for a tool like original, but typically our grades nine through 12 is, is our core, our core focus here in the U S and Canada.

Heather Welch (18:00)

I was going to ask, does it even go down to primary schools, elementary schools,

Eric Gibbs(18:05)

Not as of yet, you know, I think for us, it really is just focused around kind of that text. And once, once students are starting to write, we want to be optimized. So there are constraints and how many, how many words we would actually need to be able to have an optimized response. Cause you can imagine if, if you wrote, you wrote a sentence indicating that I am a proficient writer.

If, if we tried to match that in a scholarly journal, or if we tried to match that verse on an internet website, you’re going to have a tremendous amount of false positives versus a, you know, a two page or three page document. We can start to remove those false positives. And that again is where the optimization, the, that of our algorithm, that’s where the optimization of original comes in.

Heather Welch (18:59)

So there’s this quite, quite tricky question, but does it take around about 10% of 10 set of an article to be plagiarized? Or how much does it actually have to have taken from that article in order to classify it as sort of plagiarized?

Eric Gibbs (19:13)

Yeah. So again, it, it, there, it’s not going to detect the plagiarism. So what we’re providing is where there are matches. And so it’s going to go back to the individual instructor teacher to evaluate the actual article. What we do in our analysis report is we would actually provide to the individual teacher, the ability to see other 30 students in their class. What was the average similarity score? We call it a similarity score, which is essentially, the aggregate number of, of matches within that paper that the student had X has actually matched four against our internet scholarly journals and academic publications.

And that, that global student material, what we do is we match that student score against the average number of those 30 students as an example. So if my paper is highly, highly, potentially plagiarized and I copied it from Wikipedia directly in three pages and it’s 90% and the average similarity score of the Oh, the other 30 students in the class is 54. That in teacher is going to see that my 90, 98% versus the average score is much higher or above the average. So it would actually kind of throw a red flag or caution the individual teacher to potentially take a look at my paper versus, you know, the average of the other 30 students.

Heather Welch (20:42)

And it’s interesting, I suppose it’s kind of like how SEO works for Google. If you keep someone else’s content it, how can I say it puts you down the much lower on the list to a degree. Yeah.

Eric Gibbs(20:56)

And it is those insights that we’re trying to expose it’s it is also about time savings, right? Because it w without a tool like original, it would be up to the instructor or professor to go out and potentially take the passage where they think it’s potentially plagiarized go to Google and you then would be constrained by only the sources on Google. Maybe they don’t have that scholarly journal, or maybe they don’t have the other student’s paper that they’re able to match against within the class for collusion. So it, you know, the tools that we’re able to provide in services, it truly is an efficiency component in the workflow of the overall instructor or professor.

Heather Welch (21:35)

It was quite, I mean, it was quite an amazing for university professor. You had to put that in where they’re doing a PhD or anything like that. And to actually see the, even, I suppose they can just check if it’s referenced correctly next to it as well. So, but they have taken a certain amount. They could then say it hasn’t been referenced if it’s been referenced. Okay, fine. But if it’s just been taken out as their own, their own framework, that might be another issue.

Eric Gibbs (21:59)

Absolutely. Heather, it’s not just the plagiarism police, right. It is a teaching and learning tool because we are providing that, that report to the student as well. So they are able to see if it’s properly cited. So, you know, this, this does, there is a formative use case for the individual learner to be able to have this. And it does act as a deterrent.

So if a, if a school or a college has not used a tool, a plagiarism prevention tool, and they start implementing one, and you do see a spike at the beginning of the term, but it does start to deter plagiarized works, and you start to see those individuals learners using their own voice and originality start to persist over the class.

Heather Welch (22:42)

I love that. That’s why it’s our original, can I ask if I’m a student, could I put my paperwork in this software before I handed it in? And then it can tell me where, and then I can go back and reference it properly if I hadn’t referenced it properly, or is it only for the end result, the teacher,

Eric Gibbs(23:03)

It is based upon the individual individual instructor or how the assignment was configured. But if the instructor has configured it for that formative use case or said, yes, you know, we would, we would allow the student to make multiple submissions. And Heather, this would be our best practice. We always want to encourage this, not as a punitive tool, but to promote kind of that teaching and learning as well as full disclosure and engagement from the instructor or teacher to student.

But they could actually submit the paper within five, 10 minutes, receive a, some, a similarity report back and then see the actual or match content within the report. See if it was properly cited, go back in and change it, and then resubmit. So it is, it is almost a draft, the ability to utilize this in drafting, as they are writing out their paper. But that, that capability is, is within original.

