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Royal Holloway University of LondonTurnitinUncategorized

Turnitin Feedback Studio


At Royal Holloway, University of London we switched to Turnitin Feedback Studio (TFS) and the Moodle V2 direct plug-in last week.  Approximately 50% of our submissions are marked using GradeMark, but the issues we had last year were likely to prevent further significant growth in this area.  TFS addresses the sluggish performance of the Document Viewer while the V2 plug-in gives us greater flexibility in our use of Rubrics, PeerMark, and support of a range of file types – which was not possible with V1.  Another reason for changing is that we made no major changes to other E-Learning services this summer and therefore had capacity which we’re unlikely to enjoy next year.

I found the beta version of TFS occasionally buggy, sluggish, and inconsistent – although this was expected as the product was being developed.  I was more concerned about the reported behaviour of the V2 plug-in, although this is much improved since its release.  Turnitin are now producing higher quality training and support materials than they have in the past, and this has encouraged the team here greatly.

A cohort of over 350 students and 25 markers led the way and used it for the whole set-up > submission > checking > marking > feedback cycle last week, and it went spectacularly well.  Our support overhead was minimal and the feedback we’ve received has been nothing but positive.  I will share here our experiences with the new set-up throughout the forthcoming academic year.

Turnitin Upgrade at RHUL

Support for staff at RHUL


Successes & Challenges

I’m meeting some of our big hitters today and I expect the conversations to be framed in terms of challenges and successes.  It’s a great opportunity to step back for a few moments and think about the some of the work of the E-Learning Team.  So here are a couple of themes that I’ve been thinking about.



Online submission, marking and feedback of work; originality checking and speedy, legible, feedback!

  • over 55 k submissions last year
  • and over 20% marked online

(Strategic themes 1.2 e Deliver personalised and proactive interactions using digital platforms;
2.2 e Make inspired use of learning technologies and e-resources;
6.4 b Raise awareness of the environmental impact of all our activities including transport)


  • achievements are against a backdrop of established paper-based processes
  • adoption is well under-way – adaptation is beginning to gather pace
  • IT skills and wills of staff still a historical and ongoing issue
  • delivering support, training, and advice AND providing safety nets at different heights



Technology Enhanced Learning affects the whole institution – students, academic staff, administrators, support staff.  We work with a diverse group of people on a wide range of projects, problems and ideas.
In the last fortnight we’ve:

  • Supported and advised a large department as they move to adopt online marking and feedback through Moodle
  • The Careers service in their development of a college-wide, yet targeted, multi-media online resource
  • Worked with a group of Business Information PG students as a sponsor of their project into ‘Improving and commercialising E-Portfolio Systems’
  • Provided consultancy, hardware, and external expertise in the use of Personal Voting Systems to monitor lecture attendance and to provide live in-class testing
  • Designed, developed a system to use QR codes for easy, yet discrete and secure, identification of ESO students whilst marking online
  • Brought in a trial of smart phone software to support classroom interactivity – voting, answering questions


  • Sustaining and improving the services we support
  • Developing, maintaining and sharing high levels of expertise
  • Responding effectively and in a timely manner to increasingly sophisticated, ambitious, and informed requests

Stuck on the e-learning uptake treadmill

I’ve spoken many times about the perceived lack – and inequity – of VLE uptake at Royal Holloway, University of London.  I don’t think there is a lack staff engagement with Moodle, or Turnitin and Grademark for that matter.  Even Panopto and Clickers seem to be gaining a foothold here.  The real problem is the list of missed opportunities; our institutional use of Moodle is largely concerned with replicating or augmenting existing practices – a symptom perhaps of staff being too busy to explore and experiment with new technology, and using it instead to save time elsewhere.

Man running in a giant hamster wheel

There have been some interesting discussions about engagement (and the perceived lack of) in online learning activities.  These include posting to discussion fora and publishing wiki pages.  There are many good reasons why students might not participate: poor activity design and deployment; little or no apparent pedagogic value; non-mark bearing activities; the free rider calculus, to name but a few – but there are many things that can help increase engagement.

I’ve previously explored making the value of such activities much more explicit, rather than assuming the students will automatically understand why they are asked to do things; awarding real marks for attainment; only allowing those who participate to view the final product; making activities team-based so there is some sort of ‘social responsibility’ aspect; and offering alternatives to online activities such as presentations to large groups.  There are challenges associated with each of these methods. 

Another approach is to use the conditional release function within Moodle.  This allows you to control access to activities meaning that learners have to engage with Activity A before they can engage in Activity B.  In this example, A could be a wiki post, while B could be a assessed essay.  This would perhaps link the value of participation (in A) with performance in subsequently assessed work (B), and it would require students to participate in both to meet the course completion requirements.  Perhaps five percent of the value of the essay could be awarded instead to the wiki contributions? 

We are, seemingly, not allowed to bar students from ‘anything that counts’ – meaning exams and other assessed work – for non-participation or non-attendance.  This means that we need more things that count – so online activities have to bear marks to be valued by students and institutions.  The same obstacles apply however, especially poor design and time poverty.  The latter, however, will persist and impact upon the ability to address the former.

What are your thoughts – from pedagogic, student experience, inclusivity, and QA viewpoints – on making, for example, participation in a wiki a conditional activity?