There was a time when doing a school assignment was indeed an affair to remember whether it was done properly or not. It meant reading books, taking tips from elder brothers and sisters and aping the studious in the school.
But now things have changed a lot. Is it for the better or for the worse? I am not sure.
For the better
Reams of paper were used and all these were stored in the school. The schools had a big problem of keeping the projects safe and sound in the school premises till such time they were evaluated and ranked.
However all that changed with the insistence of digital format submissions. Neat pdfs uploaded through e-mail or wiki sites. Digital corrections and marking saved all the trees that were earlier used.
For the worse
However the aspect of copying still persists. How is that overcome? We now have amazing software that literally polices the submissions. Software is now available and used by many academic institutions that can scan all the submissions and identify possible similarities in content, format and style. All these are done of course with some statistical and heuristics inbuilt within them. So to that extent, human intervention is required to validate the findings of the software.
Not only that, software will also scan the internet sites where references are available to see if bulk copying has taken place or has the student actually assimilated the essence and has written all by himself or herself. See here for the general reference to plagiarism detection and a list of software available.
So how has this hurdle being tackled? Enter outsourcing. It is possible to outsource the project by submitting a set of sources and ask for a fresh submission that has been carefully rewritten with all required morphological change.
Wonder where this will end.