Heather Welch (24:04)

So for academic integrity policies and best practices for schools and colleges, that would be the best way to do it. So it’s, as you’re saying, the teaching and learning tool, rather than just the end result and finding out and going, Oh, but actually it’s more telling them and showing them actually showing them like a hands-on learning, actually showing them the way forward, rather than getting it back and realizing that they probably didn’t realize some people might have done it on purpose. Some people might actually just not ever been taught. If you’ve gone to university, you might not have been taught how to site to have to reference properly.

Eric Gibbs (24:37)

Absolutely. And this comes from, you know, not only instructors teachers, professors, it comes from, you know, organizations that deal with academic integrity research. So, you know, I would, I would encourage your listeners to visit the international center for academic integrity or the European network for academic integrity.

They all have fundamental fundamental principles on what are best practices. So for example, international center for academic integrity references the, commitment really to six fundamental values surrounding academic integrity. And those would be honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and the last one they just added this year, which was courage. So these are kind of those core principles that I would encourage school districts, colleges, universities really build out their academic integrity framework in those, those six fundamental values.

Heather Welch (25:40)

Erica, I have to ask you, you’ve been in technology for 20 years. I mean, that’s, you know, that whole, the whole world has changed so much in there, especially in the technology world. What’s the biggest change that you’ve found in the last 20 years?

Eric Gibbs(25:54)

You know, I that is a great question. I, I think for, you know, for me there, there’s two things that stand out off the top of my head here. One of the biggest frustrations I think, was during my time with Carnegie Mellon and an acrobatic, it was an adaptive learning tool. We could show that, that there were significant learning gains utilizing technology and utilizing a tool called acrobatic, but the learning curve for instructors and professors to utilize, this was very different than what was traditionally utilized.

And this was, you know, literally five, six years ago, we couldn’t actually kind of cross the chasm from traditional traditional technology, which was more static, more skill and drill what individuals are used to today, to this adaptive learning environment where maybe you have 900 students in a lecture hall, but they are at different levels or different stages of the learning.

Eric Gibbs (27:01)

It was a very big, big gap learning gap to try to cross but we could also show that the learning gains were so much more substantial. So that was the biggest frustration. I think for me, looking back, what is the biggest gain you know going back to elementary school and middle school coming out of the pandemic. If we could have only had gamification and have more ways to actually engage learners, to make learning fun and get more process for elementary, you know, middle school, the students, I think if we can get students hooked in the learning process, and if we can make it fun with gamification, I think we have a winning combination there.

So, you know, I would love to challenge future ed tech companies to, to really start thinking about, you know, incorporating game theory to, to engage students, especially given the fact that, you know, motivation and incentives do dry, do work. So I’d love to be able to see more gamification and primary primary education.

Heather Welch  (28:07)

It sounds like there’s another, another area for ed tech for our original. Maybe a little bit different that gamification could always be a great way to move forward as well. Now I’m very conscious of time today. Eric, can, I just want to know if listeners want to even know more about our regional even get in touch with yourself or one of your teams, what’s the best way for them to get in touch?

Eric Gibbs (28:30)

Absolutely. How they come visited That’s or add original underscore. Oh, on Twitter, any of our social I’m also on LinkedIn love to hear feedback. It’s the best thing that we can do is to listen to individuals on feedback. As individuals would love to share comments, feedback, academic integrity. One thing that I like to say Heather’s a wrap-up academic integrity and plagiarism prevention. Typically 50% of the individuals are not a big fan of plagiarism prevention tools and the other 50% typically tolerate them. So it, it trying to demystify kind of the, the, the tool itself is, is half the battle.

So good course design being able to actually have a great, great engagement and disclosure with students. Then that optimized technology, like an original really is kind of the triple prong. That actually will make an academic integrity initiative be fulfilled. So I really appreciate, having me on and more importantly, I’d like to thank your listeners at edx education for spending time

Heather Welch(29:42)

With us. If anyone wants to get in touch with Eric by all means original is my understanding was one of the 10 best ed tech companies across the globe in 2020. It’s two very much older companies that have come together and formed a much stronger bond. They’ve got 7,000, 6,000, sorry. Plus organizations in 80 countries. They cross translate. It sounds like an absolute amazing way. If you enters a time-saver and teacher learning tool for all colleges and academics. Even academics to use. So thank you, Eric really appreciate your time today. Thank you

Heather Welch (30:17)

Very much, Heather. There are so many exciting developments happening right now in education edX education would love to hear from you. Get in touch with subscribed to our podcast, which is available on Apple beans, Spotify tune-in and so many more. This podcast series is brought to you by Heather Welch, media X education. The she’d like to say let’s create lifelong learners.