Thursday, 19 July 2012

International Turnitin User Group Meeting

The International Turnitin User Group meeting took place on Monday 16th July at the Sage in Gateshead, just before the start of the 5th International Plagiarism Conference. This was a great opportunity to meet with Turnitin representatives as well as other Turnitin users, to compare experiences and find out about the product roadmap.

After a welcome from Will Murray (VP International), Christian Storm (CTO) gave an update on recent developments and current research in the Turnitin suite.

It's clear that there has been a shift in focus from plagiarism detection towards supporting assessment and feedback, with a view to improving student outcomes. Turnitin aims to be the complete solution for improving student writing and the best-in-class solution for grading. It seems that the company has really been listening to its customers, and my impression is that future directions are very positive and exciting.

Recent developments include voice based grading (which I haven't played with yet), fewer noisy matches and false positives, translated plagiarism (e.g. via google translate) and support for left to right languages (e.g. Arabic). Current research is looking at more advanced phrase exlusion, so that particular phrases (perhaps specific to the discipline, or "boilerplate" text) can be excluded from reports by assignment, or forever. Turnitin is also working on stylometrics, which can identify changes in writing style, to help address the problem of ghost writing.

On the integration side, Turnitin has been working on new APIs, meaning new integrations for Moodle and Blackboard. Different roles and views are also being considered, to facilitate double marking or read-only access. It was stressed that each institution has different workflows, which are a challenge to defining roles.

During the Q&A session there was lively discussion involving plans for globalisation of the product and adding more languages (must get Irish on the list); legal defensibility of decisions arising from originality reports; support for more varied filetypes and assessment types; PeerMark lite, allowing peer review earlier in the workflow; communication with customers about new product features (still not ideal); customer involvement in beta testing; improved workflow for anonymous marking; and bulk download of originality reports for archival purposes. And all this before coffee!

Somebody raised a question about a dashboard for policy makers - which might allow access to orginiality reports to support benchmarking for individual teachers, departments or even institutions. There was a collective intake of breath at this point. Turnitin executives hastened to reassure that this was not a likely development, and that it would require a huge a amount of data. However, there has been a focus on improved analytics, for students, staff and administrators.

The Product Roadmap
After the coffee break, Steve Golik (VP Product Management) gave us some updates on the product roadmap, repeating the vision of the company To be the world's more innovative and effective technology for improving students' written work.

One welcome development is the GradeMark interactive tutorial, which allows instructors to practice and get used to the functionality of GradeMark without worrying about live student work.

The new Instructor Dashboard is currently being rolled out, providing a more modern entry point and easier navigation. Unfortunately this is not yet available via integrations, but the interface looks clean and user-friendly.

On the horizon are common core rubrics, which will make the sharing of rubrics easier. Also, digital receipts will be accessible within the system, by both instructors and students, improving traceability. There will be more flexible grading and marking, including support for letter grades and decimal points.

Grading on an iPad
In the last 6 months I've been working with a number of academic staff to use of GradeMark to support electronic assessment and feedback for students. One barrier to this has been that the full functionality of GradeMark doesn't work on an iPad.

Perhaps the most exciting development is the new GradeMark iPad app, due for release in January 2013. Steve gave a demo of the current version, which looks very promising. This will be an instructor focussed, grading application, giving full support for grading, voice comments, text comments, access to rubrics, on-paper marking and with originality as a layer. An instructor can grade offline; the app will synch back to the web when the iPad has a suitable connection.

I tried to get a photo of the demo as it was happening, but the screen was just too bright for my camera to focus.

More on What's New with Turnitin is available online and by following @TurnitinProduct on twitter.

That, more or less, brought the User Group meeting to a close, in time for the start of the International Plagiarism Conference, but it was not the end of discussions about Turnitin. I'll blog about the conference in the next couple of days.

Cath Ellis has already written a number of blog posts on the event:
(I'm beginning to suspect she is WonderWoman)

No comments: