How Unicheck Helps Academic Integrity Thrive
Serhii Tkachenko, CEO of Unicheck, likes to think of the plagiarism prevention software as the ideal “topping” for any learning management system’s basic “pizza.” While learning management systems—such as Canvas, Blackboard, Brightspace, and Google Classroom—are platforms where students and educators can perform all course-related tasks and communication in one place, adding Unicheck makes the learning and teaching experience even better and more effortless.
“Our main goal is to automate all manual tasks for students and educators and give them more time for learning and teaching,” Tkachenko says. Unicheck accomplishes this by automatically checking every submitted assignment for plagiarism, providing a comprehensive similarity report in just four seconds per page. Instructors can then view the percentage of similarity between a student’s assignment and online sources (including open access journals and repositories), as well as the institution’s internal database (which includes other current class submissions).
The “Uni” in Unicheck is meant to get you thinking: United, Unique, Universal. But the company was originally known as Unplag when it was founded in Ukraine in 2014. At that time, Tkachenko says, “We started this development but we were rather technical driven, without any community, without the communication with our customers. It was super hard to sell our software even if it was free.” After rebranding itself as Unicheck in 2017, he says, “we changed our vision, our mission—and our mission right now is to create community-driven software that makes students well educated. Our vision is to help to support institutions worldwide to make their level of academic integrity thrive.” Once the company began implementing that new vision and mission in its development and marketing, it grew by 300%.
Such rapid growth was what pushed Unicheck to move to the public cloud in order to stay ahead of its competitors and continue meeting the demands of a higher volume of customers. “When you have like 100 customers,” Tkachenko says, “it’s super easy to check all students’ submissions, but if you have 1 million students, it’s hard to have really great availability in terms of checks. Our competitors, when students submit a paper, provide results in 24 hours, and we understand that, for our customers, is super long. We provide results in five minutes.”
Although it currently serves 1.5 million students and 100,000 educators from over 1,100 institutions in 69 countries, Tkachenko emphasizes that Unicheck’s customers are not institutions, but people: students, educators, IT staff, and administrators, each with different needs that Unicheck fulfills.
For example, for IT staff, Unicheck provides a seamless integration and 99.9% system uptime. For administrators, who often have strict budgets, Unicheck strives to keep its software cost efficient. For students, Tkachenko explains, “we are trying to develop software that is easy to use and help them with their writing skills. We’re trying to work with citation and reference, and help them find improperly cited material and show them how to cite it properly. For educators, we are trying to save time for them [so they can] create a really great educational process.”
Tkachenko clarifies that the purpose of plagiarism prevention software is not merely to catch cheaters so they can be penalized. Instead, they want to help educators identify and find a solution for “problematic students” early on. Often, Tkachenko says, these students “are not trying to cheat because they want to cheat. It can be that they don’t like this course, they don’t have enough time, they have some problems at home, and that’s why they’re trying to cheat. [For] educators, the main task is to speak with the student, realize the problem, and solve the problem,” in a way that benefits both the educator and the student. It’s this supportive, win-win mindset that makes Unicheck the “topping” that students and educators alike can enjoy.