NewsGuard: check the veracity of online news services

[Edited 29 July 2021: Unfortunately, the free access to NewsGuard was terminated on 30 June 2021, so this free app is no longer available. It is unlikely that the University will pursue a paid-for version.]

Turnitin now has a partnership with the NewsGuard web plugin service (the work of a Wadham College alumnus) that appraises the veracity of online news services, making it a much-needed and highly valuable service in our current times. According to the website, “NewsGuard shows you trust ratings for 5,800+ news and information sites–written by trained journalists based on nine journalistic criteria. We tell you who’s behind each site, how it’s funded, and whether you can trust it”.

https://www.turnitin.com/partners/newsguard

The website describes the function as “academic integrity meets digital literacy”, enabling one to evaluate the reliability of a news source, thus informing one’s own critical thinking and judgement about the credibility of particular online sources. NewsGuard comes free with the University’s subscription to Turnitin and is very easy to install and use.

The NewsGuard browser extension is available for Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Safari browsers.

How do I get NewsGuard?

1. University of Oxford users (Oxford single-signon username is required): If you have not already done so, please complete this NewsGuard Turnitin Service Request to request an access code which will ensure continued free use as part of Oxford’s paid-for Turnitin licence.

2. Go to the website https://www.newsguardtech.com, download and install the NewsGuard browser plugin:

3. Browse freely with NewsGuard’s icons in your search results, social media feeds, and on news websites you visit. The resulting hits will display a green tick or a red cross to indicate whether or not the source may be trusted. Hover over, or click on the icons to learn more about each site and read its full “nutrition label.”

More information:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Resources to assist Turnitin instructors

This information about support resources was provided by the Turnitin suppliers to the Heads of e-Learning Forum on 14 July 2020.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Turnitin free webinars

Turnitin is offering a series of webinars, focusing on strategies that aim to overcome the challenges posed by remote teaching and learning.

Dates: 14 and 19 May 2020

Time: 16:00 BST / 17:00 CEST

Find out more (including ‘tips for remote teaching’) and reserve your seat: https://www.turnitin.com/resources/webinars/together-while-apart

Topics covered

  • How to support asynchronous learning through effective communication strategies
  • How to anticipate and understand student needs, then leverage every resource possible to meet them
  • How to approach the three main challenges of remote assessment: student mindset, content/structure, and logistics/technology
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Take a look at the Oxford Turnitin FAQs

[Update 8 February 2021: The Turnitin staff support site has been moved from WebLearn to Canvas: Plagiarism awareness for staff. The same information may be found in the new site.]

The Turnitin staff support site (in WebLearn) includes a set of frequently asked questions, which may be useful for staff to refer to. Examples include the following questions:

Consider joining the Oxford Turnitin User Group, which includes a mailing list:
tii-community@weblearn.ox.ac.uk. You may use this email address to communicate with everyone in the site (currently 218 members). Click on Site Members to see a list of all the people enrolled in the site. The site (and hence the mailing list) is accessible only by these site members. An Oxford staff member may join the site (you will be prompted to join if not already a member); and any member may leave the site at any time (go to Site Info and click ‘Unjoin’). We hope to initiate some discussion on the mailing list, so please feel free to post any items about the use of Turnitin at Oxford University.

Contact the central team if you have any questions: turnitin@it.ox.ac.uk

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How can Turnitin be used to investigate the academic integrity of a piece of student writing?

With the need for remote teaching (and particularly open-book exams), we foresee a need for more staff members around the University to make use of Turnitin to screen student work to check for possible text matches to other sources.

To meet the expected higher demand, we have increased staffing on the IT Services help desk, but we cannot predict what sort of demand or response times will be evident as the term progresses. Therefore we encourage you to start thinking early about your planned use of Turnitin for the forthcoming term.

Turnitin is a piece of software that checks the text in student submitted work, and identifies matches that it may find to other electronic sources that it is able to access. The ‘other electronic sources’ may be journal articles (where there is a partnership agreement with the publishers), billions of web pages (current and archived), and a repository of previously-submitted student work that is stored in the ever-growing Turnitin databases.

