Turnitin's academic integrity product was bought for Lancaster University about 8 years ago. One of the ways in which academic integrity would be breached would be if plagiarism had occurred, hence it is also known as an "anti-plagiarism tool". Those of us charged with looking after it try to make sure not to call it that, because it is the departments' decision whether or not plagiarism occurred, and because as Learning Technologists, we hope that the product can be used for something more constructive than just catching cheats.
Anyway, as things stand, all we have bought is the academic integrity tool from Turnitin, and that is all that the University centrally says that we should have bought. However, the Turnitin company bundle several other products related to the process of student work, and they give away usage allowances of 10% of the total allowance for student licences. We did not, by default turn these products on, because we believe that these extra products are essentially freebie tasters offered by the company to entice the University into using them - whether or not the programs being promoted in this way are suitable for use here at Lancaster.
Making the decision to turn them on is not one made lightly because:
- We don't have a mandate from the University to offer these products as services.
- The products may or may not be the best way of providing these services, and no evaluation has taken place to check whether they offer good value for money, fit into existing University systems, or, in one case whether using this product might breach University rules about knowing who has access to their student data.
- If usage crosses the 10% boundary for any product, or looks set to, the University then has to make the decision about whether it's going to make this product a service and pay for it, or whether the product in question does not have a long term future. At that stage, people in management might well ask why they had been placed in this position.
However, it has been pointed out to us recently that some people may believe that these extra products are part of what Lancaster University has bought from the company, because the Turnitin interface is designed to make it appear as one big, all-encompassing tool. In order to clarify the situation, and hopefully stimulate the argument about whether we should use these tools or find alternatives, we've written this page to explain the situation as best we can. This page will also hopefully dissipate any feelings that there could be that we are withholding information about products from academics.
The main issues are, we feel:
- Pedagogy. The American way of learning is not quite the same as the British one. Are these American tools, designed for their home market, flexible enough to work with the different British pedagogical mechanisms?
- Existing policy decisions. Several decisions made already might have to be reversed. Amongst these are the decision to hold student marks on-site, and to have a single sign-on mechanism for students. Turnitin do not have a mechanism that interfaces with our student records system, and so either they'd have to all sign themselves on to each new course, or staff would have to upload class lists of students by hand for each class.
- Security of student data. This must have been thought of by Turnitin, but we'd need to check with them and with our legal/copyright people if we started holding student marking details offsite on their on-line databases.
The four extra Turnitin products are PeerMark, which lets students mark each others' work, GradeMark, which provides a swish on-line overlay interface for staff to attach comments to their students' work, GradeBook, which lets staff grade the work, and Discussion Boards, which offer the ability for staff and students to discuss work on-line.
PeerMark allows students who have been given logins to Turnitin to comment upon each others' work, enabling types of collaborative work and assessment. It does not change the Turnitin user interface very much if it is turned on, and because it is extremely unlikely to be used for every course, we felt that there was little chance of ever exceeding the 10% usage that would mean that the university would have to pay for it. because there is no close integration between the student records system and Turnitin.
A lecturer asked us to turn PeerMark on, and we did so without consultation because it seemed unlikely to affect the work of others or the software budget. It is currently turned on for the main Turnitin account for Lancaster University. More information about PeerMark is in the following link, and written details are in the Turnitin main guides, which are linked to from the bottom of the page.
GradeMark allows staff to post comments on student work as a layer over the student essay, which appears on-screen as it would if loaded into Microsoft Word, or other supported file formats. The layer mechanism works the same when displaying internet matches, and the two can be coupled, so the staff member marking can comment upon, for example, poor instances of attributation as part of the marking process.
