SafeAssign is a plagiarism prevention tool that detects unoriginal content in students' papers by identifying areas of overlap between submitted assignments and existing works. SafeAssign can also be used to help students identify how to properly attribute sources rather than paraphrase without giving credit to the original source. The SafeAssign feature is effective as both a deterrent and an educational tool.

Note: Delays in SafeAssign occur throughout the semester based on high demand. Please DO NOT have students resubmit papers as this pushes them to the back of the queue. Blackboard currently reports as much as 24-36 hours or more may elapse before report results are returned.

How SafeAssign Works

The SafeAssign feature is based on a unique text matching algorithm capable of detecting both exact and inexact matches between a submitted paper and a particular source material. Assignments submitted to the SafeAssign database are compared with several different databases, including the following:

  • 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 1990's 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 students from Blackboard client institutions to help prevent cross-institutional plagiarism

Assignments accept every possible file type as an attachment to a submission. SafeAssign will only process and create Originality Reports for attachments with compatible file types. SafeAssign is only able to support file types that are convertible to plain text including the following file types: .docx; .doc; .pdf; .txt; .odt; .rtf; .html; .htm; and .zip (processing files that match any of these file types within the .zip). However, Learn Assignment's Inline Grading feature only supports the following subset of file types: .pptx; .ppt; .xlsx; .xls; .docx; .doc; and .pdf. SafeAssign will only process and create Originality Reports for attachments that match the above file types. For unsupported file types, the SafeAssign Originality Report will omit a matching score. This information is visible in the right-hand navigation bar of the new Originality Report.

These two lists of compatible file types mean that there are only certain file types that can be displayed in the Inline Grading workflow and processed by SafeAssign. Below is a Venn diagram outlining which file types support both features:

Diagram of compatible file types for inline grading and SafeAssign

Enabling SafeAssign

Enabling SafeAssign in Original Course View

Screenshot highlighting how to enable SafeAssign within an Assignment

Enable the SafeAssign tool during Assignment creation and editing, under the Submission Details section.

Faculty have the option to Exclude Submissions when creating an Assignment. This option will allow faculty to create Assignments that do not include any student submissions in the Institutional or Global Reference Databases, enabling students to "check their work" against SafeAssign sources prior to submitting a final version without subsequently revised drafts being flagged as matching the previous "draft" submissions. Like other options on Assignments, this option will be point-in-time and editable after assignment creation. If the option were changed at a later date, new submissions would honor the new state of the setting.

Enabling SafeAssign in Ultra Course View

Enable SafeAssign in the settings panel while creating an Assignment or a Test.

  1. Open Assignment Settings or Test Settings in a new or existing assessment.
  2. Under SafeAssign, select Enable Originality Report.
  3. Select Check submissions for plagiarism with SafeAssign.
    • When you enable SafeAssign for the assessment, you can also allow students to view the Originality Report. If you allow multiple attempts, an Originality Report is generated for each attempt a student submits.
    • Choose whether to exclude submissions from the institutional and Global Reference Databases.
  4. Close the layer. Your changes are saved!

You can enable the SafeAssign Originality Report at any time, even after students have started their submissions, but submissions are only checked when SafeAssign is enabled. Submissions received before you enable the setting aren't checked with SafeAssign.

SafeAssign Doesn't Generate a Report when Filename Has Special Characters

Please note that assignment submissions with special characters (i.e., #,:,*,space, etc.) are not evaluated by SafeAssign and will not generate a report.

It is recommended that users only include numbers, letters, hyphens, and underscores in their filenames. In cases where student users have already made a submission, change the assignment setting to allow multiple submissions and then ask them to resubmit the document after making the appropriate filename change.

SafeAssign Originality Reports

After a paper has been processed, an Originality Report will be available that will show the percentage of text in the submitted paper that matches existing sources. It also shows the suspected sources of each section of the submitted paper that returns a match. The faculty can then delete matching sources from the report and process it again. This procedure is useful to ascertain if the paper is a continuation of a previously submitted work by the same student.

Because the SafeAssign feature identifies all matching blocks of text, it is important that the faculty reads the report carefully and determines whether or not the block of text in question is properly attributed.

Click here for more details about the Originality Report

Interpreting SafeAssign Scores

The sentence matching scores represent the percentage probability that two phrases have the same meaning. This number can also be interpreted as the reciprocal to the probability that these two phrases are similar by chance. For example, a score of 90 percent means that there is a 90 percent probability that these two phrases are the same and a 10 percent probability that they are similar by chance and not because the submitted paper includes content from the existing source (whether or not it is appropriately attributed).

The overall score is an indicator of what percentage of the submitted paper matches existing sources. Please note that this score is a warning indicator only and it is the faculty’s responsibility to review the papers carefully to see if the matches are properly attributed.

