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Turnitin Conference 2015 (London)

26 October 2015
Image of Big Ben

by Dewi Parry

photo of big ben

This is the first and last time I’m going to mention getting up at 5.45am to go to a conference! Apart from that, it was great to go down to Westminster again, and to the QEII Centre for this year’s Turnitin Conference. If you have a twitter account, you can follow the tweet progress of the conference using #tii2015.

As I’m well aware when you go to these things, one of the common phrases that are churned out regularly is “it’s on the roadmap”. This means that for the most part, common problems – those things that niggle at us every day, are being looked at and improved – and they are always more complicated than we could ever imagine!

One further phrase that was used quite heavily during the conference was “Technical Deficit”, which means that the company are having to completely re-structure their back end operations in order to expand. This is some thing that Will Murray (Chief Product Officer) was keen to stress – going forward they would have to technically overhaul.

Moving on to the product itself, the figures are mind boggling. The database behind the system lists 57 billion web pages (with a new deeper crawler on way), 143 million STM journals and contains 570 million essays. 26 million students are now enrolled on the system, and the Turnitin student essays database increases by 130 million new papers every year.

Currently there are 3 different versions of Turnitin for Blackboard, Basic, Direct, and Direct 2.5. The company’s roadmap for development is to have one version “Next” in the future, developed through using LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability). Turnitin advised self hosted Blackboard institutions who are thinking of moving to hosted to get in touch with them to iron out problems. The move from their URL over to .com has also kicked up some problems.

As the Turnitin staff mentioned themselves, they are aware of their problems with support and communications, a problem many institutions, not just ours, have with the company. Apparently, there is a massive reorganisation of Turnitin support (better routing for support calls for staff on way, and human responses as opposed to generic electronic responses), where we will hope to see results of this from January 2016. Embedded help and support are apparently coming to Blackboard and Moodle, and more account manager site visits – which is a welcomed improvement from the current Turnitin support model, which is problematic.

So, a roundup of up and coming improvements and developments (I’m not putting dates against these, as they didn’t):

  • Student centric reports;
  • Peer assessment to be revamped;
  • Formatting for bubble comments;
  • New Evaluation/Document viewer, streamlined user interface – looks good!;
  • Responsive design;
  • Use of Layering on scripts (comments, double marking etc);
  • Doubleblind marking in 2017!! (on the roadmap but a long way down the road);
  • Multiple instructors and groups;
  • New “Revision Assistant” tool;
  • Drawing tools for Grademark;
  • Turnitin file size limit is now 40mb rather than 20mb – live now.

There are more developments to be seen on the image of the roadmap:

tii developments roadmap
tii developments roadmap

As we are well into another year of using Turnitin for assessments, please bear a few things in mind:

  • Please report all problems via the Helpdesk – We can not investigate problems if we don’t know what they are.
  • If you are a staff member and don’t understand Turnitin or Grademark, please visit our induction/refresher module on Learning Central, where we have materials to help you get going.
  • Please visit our very own FAQ site for further information about Turnitin and Grademark:
  • There is also discussion around problems within connections – look for the Turnitin Community (but still report your problems via the helpdesk).
  • Please visit the new “Manuals and Guides” section of Turnitin’s website:
  • Please make sure that whoever sets up your assignments in Turnitin have the correct knowledge to do so. If they don’t, please contact us for advice.

Thanks (diolch) to Owain Huw of the Coleg Cymraeg for his company on Friday – it was very much appreciated. And finally, here is a twitter roundup of the conference, with thanks to Leo Havemann of Birkbeck, University of London for putting them together: