Using Turnitin and WriteCycle to support student writing and feedback

Sharon Flynn

National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway)

This paper reports on 4 years experience of using Turnitin at an Irish University. Turnitin is recognised as a useful tool to support the detection and prevention of plagiarism in student writing. Used alongside a supportive policy on academic integrity, it has been very successful in raising awareness of academic integrity with students and with academic staff. For the last two academic years, Turnitin and its related tools have been integrated with the institutional VLE. Since the VLE is also integrated with the university’s student record system, this removed a lot of the administrative burden for those academic staff who wanted to use Turnitin for large classes.
In the academic year 2008-09, we worked closely with a number of pilot groups, involving class sizes of up to 650, using Turnitin to support student writing and formative feedback. Each group used Turnitin in slightly different ways, in an attempt to emulate, as much as possible, the existing practice with respect to continuous assessment in each discipline. At the end of the year, we interviewed the academic staff involved and identified a number of findings. These findings were then used to support the development of guidelines and good practice.
In the current academic year, we have extended the pilot study, including one first year group of more than 900 students. We intend to repeat the interviews at the end of the teaching session, and also to elicit feedback from the students involved. Anecdotal evidence suggests that students appreciate the use of Turnitin; motivation for the very large (900+) first year group to use Turnitin is based on demand by students.
In tandem with the study involving Turnitin, one discipline within the University has started to use GradeMark, a tool for online grading and feedback used in conjunction with Turnitin. The main motivation is to achieve a paperless system for continuous assessment. Results from this study are immature, but potentially of interest. One major issue has been identified, but we hope that it will be addressed in future versions of GradeMark.

This paper will address the findings from the 2-year study and will consider the implications for staff development. The identification of good practice and the situation of the Turnitin and GradeMark tools within an overall strategy for teaching, learning and assessment will also form part of the conclusions.

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