Tag Archives: eAssessment

Essay mills turning out high-quality essays undetected

Know your students & their writing styles

I’m not usually one to moan or highlight something that annoys me, but when I read this article this morning I had that sinking feeling and face-palm moment!

What this article totally missed, and what I’ve been saying to academics (and anyone who’ll listen) is that these online plagiarism detection systems are only as good as the people looking at the results.

The TurnItIn ‘score’ is no measure of originality, despite being called an ‘originality report’. It is a measure of what percentage of the submitted text is matched against known sources (student papers, journals, books, Internet sources, etc.). So, a paper that gets a 50% score means that 50% of the text has been used or can be found in other submitted papers to the system. It is not saying 50% is copied/plagiarised from other sources. These matches could be down to poorly referenced work, badly quoted and or badly cited work, and even popular quotes. The 50% is only an indication to the academic that further investigation is required, that they need to

This annoyed me most:

“It is clear that this type of cheating is virtually undetectable by academics when students take precautions against being caught,”

If you rely solely on something like TurnItIn then yes, I agree, it is virtually impossible to detect cheating. But these submitted papers by the student should never be viewed in isolation – the academic(s) should have other opportunities for the students to submitted written assessment, along with email evidence and even forum/online comments, so the writing style of the student can be seen. Then, when the online paper comes in the academic can see quite easily that the style, language, grammar, punctuation, etc. is different, sometimes wildly so. From here the different pieces of work can be compared and an informed opinion can be made.

“But [Dr Lisa Lines] argues that much more radical steps will be needed to combat the use of essay mills, including greater use of exams and requiring students to give oral presentations on the topic of completed essays.”

Again, no. You don’t need to add more exams or more ‘radical steps’, you just need to be more prepared to get to get to know your students, their writing styles, their use of grammar and language. I’m sure, once you know this, it’ll be far easier to spot work that is out of the ordinary, for that student, even without the reliance on TurnItIn.

TurnItIn and other systems like this are to be used as part of a wider assessment strategy. The main focus of that strategy though should be the relationship between academic/teacher and student.

The scary part of this reliance on TurnItIn [other plagiarism detection tools are available] is this – I worked with one academic (a few years ago now) who actually based the student’s grade on the TurnItIn score. Yes! They even admitted they didn’t even look at the details or report or the paper itself. Anything with 50% matched or over got 50% grade or less (but never a fail). Anything between 20-50% match got a 50-60% score, and anything less than 20% of text matched got a better/higher score over 60%.

One another related topic, this article on the Guardian website – An essay I bought online was so bad I want a refund – but the firm won’t pay up – was also worrying. But at least the piece did answer the bigger picture here. It’s not about the ethics of a refund for the paper, it’s about the integrity of the student in trying to subvert the system. And from a law student too?!

“The use of these types of websites not only raises serious questions about whether an individual is meeting the standards required, but also whether somebody has the right character to enter a profession where honesty and integrity is crucial.”

Image source: Dom Pates (CC BY 2.0)

Turnitin iPad App

Turnitin & GradeMark App

Turnitin iPad AppTurnitin (iPad): Many have asked about an iPad App for Turnitin, and we have waited a while for it. But now it’s here, let’s see if it’s any good!

“Everything you love about grading with Turnitin® is now available on iPad, allowing educators to Grade Anywhere™. Teachers using Turnitin’s grading tools save time grading student papers while offering more meaningful feedback and ensuring their originality.”

Turnitin (free): https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/turnitin/id657602524

The App offers the same functionality we use and enjoy through a browser but in an App-environment. It does take a while to get used to, especially the subtlety when including and adding QuickMarks or comments to the text.

Continue reading

OCTEL: Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning

Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning #ocTEL

“Poor use of technology is a significant waster of time and money in the public sector. UK Higher Education is not exempt from this problem. This course will help those planning and delivering teaching in HE to make the best use of technology in their work and avoid pitfalls and hiccups.”

OCTEL: Open Course in Technology Enhanced LearningI’ve just signed up for yet another MOOC, this one provided by ALT (the Association for Learning Technology) called the “Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning”.

Starting in April 2013, and running for 10 weeks, the online course will “help those planning and delivering teaching in HE to make the best use of technology in their work and avoid pitfalls and hiccups”.

  • You can follow the course, and the run up to it, on Twitter with the hashtag #ocTEL and Twitter account @ALTocTEL

The course will cover aspects of (and is not limited to … nor is it finalised yet either):

  • Induction: how this course works, who can help
  • Openness and standards
  • Options for the material, sizing effort, lead times, hardware and software needs, costs
  • On line assessment
  • Accessibility
  • Students in transition between sectors
  • Environments and administration
  • Using social media and games
  • Continue reading
UCISA 2012 Survey of Technology Enhanced Learning for higher education in the UK

2012 UCISA Technology Enhanced Learning Report

UCISA 2012 Survey of Technology Enhanced Learning for higher education in the UK

If you’re involved in any way with Learning Technology or Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) then you ought to spend some time looking through this report – at 149 pages it’s a lot to take in, it does have a very useful summary if you want the best bits.

UCISA (Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association) have produced this report regularly since 2008 to look at:

“the use of technology enhanced learning in the higher education sector. In addition to reviewing the technology in use, the survey looks at the drivers behind the adoption of technology enhanced learning in institutions.”

The report identifies and defines TEL as:

“Any online facility or system that directly supports learning and teaching. This may include a formal VLE, an institutional intranet that has a learning and teaching component, a system that has been developed in house or a particular suite of specific individual tools.”

I would also think, in my mind, that the survey and report will expand to include systems that support teaching and learning ‘indirectly’? The use of Social Networks like Facebook and Twitter is increasing, and how they are being used are developing as both learning portals and areas for administrative contact (which I doubt will replace Institutional systems, but are useful first-contact portals to feed the student request/need to).


Why is plagiarism such a big deal in our universities?

I admit, I’ve been guilty of this too – reinforce the consequences of copying and plagiarism without fully explaining about information literacy and how to correctly reference and cite work. Which is why this video from Tara Brabazonis a timely reminder about what the student thinks.Tara asks her students how they feel about plagiarism and why it has become such an issue in the contemporary university.

YouTube: Why is plagiarism such a big deal in our universities?

Here are two interesting quotes from a student in the video:

“I think plagiarism is such a big deal because none of us actually have original ideas, we’ve become too lazy to think of anything ourselves: we rely on other people to think of something for us.”

I hope not – I hope that these students (16 year olds?) have not had imagination and creativity beaten out of them, they are the future and should still be thinking, planning, scheming, and dreaming. Do students really think they can’t try and be original, where would we be without original thoughts?

Another student:

“I think, today, the definition of many fundamental words are questionable, such as ‘imagination’ and ‘originality’, and I think it’s time we have to explore the true meaning of these words and try to figure out what the hell is going on. So it’s time to think of fresh ideas and plagiarism, you know copying other peoples ideas, is probably the reason for this big mess.”

Plagiarism or copying could, for some, be the easy way out of a difficult situation, but hard work or creativity can produce wonders – just look at the impact the first Apple iPod or iPhone had on their respective markets.

How do you introduce digital and information literacy to students? What steps do you go through, and ask your students to go through, to work with referencing and citation to prevent academic infringements? Care to share any resources with us?

Exploring eAssessment, Lancaster #lancseassess

Today I attended the JISC RSC (Regional Support Centre) North West and eAssessment Association event ‘Exploring eAssessment‘ in the lovely setting of Lancaster House Hotel.

With the event was billed as:

“With the pressure to show impact of e-Assessment in our institutions, it’s important to know that the technology is being applied in the most effective way. We have brought together speakers from near and far to share their experiences of how you can make a difference with e-Assessment within your own organisations.”

the schedule covered aspect of assessment such as ‘developing flexible e-Assessment spaces’, ‘quick wins for learner assessment’, ‘importance of learner tracking as a motivational tool’, as well as how to use QR Codes to “deliver assessment tasks in authentic spaces, allowing learners to interact with physical spaces while recording their actions”. Continue reading

Turnitin and GradeMark Support Materials

Attendees at workshops can often find it difficult to know what information to take away with them. I have often found that the notes I make in these situations are inadequate to help me remember content as I tend to spent my time listening and working through the set examples or scenarios as opposed to making notes.

This is why I developed a series of postcards and videos to support the recent (and ongoing) workshops for College of Social Science on aspects of online marking and feedback using Turnitin and GradeMark. Intended to be used as a take-away resource to help remind the academic or administrative staff member of the workshop topic, if not the content. The postcards have been well received and provided the spark I hoped for for further discussion and individual specific training needs.

Case study postcards

The postcards were designed for full-colour double-sided printing: helpful tool-based hints on one side and a case study on the reverse, from someone in the College who is leading the utilisation of the features of Turnitin and GradeMark. The QR Codes (and short URL) proved a useful way to link to the supporting video to be watched at the users convenience, which are enough to be watched as stand-alone resources without either the postcard or workshop attendance.

So far the feedback from colleagues and delegates are the postcards are an excellent idea, well presented, and a welcome ‘reminder’ to take away and file (desktop, pin board, bin, etc).

YouTube: Heidi Botting, Department of Politics & International Relations

YouTube: Dr Matthew Higgins, School of Management

The QR Codes on the postcards were produced using Delivr, each postcard had it’s own unique code linking to the appropriate YouTube video (above), with associated tracking and statistics (see here for more). Important is also the URL beneath the QR Code that enables anyone who doesn not scan the code (or can’t) to type the address into their browser and still view the linked material!

I’ve also developed the postcards to have an ‘Aura’ using Aurasma, but I’ll write about that later.

Update: Turnitin have just released this video “Why Instructors Love GradeMark“:

Open Badges: Doug Belshaw

Open Badges: Badges for Learning?

I have only taken one certified or official course since I completed my undergraduate degree in 1996, and that was the PG Cert in 2010. Everything else I have done I have done on my own because I (a) wanted to, (b) needed to. But I have nothing to show for it other then the knowledge and experience it has helped me achieve – but how can I show colleagues or employers this knowledge? Why, ‘Open Badges’ is how!

