SafeAssign is a plagiarism prevention tool that works with Blackboard Open LMS 3.3 and above and integrates with Moodle's established plagiarism plugin framework. SafeAssign is based on a unique text-matching algorithm capable of detecting exact and inexact matching between a submitted paper and source material. This proprietary algorithm analyzes submission text and optimizes the words and terms to be searched against multiple data sources. Results returned from each service are further processed based on both the weight returned by the search service and comparative weighting by the SafeAssign algorithm, which determines the result set to be returned in the Originality Report.

SafeAssign's overall Originality Score for a student's submission and a link to the Originality Report generated by SafeAssign appear in Moodle's Assignment Grader and the Open Grader.

SafeAssign Originality Score in Assignment Grader

SafeAssign Originality Score in Open Grader

SafeAssign in action

SafeAssign is based on a unique text-matching algorithm capable of detecting exact and inexact matching between a submitted paper and source material. This proprietary algorithm analyzes submission text and optimizes the words and terms to be searched against multiple data sources. Results returned from each service are further processed based on both the weight returned by the search service and comparative weighting by the SafeAssign algorithm, which determines the result set to be returned in the Originality Report.

Student submissions to SafeAssign are compared against several sources:

  • Institutional document archives: Contains all papers submitted to SafeAssign by users in their respective institutions.
  • Global Reference Database: Contains over 59 million papers volunteered by students from Blackboard client institutions to help prevent cross-institutional plagiarism.
  • ProQuest ABI/Inform Journal Database: More than 3,000 publication titles, 5 million documents, and over 200 topical categories from the 1970s to present time and covering topics from Advertising to Women's Studies.
  • Internet: SafeAssign searches across the broader internet for matching text using an internal search service.

Global Reference Database

The SafeAssign Global Reference Database is a separate database where students voluntarily submit copies of their papers to help prevent plagiarism. It is separate from each institution's internal database, where all papers are stored by each corresponding institution. Students are free to select the option to check their papers without submitting them to the Global Reference Database. Students are not required to submit papers to this database. They submit their papers voluntarily and agree not to delete papers in the future. Blackboard does not claim ownership of submitted papers.

Internal search engine

The internet search indexes used by SafeAssign are designed for reliability, performance, and efficiency against the large scale of search queries executed by SafeAssign. These search indexes can't be refreshed as frequently as those used by consumer internet search services. Generally, these indexes can be expected to be current within 1-3 days of a change. Due to the combination of these search index characteristics and the weighting applied by the SafeAssign algorithm, results returned in a SafeAssign Originality Report may not be identical to results returned by a consumer internet search service for any individual sentence or phrase.

Previously, Blackboard SafeAssign relied on the Yahoo! BOSS service to provide results from the broader internet. Due to the deprecation of the Yahoo! BOSS service on March 31, 2016, Blackboard has developed an internal search service to provide internet results for SafeAssign. No customer action is required to enable the SafeAssign internal search service, as the change was made in the SafeAssign Central Service and applies to all clients.

The internal search service is built using the latest search crawling and indexing technologies, and allows Blackboard to significantly reduce dependency and exposure to third-party tools. Because the search service is now administered internally, Blackboard has the ability to enhance and refine search results over time and improve the overall SafeAssign product quality and performance. Additionally, any potential concern of client data being shared with Blackboard partners is entirely mitigated using this new approach to providing search results from the internet.

Due to the ever-changing nature of the internet, there may be occasions when the SafeAssign internal search service does not yet include specific webpages or websites and as a consequence SafeAssign Originality Reports may not identify potentially matching text within student works. When these situations arise, Blackboard will investigate the source web content and, if possible, add the content to the SafeAssign internal search service for future submissions.

The development of the SafeAssign internal search service further demonstrates Blackboard's commitment to supporting the SafeAssign product functionality and Blackboard Learn customers' use of the SafeAssign service. As always, Blackboard will continue to monitor SafeAssign for improvement opportunities and encourages customer feedback regarding search results and overall SafeAssign performance.

As a reminder, results returned in a SafeAssign Originality Report may not be identical to results returned by a consumer internet search service (e.g. Google, Bing, etc.) for any individual sentence or phrase. The results from the SafeAssign service are only meant to be a tool for use at the discretion of the teacher or instructor. Due to the size and scope of both academic subject matter and the number of resources searched by SafeAssign, the results are not meant to guarantee or otherwise indicate that plagiarism has or has not occurred. The assessment of potential plagiarism should reside in the hands of the instructor, and SafeAssign results should always be considered in the context of other resources and good judgment.


SafeAssign Originality Reports

After a paper submission is processed, SafeAssign generates a report detailing the percentage of text in the paper that matches existing sources. The report also shows the suspected sources that return a match for each section of the submitted paper. Instructors can delete matching sources from the report and process it again. This is useful if the paper is a continuation of a previously submitted work by the same student.


SafeAssign language support

SafeAssign does more than translate words from one language to another. SafeAssign uses algorithms that make decisions about potential plagiarism based on word frequency, sentence structure, and other linguistic characteristics that are specific to English.

Although SafeAssign officially supports only English, clients are welcome to attempt to use SafeAssign with languages other than English. SafeAssign has no technical limitations that preclude using it with other languages, but the results may vary and are not guaranteed.


Configuring the SafeAssign Plugin

Navigate to Site Administration > Plugins > Plagiarism > SafeAssign Plagiarism Plugin

  1. Select to Enable SafeAssign.
  2. Enter the Shared key and Shared secret for the Instructor Role Credentials.
  3. Enter the Shared key and Shared secret for the Student Role Credentials.
  4. Enter your desired Cache timeout limit.
  5. Select Global Reference Database Activity to allow students to opt-in to submitting their work to the Global Reference Database to help protect the originality of their work.
  6. Optionally, add language to the Institutional Release Statement text field that you wish to be displayed to all students when submitting work to SafeAssign.
  7. Select Agree and Save to accept the Terms of Service and Blackboard Privacy Policy and complete the SafeAssign configuration.