TL; DR - Someone tried to plagiarize me, and they got their ass in a whole world of shit now, and I got my "A-" grade.
Think of this as a public service announcement:
Don't ever think you won't be plagiarized. This happened to me just Fall 2018 on 09 December. I am currently working on my Masters in Systems Architecting and Engineering at the University of Southern California. Started it January 2017 - real life (divorce, foreclosure, raising my stepson, etc.) happened, and so it has taken me a bit longer than I'd like - but hey - we go at the pace we can. The degree is 100% distant learning: attending live lectures through video telecon capes. I tend to make study groups as this kind of material can be a bit daunting, and there is truth in the saying: "Strength in numbers." We had a 3-4 person study group from late August to 01 Dec, and we met faithfully on a weekly basis to go over the homework assignments, class notes, lecture slides, ask each other questions, and formulate questions for the professors.
Near the end, we had a class project that counted as 30% of our grade. We were not allowed to work as a group on a single project, but we were allowed to meet and work separately on our individual projects (like working at a library table in a group but on your own work), and we could review any class material we want, review things on the internet together, and comb lecture and homework for anything to help us on our projects. It was a daunting task, but we knew we could do it with integrity. Well.........
The last two days of the class, I let someone into our online study group; they claimed they were struggling in the class and needed some help. We were glad to let them in, and this individual severely abused that trust. I shared my screen for a peer review, and this individual must have taken screen captures of every one of my slides, and then they went into PowerPoint and methodically recreated every one of my slides, claiming the work as their own. Take a look at the slides; they are nearly absolutely identical - my work is on the left. The project was turned in 30 Nov.
On 09 Dec, my professor notifies me that my work looks identical to another student's work. I had to wait until 19 Dec to speak with the professor and defend my work. I talked with so many individuals and agencies; I honestly felt like I was ON CAMPUS I was talking to so many people. Student Justice Services, Academic Integrity Counselor, Department Administrator, Associate Dean - you name them - I probably talked to them. It was a VERY stressful time as plagiarism can have some very serious consequences.
I had a student who peer reviewed my work, and she turned in a notarized testimony to defend and validate that I was the original author of the work. Thankfully, I also had two drafts that had enough work that matched my final project verbatim, that when her testimony and my drafts were turned in - that was enough to win the confidence of the faculty, and I was exonerated of all suspicions on 19 Dec, and I earned my rightful grade of an "A-" in the class. Halfway done with my Masters!!!!!!!
I don't know what will happen to the other student, and frankly, I don't care. I hope they are removed from the Systems Architecting and Engineering Graduate Program. USC doesn't need cheaters in their halls, and I sure as hell don't want to graduate alongside one.
Two lessons for me:
1. Don't be so trusting of strangers. Someone shows up in the last week of the class = turn them away politely.
2. Keep drafts, drafts, and more drafts.
Anyone ever tries to plagiarize me again, I'll have more evidence than a cop has ink in his ticket writing pen.
I have removed the screenshots of the files to keep the integrity of my project safe.