  • Scores below 15 percent: These papers typically include some quotes and few common phrases or blocks of text that match other documents. These papers typically do not require further analysis, as there is no evidence of the possibility of plagiarism in these papers.
  • Scores between 15 percent and 40 percent: These papers include extensive quoted or paraphrased material or they may include plagiarism. These papers should be reviewed to determine if the matching content is properly attributed.
  • Scores over 40 percent: There is a very high probability that text in this paper was copied from other sources. These papers include quoted or paraphrased text in excess and should be reviewed for plagiarism.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the tool work?

SafeAssign can be used in two ways.

  1. Faculty Members can set up SafeAssignments in their courses on Blackboard and let students submit papers to complete these assignments, in a way very similar to the Assignmnent tool provided by Blackboard Learning System. The papers will then be delivered to Faculty Members through the Blackboard Learning System together with the SafeAssign Originality Reports, which details the results of the matching process.
  2. Faculty Members may upload papers directly, without student 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 Faculty Members to view a line-by-line comparison of potentially unoriginal text from submitted papers and the matching external documents.
Can students view reports?

If intructors enable student viewing, each student can view the reports for their own submitted papers.

What databases does SafeAssign currently use for plagiarism checking?

SafeAssign currently checks all submitted papers against the following databases:

  • Internet - comprehensive index of billions of documents available for public access on the Internet;
  • ProQuest ABI/Inform database with over 1,100 publication titles and about 2.6 million articles from '90s to present time, updated weekly (exclusive access);
  • Institutional document archives containing all papers submitted to SafeAssign by users in their respective institutions;
  • Global Reference Database containing papers that were volunteered by students 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 students in your institution. Each institution'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 your institution. The Institutional Database is completely separate from the Global Reference Database which extends across institutions and students must volunteer their papers to.
What file formats does SafeAssign support?
SafeAssign supports Word (.doc or .docx), plain text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), .pdf, and .html formats. In addition, supported file types can be compressed to a .zip file for Direct Submit.
What is the file size limit for files submitted to SafeAssign?
There is a 10 MB limit on all files submitted to SafeAssign. This applies to individual student uploads to Assignments with SafeAssign enabled as well as .zip files of multiple papers uploaded by faculty using the Direct Submit feature (in which case the .zip file must be under 10 MB). Unfortunately, this limit is set by the SafeAssign servers, which are managed by Blackboard, so it cannot be overridden.
How does the Global Reference Database work?
Blackboard's Global Reference Database is a separate database where students 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 students are free to select the option to check their papers without submitting them to the Global Reference Database.
What is the SafeAssign "Synchronize this Course" option that appears in the "Direct Submit" area?
The synchronize function is to deal with breaks in communication or to update a course which is based on a template or has been copied. It is a good idea for the faculty member to click on this when first using SafeAssign and to periodically update it or update if any course level issues arise. It simply synchronizes the papers in the course with the SafeAssign central database, ensuring the correct associations exist between the course and our central database.
Why did SafeAssignment scores in the Grade Center get deleted after the students submitted their assignments?
Make sure to enter SafeAssignment scores in the Grade Center after the students submit their assignments. Scores assigned prior to SafeAssignment submission are deleted when students submit their assignments. If paper assignments are collected together with a Blackboard SafeAssign feature, make sure to enter student grades after they have submitted their assignments electronically through SafeAssign.
How can I download all of the SafeAssign submissions at once?

It is possible to download all of the files that the students submitted to a SafeAssignment. This does not include the originality reports. Those must be viewed within Blackboard directly.

To download all of the submitted files:

  1. From the course with the SafeAssignment, open Course Tools in the Control Panel
  2. Click SafeAssign
  3. On the next page, choose SafeAssignments
  4. Move your mouse cursor over the SafeAssignment you are interested in. When the Action Link appears, click it and choose View Submissions from the menu
  5. Click the Download All Submissions button at the top of the page

Your browser will download a .zip folder that has all of the submissions. You can open the folder or extract the files to read the individual submissions.

Why do my students and I occasionally get an error message that we are not logged into SafeAssign?

If you get this error and you are logged into Blackboard, it means that the security or privacy settings of your web browser are set to not allow 3rd-party cookies. You will need to change that setting to be able to use SafeAssign.

For Internet Explorer:

  1. Click Tools
  2. Click Internet Options
  3. Click Privacy
  4. Set the setting to Low

For Firefox:

  1. Click Tools
  2. Click Options
  3. Click Privacy
  4. Select Accept cookies from site
  5. Select Accept third-party cookies
  6. Change Keep until to they expire

For Safari:

  1. Click Safari
  2. Click Preferences
  3. Click Security
  4. Change Accept cookies to Always
A student tried to access or submit an Assignment with SafeAssign enabled, and received the error message "This course is out of sync with SafeAssign, please ask your instructor to re-sync your assignment." What should I do?

If you or your students receive this error, you will need to re-synchronize your course. To do so:

  1. Underneath the Control Panel, expand the Course Tools menu.
  2. Click SafeAssign.
  3. On the following page, click SafeAssign Items.
  4. On the SafeAssign Items page, click the Synchronize this course button.
  5. You may briefly see a message telling you it will take a moment to synchronize. Your student(s) should now be able to access the Assignment.

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