Turnitin Academic Integrity Summit: 19th October 2017

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The conference took place at the Crowne Plaza in Newcastle. The early start was soon forgotten when greeted with bacon and sausage sandwiches on arrival, a very promising start!

The day loosely followed, what were described as the ‘Seven Major Themes from the HE Sector’ with some topics more of a focus than others:


Turnitin reported they were making solid progress in the UK after a £5.2m investment in Turnitin UK over the past two years with a 66% staff increase and infrastructure/application monitoring investment resulting in 12 hours less degraded service and an improvement in their First Response time from 5-6 days to 30 minutes.

Data Access

Turnitin and JISC are in Stage 1 of a partnership around data integration and Learning Analytics. Working on a data exhaust (data generated as a by-product of online actions and choices ie. cookies, log and temporary internet files).

Marking and Moderation

Unfortunately this topic was covered in a session I was unable to attend….
Assessment Workflows and Integration
Linked to ‘Data Access’ above; Learning Analytics likely to drive workflow definitions and refinements, in other words in the future institutions will be able to unlock Turnitin data to acquire information.

Customer Relations

It was identified that there was a need for better communications from Turnitin, particularly on new features and service outages (twitter isn’t the ideal comms tool for such important information). Communications on new feature changes will be farther in advance.

Turnitin now employ a team of writers who are currently updating the 4000 User Guides and creating video’s to make their offering much more current and engaging. Coming soon will be a new and improved platform and tools to enable institutions to make more use of the resources.

Ghost Writing or essay mills, contract cheating, authorship verification…


The conference was heavily focused on Contract Cheating alternatively named Ghostwriting; there is currently some debate on favoured terminology.
Turnitin has completed the first phase of research to address the global problem of contract cheating; the act of hiring someone to complete an assignment for you, as these assignments are guaranteed to be original work the current plagiarism detections tools are ineffective.

Contract Cheating was first highlighted by an Australian scandal in late 2014 where, it was reported, that up to 1000 students from 16 universities were enlisting the MyMaster website to write assignments and sit online tests.

The cheating sites have evolved to be ‘big business’ so much so that currently 1000+ sites are reported to be active and prices and turnaround times have been driven down eg. Currently a 1500-word assignment can be bought for £154.



Simon Bullock from the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), presented the brand new QAA guidance ‘Contracting to Cheat in Higher Education: How to address Contract Cheating, the Use of Third-Party Services and Essay Mills’ which is an interesting read and informs how to address contract cheating in HE.






There was also an interesting presentation by Professor Phil Newton is available on YouTube

The UoC ‘Assessment Briefs’ written by Dr Amanda Chapman provide some valuable tips on how to subvert contract cheating.

Future Requirements

Turnitin acknowledged future requirements in formative usage of the product.  Afternoon sessions on similarity report enhancement as well as on source code similarity

Design and development is underway on a solution to support multiple marking (currently in Beta stage) for moderation, second marking and double blind marking.  Features will include:

  • Markers will be able to leave their own layer of marks on a student’s submission.
  • Bubble comments and QuickMarks will include the marker’s initials, to allow markers a way to identify who left which mark.
  • Visibility of each marker’s feedback on the student submission may be layered on or off.
  • The overall grade field and feedback side panels are currently shared amongst markers.

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