A new look for Turnitin

Turnitin, the Plagiarism detection service, will be getting a new look on Sept. 4th. While it’s not been easy to get previews, a few screencasts have now been released and can be seen at http://www.screencast.com/t/NTVjYWExY

I thought I’d briefly summarise the main changes here. There are some changes to the user interface, which seem to me to largely cosmetic, although still useful. Navigation is now across the top of the screen, rather than down the left hand side, which brings it into line with most other applications, and the assignment inbox has been simplified.  Unusually, Turnitin don’t seem to be giving users the opportunity to revert to the old version, something they’ve always done in the past.

However, the real changes are in the way in which originality reports are viewed.  Users do still have option to revert to the previous viewer for originality reports and grademark, if not for the interface.  If you do choose to do this comments and marks are maintained if you move between the different versions of grademark.  There’s a nice new “column viewer” for the originality report. Users can change the size at which the student paper is displayed.  (Up to about 3/4 of the screen seems to be available for this.)  The sources from which students have (allegedly) copied are now simply listed, and clicking on them opens a new window which floats around over the original source.  Another new feature here is that users are be able to see multiple sources (where the item the student has lifted is in more than one source). I’m not all that convinced of the value of this, because I’d have thought it’s main function would be to show how much web sites plagiarise each other!

The colour co-ordination between text and sources has been kept although, it’s now confined to a barely visible stripe against the source name.  But this new way of viewing the sources also offers opportunity to manually exclude sources from the originality report. You can also re-inlcude them if you change your mind. Doing either will recalculate the total originality score. So if you have asked students to take material from a web site, you can then exclude that particular site.

The final improvement in the videos is the introduction of a common viewer for originality reports, Grademark and peer mark. Essentially grademark and originality reports can be now seen in the same view.

What’s not yet clear is whether or how this will affect the Blackboard plug in. Relatively few users at Lincoln use the Grademark feature, so I doubt this will be an issue for now. However, with increasing moves to electronic forms of assessment, it is something that we’ll need to keep an eye on.

Minor Turnitin annoyance.

I’ve been in correspondence with Turnitin UK about a few problems we’ve been having recently. One was that I couldn’t edit my user profile within Turnitin. This, it seems is because, we use the Blackboard plug-in. Apparently all data about user profiles is taken from Blackboard, and you can’t change your profile in Turnitin itself because it would cause a conflict.

Fair enough, you might say. But, many users want to use Turnitin to check “suspicious” pieces of work and to do this you have to use a feature called Quick Submit. The only way you can use the Quick Submit feature in Turnitin is to activate it in your Turnitin user profile. So if you haven’t done this before you create a class in Blackboard, then you can’t use Quick Submit because you can’t edit your user profile. Actually, you can, but you have to contact Turnitin to activate Quick Submit for you, which seems a bit of a pain. Or ask someone who’s Quick Submit is already on. (e.g. me!)

Having said that I entirely accept that in an ideal world we shouldn’t really need to use Quick Submit at all. If we used Turnitin as a teaching tool, rather than a detection service, (and many colleagues at Lincoln already do this – we are getting there.) then students would be properly educated about plagiarism, and would understand why engaging in it undermines their own learning and is thus a completely self-defeating exercise.

I’m not really blogging to moan about Turnitin though, more to make the point that technological imperatives can subtly change the way we work. If Quick Submit is not easily accessible then people have no alternative but to build Turnitin into the assessment process. Or they could just ask me to do it for them. So it changes my workload instead.  Ho hum.


Well, I don’t know where all the text from this went…

 But here’s what I wanted to say anyway. (If this disappears I really am going back to bed)

I’m not now going to the Bbworld 08 conference in Manchester because I am simply too ill to drive there. Which is a pity because there appeared to be some interesting looking presentations about using Bb to support assessment. This is something that does come up from time to time in Faculty teaching and learning committees (e.g. Health Life & Social Sciences the other day). We do have Turnitin’s Grademark of course, but the drawback with that is that it doesn’t really support double marking. (i.e. anonymous marking). Or, if it does, I haven’t found out how yet. I did dream up a baroque routine where students’ work could be submitted to different tutors by admin staff, but technology is supposed to make life simpler, so I haven’t mentioned it yet.

Leads to an interesting reflection on technology in learning though – it very rarely seems to automate a practice in its entirety – certainly some aspects of a process are very well automated – but human beings being what they are, there’s always some other aspect that they want to cling to that the technology doesn’t cover. So our job is really about changing perspectives, not teaching which buttons to press.