Friday, 19 February 2010

Notes from the Turnitin User Group (Birkbeck, 3rd February 2010)

& Introduction

New appointments at iParadigms:
  • CEO - Chris Caren
  • VP Engineering - John Hartman
JH has implemented recent server-side changes which have significantly improved the speed of the Turnitin site/service.

One outstanding issue since the last UG - problems with generating Grademark images, is ongoing. 4 other issues have been fixed.

User voice - log in to the institutional administrator account and at top right of screen click on Feedback Forum. You are allocated 10 votes. Most-voted requests will go into the development/release schedule. (In Bloomsbury we only have one admin account - can we have more, in order to vote more?)

nlearning are now on Twitter but they have protected their updates - you can request to follow them at

They have produced some free anti-plagiarism and referencing guides for Ofqual, designed for sixth formers (but may well be relevant to first years).

New Peermark functionality added (seems like Grademark for peer review).

The developers are moving toward a unified interface where you can see the assignment with the originality reports, Grademark etc as an overlay and more rapidly switch between them.

Also the integration for Blackboard will become a 'deep integration', meaning we will gain the same functionality with our integrated assignments that standalone Turnitin website users have with theirs. (Possibly this has been done for the Moodle integration already?)

View requests straw poll - when a request is sent to view a paper in the database due to a match being flagged up in an originality report, the email currently goes to the instructor. The group generally felt this should go to the institutional system administrator, or else to both.


Speaker: Stephen Bostock (Keele Uni)
Discussed Grademark in terms of student benefits and staff barriers to its use.

General discussion:
  • Most institutions had seen some use of Grademark, and people who have used it are generally positve about it - but many academics remain unwilling to mark online.
  • The much-voted for ability to bulk-download Grademarked papers is now scheduled for April release.
  • Importing rubrics can be done at an individual account, or else system-wide level - the group requested this feature could be rolled out at a 'department' level.

Formative Use of Turnitin

Many institutions are seeing benefits from incorporating formative use of Turnitin into student training on academic honesty / information skills / anti-plagiarism and referencing. In some cases training is delivered by academics, sometimes by the library, and sometimes with input from various sources. The group generally felt there was value in formative use as the students would be able to learn about plagiarism without fear of getting in trouble.

Institutional policies governing use of Turnitin were discussed. Policies included:
1) for each assingment, either all submissions or none must be checked.
2) each student must have one formative experience of Turnitin before submitting real coursework.

Formative use cases discussed:
1) Students submit a report to Turnitin (not assessed), then based on the results write a piece of reflective writing which is assessed.
2) Students submit a draft of a piece of coursework, and later the finished version. (In the case of the draft, the submissions should not be added to the student assignment database, in order to avoid causing a high level of matching when they submit the finished piece.)

It was suggested that formative use works best when tied in with assessment and not done as an isolated exercise.

University of Leicester subject-specific plagiarism tutorials were recommended.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Durham reflections (post-Blackboard conference)

I attended the Durham Blackboard Users Conference back in early January, along with some other members of the BLE technical group, and having also attended last year, I once again found it well organised and well attended, so it was a great opportunity to hear and meet speakers from all over the UK and beyond. Highlights for me included hearing about how e-learning is being embedded into key skills training for bioscience students at Leciester (see Jo Badge's blog for more info), thus-far somewhat disappointing results from a promising Twitter project at Kingston (see Tony McNeill's blog) and a presentation from US academics about Blackboard's Exemplary Course Program, explaining why they believe student engagement is at the heart of exemplary courses.

Overall, I thought it was interesting (ironic perhaps at a Blackboard conference - though to be fair there was a social media theme) that the most interesting work being done by presenters is generally happening outside the VLE itself. It must be said though that most continue to regard their VLE as an important tool in the e-learning kit.

There was a lot of reflection on barriers to e-learning development, with major ones cited being:

  • many staff lack the time, and sometimes skills or willingness, to engage beyond creating course document repositories;
  • students often demonstrate an unwillingness to participate in tasks that are not assessed; and indeed sometimes also to participate in collaborative tasks which appear to hand advantage to 'competitors';
  • students are not necessarily the ‘digital natives’ they are often assumed to be;
  • some students, while confident in their use of technology, don’t see the relevance of it for learning.

This makes me wonder if too much of our focus as learning technologists tends to be on staff development, when we should perhaps be engaging with students more directly, and also engaging with the tools they know and like more.

Images courtesy of ewjz31 via Flickr.