Disadvantages with the current GradeMark system that Turnitin offers are that the output with overlays cannot be printed as a report at present, and in order for students to see their comments, they have to login as them, so they'll need a student login, and the login process is not currently integrated with our student records system. We need to investigate whether the forthcoming Moodle VLE will resolve this, or whether it will through up any difficulties. In addition, staff marking work will need to be on-line to do it, which could be problematic if they often mark work where they don't have an internet connection. An extra issue could be committing to a proprietry product with relatively small usage - the comments on Microsoft Word would be a more ubiquous way of providing comment overlays, for example - and Word can be used off-line, and be printed in full. A student login to a separate system is not a pre-requisite for an MS Word based system, either. It also appears that the Word processing tool in OpenOffice 3.x supports comments in word processor documents - known as "Notes", and so it might be possible to create an "Open Source" on-line marking solution that is integrated with the student records system and works off-line without paying Turnitin or anyone else anything. (see http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Notes2).
Now that resources within LTG have been freed up from supporting the in-house VLE, perhaps a trial could be done to enable a proper comparison to be made. Nevertheless, it is the only computer-based marking system available to staff at the moment.
GradeMark was requested by a staff member, and we asked for management intervention before we enabled it, because it alters the user interface markedly, making it look as though this product had been deliberately purchased, and because we wished to be covered in case its use exceeded 10%, so that we could point to the commitee who had asked for it if anyone asked us why we'd done it. A request to enable this product was made from the Management School IT commitee subsequently, and we have now enabled this product for use on the main Turnitin account for Lancaster University.
More information is available via the following links, and full information can be optained via the links at the end of this document:
Note that this video is about a facility called "QuickMarks", and whilst it is enabled for Lancaster Uni currently, we feel that there are questions to be asked about the storage of student marks off-site. See GradeBook, below for more on this.
The GradeBook products allows students to track student grades and attendance for a class. Various rubrics can be used to adjust how student work is graded, and then after scoring, student marks can be exported out of the system as an Excel compatible document. Marking currently needs to be done whilst the academic marking is on-line.
If it was decided to use this product, we would need to check with both departments and the people writing the records system to make sure that its facilities matched the requirements of academic staff and could easily be used to input important grading information into University systems securely and routinely, despite the only mechanism being a manual downlaod of Excel compatible files. We'd also need to talk to both Turnitin and people at the University who are experts in issues surrounding the privacy and confidentiality of student marking data.
This is not a product that can just be turned on for student use, quite apart from the fact that we'd have to pay for it if it was the standard way of collecting student marks, and it seems unlikely that we could have more than one system to do this job.
This product is not enabled, and there would have to be some serious consultation with a load of different people before we ever did turn it on for the main account. A site installation will usually have multiple accounts associated with it for different purposes, as ours does, and we have created an experimental account that staff only see if they ask for it. The lecturer would need to set up their assignments within this account - they cannot convert ones in the main account that the students are already using, and the lecturer using this experiment would need to handle the data confidentiality and privacy issues for their course. We would, of course, be really interested in knowing what the University's feeling is on the many different aspects of the handling of student marking data, and would assist where possible in showing the University how the different options worked.
More information on GradeBook is in the manuals linked to at the end of this document.
Turnitin has discussion boards which are relatively like the ones available in the current Notes-based VLE, LUVLE, and the ones available in the forthcoming campus VLE, which will be Moodle. The rationale about whether or not the Turnitin discussion boards should be turned on should be related to the question of why we should turn on another discussion board that we have to pay for when we already have plenty of discussion areas elsewhere. The Turnitin product would be very useful for a small university without a VLE that wished to handle marking and student discussion in one place with little effort; it's just that at Lancaster, with its history of home-grown VLEs, it isn't really that useful.
As was the case for GradeBook, the discussion boards facility can be turned on experimentally for lecturers, but not for the main account, as it changes the user interface in a way that might lead people to believe that we'd introduced it as a service. More information is in the main manuals for Turnitin, which are below.
Turnitin documentation for Turnitin 2
Here are the full manuals for Turnitin from Turnitin's website at http://www.submit.ac.uk
Student manual: http://www.submit.ac.uk/static_jisc/ac_uk_training.html#student
Instructor manual: http://www.submit.ac.uk/static_jisc/ac_uk_training.html#instructor
Administrator manual: http://www.submit.ac.uk/static_jisc/ac_uk_training.html#administrator