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

Turnitin will be unavailable on Saturday Jan 5th 2019 from 16:00 – 00:00

Turnitin will be unavailable between 4pm and 12am on Saturday 5th January. All submissions made through WebLearn during this period will be queued and processed once the maintenance is complete. It will not be possible to create a new assignment which routes essays via Turnitin during the maintenance window but it will be possible to retrospectively enable Turnitin once the window has closed.

It will not be possible to submit directly to Turnitin during the maintenance period.

Here’s the original note from Turnitin.

Scheduled Maintenance

We’re just dropping you a note to inform you that the following Turnitin services will be unavailable on January 5th, 2019:

  • Turnitin and TurnitinUK (including all integrations and Turnitin Early Adopter Program)
  • SimCheckOEM (TCA API)
  • Feedback Studio for iOS
  • iThenticate
  • WriteCheck

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

When will services be unavailable?

  • PST January 5 08:00 – 16:00
  • GMT January 5 16:00 – 00:00 (January 6)
  • AEST January 6 02:00 – 10:00

Is your time zone not listed? Click here to find out when you’ll be affected.

How will you be affected?

While we’d love to provide an uninterrupted service, our machines require a health check every now and again…

Users will be unable to submit and grade during this maintenance window, so please ensure that any grading or submission deadlines are adjusted to fall outside of the window.

Thanks for your patience!

Stay up to date with Turnitin system status by following @TurnitinStatus on Twitter.

Follow @TurnitinStatus

Turnitin, LLC, 2101 Webster St. Suite 1800, Oakland, California 94612

Posted in TII news | Leave a comment

Changes to turnitinuk.com

Keen-eyed readers may note that www.turnitinuk.com now requires a login. Fear not as public content is still available via the follow two public URLs

[Added by Jill, 05/11/2018: In other words, one needs to go via turnitin.com to access training and support materials, not directly to www.turnitinuk.com]

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Turnitin Scheduled Maintenance – 28 October 9am – 9.30am

We have just received this from Turnitin. WebLearn will queue all essay submissions and process them once the maintenance is complete.

No new assignments should be created whilst Turnitin is unavailable.

We’re just dropping you a note to let you know the following Turnitin services will be briefly unavailable on October 28, 2018:

  • Turnitin and TurnitinUK (including all integrations and Turnitin Early Adopter Program)
  • SimCheckOEM (TCA API)
  • Feedback Studio for iOS
  • iThenticate
  • WriteCheck

To ensure that services remain stable, particularly during high submission periods, this micro maintenance (30 minutes) will include several hardware updates and performance improvements.

When will services be unavailable?

GMT Oct 28th 09:00 – 09:30

Is your time zone not listed? Click here to find out when you’ll be affected.

How will you be affected?

While we’d love to provide an uninterrupted service, our machines require a health check every now and again…

Users will be unable to submit and grade during this maintenance window, so please ensure that any submission deadlines are adjusted to fall outside of the window.

Thanks for your patience!

Stay up to date with Turnitin system status by following @TurnitinStatus on Twitter.

Follow @TurnitinStatus

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Turnitin Scheduled Maintenance: Sept 22 4pm – 12:30am (Sept 23)

A message from Turnitin.

To clarify, during the maintenance period (Sept 22 4pm – 12:30am (Sept 23))

  • it will not be possible to create or submit assignments via the Turnitin website
  • it will not be possible to create a new Turnitin-enabled assignment in WebLearn (although you can create a regular assignment and then enable Turnitin checking at a later date)
  • all submissions to Turnitin-enabled assignments made via WebLearn will be queued and checked once the maintenance has run its course

Dear Customers,

You may have noticed that some Turnitin customers recently experienced intermittent service interruptions or degradations. We apologize if you were one of the customers affected, and we are happy to report that our services are currently stable.

To prevent further issues of this nature, we will be performing some proactive emergency maintenance that will temporarily disrupt our services including:

  • Turnitin and TurnitinUK (including all integrations)
  • SimCheckOEM (TCA API)
  • Feedback Studio for iOS
  • iThenticate (including iThenticate via API)
  • WriteCheck

When will services be unavailable?

PDT Sept 22 8am – 4:30pm

BST Sept 22 4pm – 12:30am (Sept 23)

AEST Sept 23 1am – 9:30am

Is your time zone not listed? Click here to find out when you’ll be affected.

How will you be affected?

Users will be unable to submit and grade during this maintenance window, so please ensure that any submission deadlines are adjusted to fall outside of the window.

Thanks for your understanding and continued support of Turnitin.

Stay up to date with Turnitin system status by following @TurnitinStatus on Twitter.

Follow @TurnitinStatus

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Turnitin Status Page

Turnitin have introduced a new “dynamic” status page which gives real-time information on the health of their systems. It also outlines any planned downtime. Be sure to check the Turnitin UK section (and not the general Turnitin area).

It maybe worth pointing out how a Turnitin outage affects users. There are two scenarios:

  1. use via WebLearn
  2. (direct) use via the TurnitinUK website

Use of Turnitin via WebLearn

Outage of TurnitinUK will

  • not affect the submission of papers via WebLearn. WebLearn will queue any submissions and will dispatch them to Turnitin once the service is restored.
  • will affect the viewing of originality scores and originality reports – neither of these facilities will be available until the service is restored.

Direct Use of Turnitin via the TurnitinUK Website

Outage of TurnitinUK will affect both the submission of papers and the viewing of reports and scores.

These facilities will only be available once the service is restored.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment