Friday, 20 July 2012

Event Report: Turnitin International User Group

Image from David Coxon available under CC license
This event was held on the 16th July 2012 at the Sage in Gateshead. The Sage (see pic) if you're not familiar with it, is a large, wonderfully futuristic and modern looking building that regularly hosts a wide variety of musical events. 

This user group event was also particularly notable for having a number of the Turnitin/Iparadigms executive team members present from the Turnitin HQ in Oakland California: Chris Caren (CEO), Will Murray (VP International), Christian Storm (Chief Technology Officer and co-founder) and Steve Golik (VP Product Management). An initial introduction was given by Chris Caren and Will Murray that outlined their vision for Turnitin as a complete solution to developing and improving students writing skills (e.g. ethical writing, essay structure, referencing and citation) over the next 3 - 5 years. They saw this vision happening primarily through  development of functionality in Originality Check, GradeMark and PeerMark that would encourage more formative use of Turnitin.

 Update on Research

 Christian Storm gave us a short presentation on the research Turnitin is undertaking at present. This included: 
  • Developing the Originality Check text matching abilities across different languages (including those languages that are written right to left) 
  • The ability to exclude phrases and standard forms from the Originality Report, which would allow instructors to separate the “signal” from the “noise” when interrogating the OR
  •  Looking at addressing the international problem of “ghostwriters” or “hired hands” that allow students to pay a 3rd party for their essays to be written. Turnitin are looking at addressing this through “Stylometrics”, to see if they can get Turnitin to identify differences in a person’s writing style
  • Developing Turnitin's capacity to handle non-written work. This might include images, mathematical formulae or architectural drawings

 Q & A  

Next up we had a question and answer session involving the Executive team. This was a lively discussion which involved discussion of topics as wide ranging as: support for the welsh language, Turnitin use in legal cases (where plagiarism has been found), mobile working and any improvements to the API(Application Programming Interface). 

 Steve Golik then talked about some of the changes that have happened over the last 12 months including the introduction of: source release, audio feedback and the instructor dashboard (to also be made available to integrations over the next year). You can find out more about these features in the "what's new" area of the Turnitin site.


Chris Murray and Steve Golik then gave us an insight into planned or under discussion improvements that we may see in the near future....

  •  Integrations: API: A new version of the Turnitin API for Blackboard and Moodle.This will be a REST standard API. (Likely introduction next summer - 2013)
  •  Analytics: The ability to pull out more meaningful statistics for Turnitin usage at local level for instructors and administrators
  •  Improvements in workflows: In particular addressing the much discussed double(second) marking and moderation needs
  • Common core rubrics: Development of a shared set of core rubrics. It was outlined that this functionality applies more to the US audience than the UK however it will be interesting to see how this works in practice
  • Retrievable digital receipts: Allowing students to retrieve their digital receipt where necessary after they have submitted an assignment
  •  Flexible grading: Allowing GradeMark to handle decimal points in numeric grading and allowing letter grading 
  •  Turnitin for researchers: Developing a designated place for researchers to submit their articles/journals 
  •  Mobile working: Development and release of an IPad native app that allows both on-line and off-line grading. The potential functionality would also include a paper search function in addition to the usual audio and text commentary feedback areas. We were told that this is still very much a work in progress. (Likely early 2013)

Mobile Working

 Regarding the latter point, there was some further discussion over mobile working development. Not least I also raised the question of how lack of current mobile support presents us with a potential barrier to e-assessment. It seems currently that the Ipad is the device in favour, but there is an argument for Institutions that android is not only cheaper, but also (and if the show of hands given in the user group for those using android devices was anything to go by), used almost as much as Ipad.

Final thoughts...

 As the conference was sandwiched into an afternoon the user group meeting flew past very quickly and there were a gazillion more questions I think we would have all liked to ask. At least I think we did manage to look at some of the more salient points regarding Turnitin developments. I am also glad to hear that Turnitin have improved upon their communications strategies with Institutional administrators and will also look forward to seeing some of these function developments arrive (second marking and improved admin interface ahem!).

 Finally I would also like to thank Turnitin for the many freebies in the delegate packs: A hand fan (with lights thanks to some sort of crazy sensor!) bag,  programme, poster and pen...I am impressed.


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