Using Quick Response Codes in support of anonymous submission of work to Turnitin by students with Specific Learning Difficulties

What is the problem?

‘the need for a simple and easy way of identifying students with declared Specific Learning Difficulties when marking anonymously using Turnitin and ensuring that these students are not marked adversely in any way. The second lesser point is that the system is not open to abuse by other students’

Some departments have no system in place to identify and mark accordingly the work submitted anonymously to Turnitin by students with declared Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs). This becomes problematic when administering and moderating marks, and undermines one of the benefits of online marking by delaying the release of marks and feedback.

Other departments use the ‘Green Sticker’ approach, whereby students are provided with bespoke labels to apply to their printed assignments. This approach cannot work with e-submission and e-marking and needs to be replaced and improved.

It is possible to use Moodle Groups and Groupings to discretely set-up a Turnitin Assignment for those with declared SpLDs. This approach would requires greater administrative resource in the departments, something which is not often available. A far greater issue, however, is that the students’ identities are revealed when the assignment’s Post date is reached. As a Turnitin spokesperson said at a recent Moodle Users Group, ‘Anonymous submission is a minefield’.
What is the proposed solution?

We have been exploring the possibility of ‘digitising and extending’ the green sticker approach with the use of Quick Response (QR) codes. These can be rapidly produced, loaded with information, distributed to students and scanned – with an app and some light training – by markers and administrators.

What are Quick Response Codes?

QR Code embedded with a link to Wikipedia

  • Quick Response Codes (QRs) are a type of two-dimensional barcode that can be read using smartphones and tablets
  • Users can scan QRs with a simple, free phone app
  • QRs can contain text, email addresses, links to websites, phone numbers, and many other types of information

Scan this QR code to find out more, it has been embedded with a link to a relevant Wikipedia page.

What equipment will this approach require?

How will it work?

The marker’s view of a submitted document with an embedded QR Code

  • Students are provided with a personalised QR Code
  • Students paste their QR code into their essay.assignment document
  • Markers can see that the work has been submitted by a student with a declared SpLD
  • The work is marked accordingly

The marker’s view of a submitted document with an embedded QR Code

  • The code is scanned from screen using the app
  • The marker can instantly see the student code and the URL for the marking guidelines
  • Other information can be included

 Roles & workflow


  • Create spreadsheet with Student Numbers of those with declared SpLDs
  • Create QR Codes, embedding the Student Number and the URL for the relevant marking guidelines
  • Maintain a spreadsheet matching the QR Codes with Student Numbers
  • E-mail QR Codes to students
  • Scan QR code to check its validity – does it contain a Student Number which matches one of those held in the spreadsheet?


  • Save their QR Code
  • Paste QR Code into documents prior to submitting to Turnitin

Academic staff

  • Look for and acknowledge QR Code when marking
  • Scan QR code to check its validity – does it contain a Student Number which matches one of those held in the spreadsheet?


  • No capital outlay
  • Not bleeding-edge (QR Codes have been used by industry, libraries, commerce since 1998)
  • Not technically difficult (investigation has been carried out using a 6 year old iPhone 3)
  • Quick to produce, share, use, and scan
  • Bespoke and personal to each student
  • QR codes highly visible to marking staff
  • Offer greater security and personalisation (when compared to having no system in place or the green sticker approach)
  • Reusable – one per student per duration of study
  • Can be discrete (25mm)
  • Consolidate cohorts’ submissions – No need to use Moodle Groups/Groupings or set-up additional Turnitin activities


  • Risk of abuse by students e.g., sharing and faking
  • Not visible from the submission in-box , only when viewing the file
  • Requires some resource and consistent application
  • Staff require smartphones or tablets, and a free app
  • Only works if staff engage with it

Further investigation

  • Tracking the number of times each QR Code is scanned
  • Providing students with a coversheet with QR Codes pre-embedded to simplify their workflow and to reduce the risk of sharing
  • Develop a workflow for those markers using the Turnitin iPad app
  • Streamlining the workflows for administrators

Posted by elswedgio

E-Learning Professional. It's all about Moodle and MOOCs at the moment.

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