I wonder how many badges I could be displaying about now if Open Badges were around when I started? I bet there are a few!

It wasn’t until I worked through Doug’s presentation below (given to the eAssessment Conference 2012 last week) that I realised just how clever these badges are: they’re images with metadata hard-coded into them including name, description, and details of the issuer (date, origin, name, organisation, etc) as well as the recipient (so you can’t nick someone else’s and pass it off as your own achievement!) and expiry date (!).

Open Badges are (adapted from Doug’s presentation above):
  • visual representations of achievements, learning, skills, interests, competencies – anything you want the badge to represent,
  • a complement to traditional education ‘certification’,
  • capable of accommodating formal or informal pathway for learning,
  • representative of hard & soft skills, peer assessment, and ‘stakable lifelong learning’,
  • snapshots of learning wherever or however it occurred,
  • ‘stealth assessment’!

I like Doug’s work and agree that (on slide 17/18 above) open badges are not an “either/or” decision when considering degrees, certificates, or diplomas, but “both/and”.

Open Badges: Doug Belshaw

If you’re at all interested on how we “get there” (“there” is the open badges displayed, for example, on a LinkedIn profile – above) then check out slide 23 for an excellent graphical representation of the ‘open badge infrastructure’.

I for one would love to be able to show my learning experiences in this way, and will be keeping an active eye on the developments of Open Badges (

Top 5 Turnitin Features #eAssessment

Turnitin Comment
What are the ‘top 5’ features or functions of Turnitin? Do you agree with this list produced by the Learning Technologies blog? I have added my own little extra after a choice quote from the post, to highlight why I agree (or disagree) with it:

  1. Audio feedback – “This cheeky little addition to GradeMark has given us the ability to add up to 3 minutes … to assignment submissions in GradeMark, which students can then access via the GradeMark report.” What this gives us is the ability to record (and provided in written format as well – let’s keep thinking about accessibility here!) a three minute overview to the submitted assignment as a whole, whilst giving instructions to the student that they ought to re-read their assignment in connection with the overview and more detailed comments contained in the GradeMark report.
  2. Quickmark & general comments – “Turnitin has a standard set of QuickMarks in GradeMark that include: Awk(awkward), C/S(Comma splice), Citation (improper and needed) and P/V (Passive voice). There is also a ‘comment’ QuickMark which allows you to type in your own free text comment. All of these QuickMarks can be drag and dropped onto the student submission.” Not easy to try this out unless you have live submissions to play with but worth the effort it takes to create your own set of ‘common’ comments – create them and leave them open to change once placed in the students’ work so you can personalise with their name.
  3. PeerMark – “When you set up the Peermark assignment you decide what criteria students will use to perform their evaluation. The criteria can be created in the form of free response questions, Likert scales (1-5), or questions from libraries already in PeerMark (you can also create your own).” I have not heard of anyone using this and I think it is an overlooked part of the Turnitin package – enabling students to take a
  4. Rubrics – “Both Percentage and Custom Rubrics are interactive. This means that when you come to mark a piece of work in GradeMark your Rubric can be used to calculate and input the resulting grade.” Not something I have much experience of at the moment but everyone I speak to is really keen on using it so I know this will change.
  5. Blackboard (VLE) integration – “Grades posted in GradeMark will feed through to the Grade Centre automatically  in Blackboard.” There are many benefits to having Turnitin talk to your VLE and/or student management system but one of the more noticeable is the ability to have marks transferred quickly and automatically as well as links to the Originality Report and GradeMark comments. Comments I have heard so far name this as one of the biggest reasons students like Turnitin and GradeMark.

What would I have added to the list? I would have added the Originality Report (OR) – it’s still of huge use and beneficial when reading the students’ work (best looked at after you’ve read the work on it’s own first). If you decide to let the students see their own OR then be sure to provide adequate (and detailed) instructions on how they should read them – it’s not only about the percentage match but what each match is, why it’s been matched, and what the student can do to improve their work to (legitimately) reduce the matched ‘score’. Remember, help the students to help themselves.

The World of Massive Open Online Courses MOOC

MOOC Infographic

MOOCs are very popular at the moment (Massive Online Open Course) – talking about them rather than taking them. Maybe this is because there isn’t a huge amount of MOOCs available on a variety of different topics, but this is changing.

Here’s a good infographic on the ‘World of MOOCs’ – I’ve highlighted the section on the benefits and issues of MOOCs, as this is obviously going to be one of the first thing an educator will look at as to whether they (a) participate in a MOOC, or (b) help or facilitate in a MOOC:

The World of Massive Open Online Courses MOOC
Click to view full Infographic

  • MOOCS are free (mostly), but for how long – current providers can’t continue to let them be free, can they?
  • Informal learning isn’t for everyone.
  • Academic ‘dishonesty’ may surface due to lack of supervision – but as there isn’t any grade or associated certificate then does this matter?
  • Collaboration and networking can be of a huge benefit to participants, as well as for the facilitators.

Have you taken part in a MOOC? Which one and how did it go? Please share your experience by leaving a comment here or link to your own blog post/review.