As a tool, Turnitin is not able to make the claim or provide evidence that plagiarism has occurred. If a similarity report raises concern, it must be scrutinised by an examiner or academic to apply their academic judgement.

Some useful terminology:

Similarity report (also called the ‘originality report’) – the report that is returned after Turnitin has screened a student submission, showing identified matches to existing electronic sources.

Similarity score (as a percentage) – the number of words that has been found to match other sources, out of the total number of words in the student submission. Clearly, a lower percentage is ‘better’, and a higher percentage requires further investigation.

Note that there is no ‘magic threshold’, since all matches need to be interpreted using academic judgement.

Two recommended videos on interpreting Turnitin similarity reports: (note that these represent a general scenario, where a student is being helped to improve their academic writing – not necessarily a summative examination scenario)

  1. Oxford Brookes tutor: demonstrating various high/low scores and their interpretation (8:46 mins) aimed at students, but a helpful comparison of the implications of various scores
  2. Monash University: comparing four similarity reports, in various subject disciplines (7:18 mins)

We have an existing Turnitin Community User Group site in WebLearn. The site is ‘joinable’, which means anyone with an Oxford SSO can go there and select ‘Join this site’. Those who no longer wish to be members of the site (and the associated mailing list), can go there, click on Site Info, and then on ‘Unjoin’. The Turnitin User Group site has an associated mailing list: tii-community@weblearn.ox.ac.uk. Anyone who is a member of the site is automatically subscribed to this mailing list. If you post to that address, your message will go to the 219 people who are currently members of the site.

Remember to come back and check this Oxford Turnitin blog frequently for updates.

More resources

Turnitin support sites in WebLearn

Contact us

  • Using Turnitin through WebLearn (or Canvas) assignments tool (students submit their work): weblearn@it.ox.ac.uk
  • Using Quick Submit via the Turnitin (direct) website (administrator submits a batch of student papers) – request an instructor account if you do not have one already: turnitin@it.ox.ac.uk
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2019 Turnitin User Summit

Fawei and I recently had a trip up to Newcastle to attend the 2019 Turnitin Summit at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. I thought it would be good to give a summary.

Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tompagenet/227084396/

Quite a lot has happened with Turnitin in 2019 not least the takeover by the Advance Publications family of companies. In a similar vein to last year, there was a lot of talk about the plague of essay mills and their ever-evolving tactics employed to keep one step ahead of the game – some essay writers will now guarantee a low similarity score in order to attract customers.

The first talk from Val Schreiner was an overview of Turinitin’s long term plans  / ambitions.

Turnitin would like more visibility of their “results” within VLE. There is growing acknowledgement that the most visible metric – the similarity score – is actually a fairly small part of the jigsaw. Most VLEs concentrate on showing a percentage match plus a colour code (green / amber / red) and this is the only indication that one sees in a VLE: a high percentage plus “red” indicator can be quite worrying for students.

As Turnitin expands its attention towards more complex submission types (often by STEM subjects) they must educate their users to be more considerate in their interpretation of high level metrics. For example, a similarity score of 100% for an answer to a maths problem can mean two entirely different things

  • it is an extremely strong indicator of collaboration if both students got the answer wrong
  • it may be a strong indicator of competence if both students got the correct answer (or one may have copied the other’s correct answer!)

Val spoke about a new marking tool for STEM subjects called GradeScope, this supplements GradeMark which is focused on marking essay type questions. More about GradeScope later.

There is a plan to offer formative feedback to students as they being to compose their essays, this would take the form of a Word or Google Docs plugin and would be akin to spell and grammar checking tools.

The “Code Similarity” tool (formerly Code Investigate) for highlighting plagiarism within computer programmes has moved out of pilot and is now offered as a “beta” tool. Val commented that “adding new programming languages is easy”.

Another one of the products announced last year has a new name, it is now known as “Authorship” (instead of “Authorship Investigate”). Authorship is now on its third release.

Turnitin would like to offer more tools to manage “Complex Workflows” (paper and digital) and would like to standardise grading workflows across all assignments and all disciplines. (I took this to mean they plan to merge GradeMark & GradeScope but in my mind, this seems a long way off.) It also sounds like Turnitin would like to enter the e-exams market as they spoke about implementing ‘”browser lock-down”, “ID verification” and “Proctoring” – Val spoke about enabling remote summative exams via the aforementioned initiatives.

There were a couple of announcements about improving reporting dashboards. Two areas mentioned were

  • a “persona dashboard” – this is a longitudinal summary of an individual student
  • a high-level “institutional view” for senior managers and committees

Turinitin are planning a new implementation framework whereby the individual components mentioned above can be made available without having to buy the whole gamut. They also plan to allow other tools to be plugged in. They didn’t go into details (or give examples) but I assume they are talking about IMS LTI compliant tools.

Next up was Ron Park (CTO) followed by Bill Loller (Product Manager) and then Zemina Hasham (Customer Experience).

Ron spoke about load testing Turnitin – he stated that they were confident that they could handle a load of over 6 times the current peak. (There have been one billion submissions in the eleven months since 1 Jan 2019.)

Ron is also in charge of R&D and mentioned an initiative in using synonym replacement when compiling similarity reports. Apparently there are a number of tools which will “re-phrase” chunks of text using synonym replacement (known as “word spinners”) so in the arms-race that is contract cheating, Turnitin must also do their own synonym replacement when attempting to identify textual matches. Ron is also overseeing an initiative to detect plagiarised images (pictures and diagrams)

Bill spoke about upcoming improvements to the Canvas integration – feedback about problems will be available in the Canvas UI – this is for both staff and students. Zemina acknowledged that there have been certain failings in support and announced that they will be implementing a self-service portal where Turnitin admins will be able to access a service dashboard to check on the progress of support tickets. This should come online “early next year”.

GradeScope

The best breakout session was an overview of the very impressive GradScope product. As mentioned above, this is aimed at  STEM subjects and manages the marking process. Apparently LTI 1.3 support is planned for the near future.

GradeScope has a great strap-line “Turning grading into learning”. This aside, the tool does look interesting – it is essentially a tool for marking handwritten exam type scripts. The process starts with the question sheet being scanned and the areas where questions will be answered identified and assigned a question number. The next task is to scan student submissions. There is also a “homework module” wjhere the studen submissions can be scanned and uploaded and the tool will integrate with a VLE (via IMS LTI) and display in an iFrame.

Once the groundwork has been done, the marking can begin. The system supports multiple markers with individuals either sharing the marking of an single question or each marker looking at a different question.

The idea behind turning grading into marking is that markers can provide ‘actionable feedback’ but also should be able to spot where a lot of people are making the same mistake or where a question has appeared to be ambiguous to students. They can adjust their teaching / exam question authoring accordingly.

To use GradeScope effectively, one must set up a series of rubrics – where a student has made a mistake a the rubric should include a mark to be subtracted from the final score. This mark can be modified retrospectively and all individual marks will be recalculated. It is also possible to group multiple question answers together and mark them all at once thus saving time. One can either group manually of employ AI matching routines to group answers, the grouping can be modified if mistakes have been made during the auto-grouping.

AI is also used to try to decipher that student’s name and link to the individual in the roster. Audience members pointed out that for summative exams, relying on AI techniques would be risky.

Student Authoring Assistance

In this session, Turnitin outlined their plans for helping students whilst composing. The tool will (optionally) offer help with spelling, grammar, referencing, citation styles, paraphrasing and will offer on-demand similarity checking.

Contract Cheating

The plenary session focused on contract cheating. It is estimated that 6% of essays fall into the category of “cheating” but only 1% of essays are identified as falling into this category. It was also noted that contract cheating tactics are evolving fast and Turnitin is constantly playing catch-up. Apparently the essay mills are now targeting secondary school students using YouTube influencers and the like to attract attention.

The QAA have been working with the government on criminalising contract cheating companies which will then allow the law to be used to remove YouTube adverts and take down website. This initiative has stalled due to the upcoming general election.

Useful Links

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Turnitin Scheduled Maintenance 13 July 16:00-00:00

The following Turnitin services will be unavailable on July 13 2019 from 16:00 – 00:00:

  • Turnitin and TurnitinUK,
  • Feedback Studio for iOS
  • iThenticate
  • WriteCheck

Here is the explanation from Turnitin:

To ensure that services remain stable, particularly during high submission periods, this maintenance will include several hardware updates and performance improvements.

How will you be affected?

Users will be unable to create new Turnitin-enabled assignments and grade during this maintenance window.  You can, however, create regular WebLearn assignments and retroactively add Turnitin checking to the assignment later.

Any assignments submitted via WebLearn during this period will be queued and dispatched once the maintenance window is over.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Message from Turnitin about the recent takeover

As you may have read on several media platforms over the past few weeks, Turnitin is joining the Advance family of companies! We’re getting in touch to briefly explain what this means for you, and how we plan to move forward following the acquisition.

Why Advance?

Advance’s long-term perspective and commitment to education make them the perfect partner to help Turnitin pursue our mission of engaging students and teachers worldwide. While Advance may be best known for its ownership of Condé Nast, they have a broad and diverse portfolio of media, communications, and technology assets and have been looking to invest in education and educational technology.

What does this mean for you?

Turnitin will continue operations as usual. The acquisition by Advance will not impact our current offerings or how we work with our users. We will continue as a forward-thinking company that is focused on delivering high-value solutions for instructors and students that save time, improve student outcomes, and promote academic integrity. Advance is a long term home for Turnitin and will support us in realising our vision of being a platform for academic institutions, where students can submit papers or digital assignments across subject areas and file type.

Will there be any changes to how Turnitin operates after the acquisition?

Through this message, we’d like to reassure our customers that we will remain a stand-alone company with our own leadership, mission, values, and culture. The acquisition will allow us to continue to branch out into tools that support grading and feedback in additional disciplines, such as STEM fields, and create additional solutions that leverage leading-edge technologies, including AI, machine learning, and computer vision. Improvement is our only intended change moving forward. Together with Advance, we will further enhance the company’s core products, invest in emerging technologies and explore new opportunities to best serve you.

How will the acquisition affect the privacy of student data?

At Turnitin, we have no intention of using our database for anything other than refining our current offerings in order to contribute to the academic integrity policies that run through your institution. Integrity remains a core value which we will continue to uphold in all aspects of the business, including the standards and processes around data privacy and intellectual property. We are committed to treating each other and our customers with trust and respect; as such, we advocate for the protection and safeguarding of our users’ data in our interactions with our customers, and with other companies.

Posted in TII news | Leave a comment

The Turnitin user guides have moved again

Photo credit Katherine Johnson. https://www.flickr.com/photos/aka_kath/3035341007/

The Turnitin user guides are on the move again! They can now be found at https://help.turnitin.com.

Information about Turnitin UK service is still to be found at https://www.turnitin.com/regions/uk

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Turnitin new add-on: Authorship Investigate

Recent articles (see below) have highlighted growing concern about students purchasing made-to-order essays and assignments from so-called ‘essay mills’ or ‘essay writing services’ and how universities need to raise awareness about the practice and the risks involved. The practice is known as ‘contract cheating’.

Oxford University has been aware of this practice for a number of years, and warns students by means of lunch-time awareness sessions, study skills websites and other support services (Oxford login required). Students are also warned not to seek free so-called ‘plagiarism checking’ services, which may be spurious (for example, resulting in stealing original work and selling it to others).

From January 2019, the providers of Turnitin will launch a new add-on product called Authorship Investigate. This tool makes use of forensic linguistics and machine learning to investigate a piece of student writing based on the student’s usual style, tone and other linguistic characteristics. As always, a software tool can only flag issues that may deserve further investigation and interpretation by experts in the field.

More information:

Posted in TII news | Leave a comment