Changes to TurnItIn for next year

The Learn interface to TurnItIn is changing next year.  When the new edition of Learn is released on July 22nd, all TurnItIn assignments will need to be re-created for the new session.  This is no different from previous years, although the software will look slightly different (see: Changes to Turnitin ).

A six-slide PowerPoint presentation is available to show students how to submit coursework using the new TurnItIn assignment.  It may be added to a module as a standalone resource or incorporated into a lecture presentation.

  • If your module uses a TurnItIn assignment activity, a new instance of the activity will need to be created in the 2014-15 module, just as you should have created a new activity last year.
  • The new TurnItIn assignments will be created with a new version of the software, and work through a new TurnItIn account.
  • As usual, students involved in the SAP will use last year’s edition of Learn (which will be called Learn13) and the old 2013 TurnItIn assignments will still work.

TurnItIn for any assignment

TurnItIn have recently announced their Grade Anything initiative, which allows the system to accept files of any type for evaluation.  Obviously the text-matching will only work with files containing text.  However the GradeMark online marking tool is now applicable for a much wider variety of student coursework, as is demonstrated on their video clips .

Don’t get too excited, though – there is no hint that the TurnItIn file size limit of 20 MBytes per file will be increased, so image portfolios or video clips are still likely to be too big to be submitted to TurnItIn.

However one workaround is the ability to use the marking and feedback tools without any submission being present, using a ‘submission template’ (i.e. a blank document).  You might use this to comment on a multimedia submission handed in by some other means, or to assess a live performance e.g. in Drama or Sports Science.

TurnItIn is shifting its emphasis from Originality Checking towards a focus on online marking and feedback provision.  The original functionality is still there and works as it always has done: the ability to handle any file type is an additional feature.

TurnItIn shifts focus

The September TurnItIn UK User Group meeting was hosted by Leeds Uni this year.
It followed the usual format of a position statement by the host, an overview of the development roadmap and case studies from users.

There are big changes under way at TurnItIn, in response to a massive increase in the demand for their services which have exposed weaknesses in their 10-year old systems. Such is the pace of change that a rolling upgrade programme will see all aspects of the service improved by Spring 2014. Amongst other things, the performance issues that affected some of our users in the summer should be fixed.

The expectation is that by 2016 GradeMark will have taken over from Originality Checking as the main part of the TurnItIn package, so the focus of the software is shifting from Originality Checking towards online marking, without losing any text-matching functionality.


It was good to note that Leeds’ policies on Plagiarism are closely aligned with our new Code of Practice (and what happens elsewhere e.g. Bristol and Cranfield).

For example their objectives are
1) To ensure equal vigour in the detection and treatment of plagiarism across all subjects and
2) To provide equal support for students in referencing study skills across all subjects. They have a standard Plagiarism Study Unit which all freshers take in their first semester as part of their tutorial activities.

Development Roadmap

As part of their upgrading effort, TurnItIn are recruiting development programmers in the UK, and we were asked to pass this on to anyone who may be interested in database development work in Newcastle.

  • The TurnItIn iPad app has been well-received and has been updated several times since the initial release so if you are using it, please check for updates.

By Christmas 2013:

  • Colour printing will added to the Document Viewer
  • PowerPoint files will be accepted for Originality Checking
  • Submission to TurnItIn from Goodle Docs or DropBox will be possible

Early 2014:

  • GradeMark gets criterion-based marking without the complexity of a full rubric

Spring 2014:

  • GradeMark will use overlays, which could be used for marking themes e.g. ‘marks for methodology’, ‘marks for analysis’ etc OR for individual tutors.  Visibility of each layer can be controlled, so double-blind marking will be possible for the first time in any online marking tool.


The dates above carry the usual health warnings, of course!

TurnItIn UK User group meeting

This was at the Senate House, London  on February 15th and was attended by 110 delegates representing over 90 different user institutions.

There was a groundswell of disgruntlement over TII’s failures in 2012: at peak times, the service had failed completely on two occasions.

Looking past the spin that was being put on the situation (“There was a failure of communication”:  ‘NO, there was a failure of the service we are paying for.  Better communication wouldn’t have helped…’), the existing TII infrastructure (which was largely unchanged since it was commissioned in 1998) is showing its age, and then unprecedented demand led to the failures.  A major redesign/replacement of the database system is under way.  One benefit of our recession: it’s easier to recruit programmers in the UK than in California, so a lot of the development work is being done over here.

Twitter and RSS feeds are now available giving service status messages, but these had caused problems where there was confusion between TIIUK and TIIworldwide.  Hence although you could have an RSS block on Learn showing the status of the TII service, it might be more nuisance than it is worth.

Jam tomorrow…

Late 2013 – multiple Administrators for an account will be possible.

May 2013 – An  iPad grading app for GradeMark will be available (for free).  This will allow offline marking with automatic syncing when in WiFi range.  There are no plans for an Android equivalent (“Android has too many variations”) or a laptop equivalent.

Q4 2013: Multiple markers will be accommodated by assigning a marking layer to each marker.  Eventually, the layers will be switchable so that marker B can’t see what marker A has already written.  There will only be one mark per submission, with an audit trail of who changed the mark, and when.

Q4 2013: TurnItIn Research – a version geared towards the comparison of research papers rather than student papers.  Will be an extra-cost option and when challenged, Gill Rowell admitted that it didn’t do much that the existing Quick Submit facility did.

Q4 2013: The Document Viewer will be re-written, so expect minor GUI changes.

All TII integrations with VLEs (including the Moodle Direct integration that we use) are being updated to use a new API.  A new plugin, available from Feb 19th will work with Moodle 2.4; work with PeerMark and Rubric Manager; and is supposed to support annual rollover of TII assignments.

In early May, another new Moodle Direct Beta plugin will be available, giving access to all facilities, including a file viewer for the locally-stored submissions.

Other bits…

The ability to draw freehand annotations on a GradeMark submission is not being planned, though it is known that many users would like it.

The iThenticate website (part of the iParadigms suite) lists all the e-Journals which are in the master database.

The e-Rater add-on is an extra-cost option which performs stylistic analysis on the English grammar and syntax of a submission.  It had been rejected by some UK sites because of Data Protection fears (it keeps its own copies of everything submitted to it, and claims to retain the IPR of the submissions).

Ephorus – an alternative to Turnitin for originality checking

Ephorus Website

I blogged on Ephorus last summer when we tested it as a potential solution to the issue of students submitting plagiarised coursework in languages other than English. In our (non-systematic) testing, it looked as if Ephorus might outperform Turnitin in this specific area.

We’ve now subscribed to the service and it is integrated into Learn (Moodle) as another assignment type, alongside Turnitin. Tutors on the University Wide Language Programme will now be employing it on modules they teach. I’ll report in due course on how they get on.

Electronic Assessment Management group

Many institutions, including Loughborough, are looking at policies around online submission, marking and feedback. Some have already moved to a policy of 100% online submission. Following a recent exchange about this on the national Heads of E-learning Forum (HELF), a new Electronic Assessment Management SIG has been set up, membership of which is open to all in the sector. (I’m on the Steering Group which met for the first time this week.) If you are interested in subscribing to the JISCMAIL list, you can do so at .