Tii News: October 2015 – News from the Turnitin User Group

On Friday, 23rd of October I attended the Turnitin User Group in Westminster, London. The event focused on recent organisational changes at Turnitin, as well updates that we can expect in the forthcoming major release, Turnitin Next. Here is a summary of news from the event.

Turnitin Next

Is currently slated for introduction from March 2016 onwards although this may change based on technical conditions. The introduction will be gradual and staff will be allowed to switch between Next and the current version of Turnitin until they are ready to use the new user interface. When I say that the interface is new, it isn’t that new, it is really an update of the current interface; not so different that you won’t recognise it. Here is a sneaky slide image that I took for reference.

Turnitin Next Photo

In the coming months we will have access to a BETA version of Turnitin Next. During this period we may be able to give interested staff access to the BETA (with the option to switch between current and Next). If you are interested in taking part in this testing window, please contact me at: fdotmacneill(at)brighton.ac.uk.

Some tantalising functions mentioned as part of Turnitin Next

Please note: not all these functions will be available in the first release of Next. There will be iterative updates which introduce new functions.

  • The new Evaluation Viewer (this is their terminology, we normally call it the document viewer) this is what you see in the screenshot above. The initial viewer revamp will be for staff, the student version will follow later (estimated 2nd quarter of 2016).
  • A new version of the Assignment Manager (submission inbox etc.) is planned for the first quarter of 2016.
  • Aspirational changes with rough time-frames:
    • Q4 2015: new Service Level Agreement and improved helpdesk, including revamped help materials available at: https://guides.turnitin.com/
    • Q1 2016: grant individual extensions to specific students
    • Q2 2016: coloured marks to allow the identification of multiple markers on a paper
    • Q3 2016: support for decimal and non-integer grades
    • Q4 2016: peer evaluation – the current peer review tool, PeerMark will be superseded by functionality in next
    • Q1 2017: multiple marker delegation and double blind marking support

There is also a new emphasis on accessiblity at Turnitin, with the adoption of a new Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) with the Paciello Group.

Turnitin research areas

Turnitin has acquired a couple of tech companies and associated technologies. They also have plans to research certain areas. Here is a quick summary of their plans over the next year or so.

  • Q4 2015: Turnitin have acquired MOSS (Measure of Software Similarity) a command line tool for detecting code plagiarism. They hope to integrate this into Turnitin eventually, but may release it to the Turnitin community as-is to begin with…Stay tuned!
  • Q1 2016: research/scoping for an android grading app
  • Q1 2016: research/scoping for support of group work in Turnitin Next

Also of interest…
Turnitin have acquired LightSide (Pittsburgh, USA) and their developers who specialise in machine learning technology now work for Turnitin. LightSide have managed to create automated formative efeedback based on analysis of papers that have already been marked. This is currently only available at the Secondary Ed level in the US and is designed as a way to help students to improve their writing over the course of subsequent drafts, with automated efeedback based on set criteria. It is not designed to replace real feedback from intructors but to provide supplementary feedback for the drafting process (which is something that generally would not be marked). I’ll be interested to see where this goes in the future.

iPad app improvements coming soon

Plans include better syncing and improved password/login. They also plan to add Touch ID support in the future and a student viewer iPad app.

Company changes at Turnitin

Since Turnitin was acquired last year by Insight Venture Partners, they have undergone some major structural and staffing changes.

The key things to know are:

  • Insight Venture Partners have brought in new executive leadership and have put in considerable investment.
  • They now have a Director of User Experience Design, Steph Butler. This is a major step in the right direction in terms of making Turnitin products as user-friendly as possible.
  • They have put a lot of work into improving stability.
  • They are working on improving their customer service and communication with customers.
  • They have moved as a company to an Agile development framework, namely Scrum. This model supports the introduction of small changes and improvements, more often, and means that functions will be added to Turnitin products in iterations, called releases.

Finally… I took part in a Straw Poll on our behalf

  • Coloured marks in GradeMark to indicate different markers – I voted yes
  • Bulk data dump – I voted yes – us LTA folks would like to find out how Turnitin is used through use of more accurate statistical data
  • Word counts in Originality Reports
    • voted for a display of the quoted word count as a separate figure
    • voted for the option not to include the quoted words in the final word count, when exclude quotes from originality report is switched on
  • On-the-paper drawn annotation in both the app and the desktop – I voted yes

So hopefully we will see these features in a future release!

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to leave comments below, if you have questions.

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