Turnitin, a Swiss Army knife of digital pedagogy?

These last few weeks, feedback in different forms has been the theme of the blogs written by my colleagues and me. Reading all these blogs got me thinking… Turnitin, our tool to help detect plagiarism at Aalto, has almost all of these functionalities. Do I have a fixation with Turnitin? Perhaps I do… 😀

In the first of these blogs (Infusing assessment and feedback), Antti talked about the joys of giving feedback via a video or audio recording. I smiled to myself and thought, “you can give verbal feedback in Turnitin.” Yes, you can record an audio clip, 3-minutes-long at most. This is an ideal way to give general feedback on, say, the entire work or a chapter in it. Of course, you can give written general feedback too, as also specific feedback on a word used or sentence; there are four dedicated tools for giving the written feedback. For now, video feedback isn’t possible.

Tiina’s blog on rubrics (How I reduced the time I spent explaining grades given to my students) spoke about the more detailed feedback that students get for their work as opposed to getting just a grade—a number, letter or word—which has the positive effect of saving the teacher a lot of time (read the blog to see why!). Turnitin has a versatile rubric function that is worth using, as the teacher in Tiina’s blog wanted to.

My blog on Turnitin being an aid for writing (Turnitin, a writer’s tireless sparring partner) underlined the significance of the detected similar text as being a form of feedback that students can use to improve their work. I don’t have anything else to add here in this context.

In the last of these blogs on feedback (Using MyCourses discussion forum as a peer assessment and feedback tool), Jaana discussed the use of peer review as an effective method of giving and receiving feedback and, more importantly, its effectiveness as a method of learning. Turnitin has a peer-review tool embedded in it that is automatically available with all Turnitin activities in MyCourses. It’s called Peermark. It’s a simple system and has the advantage of having Turnitin’s similarity check as part of the peer review.

One last feature that Turnitin has but isn’t associated with feedback but I’m listing here for completeness of the Swiss-Army-knife tools available is anonymous grading. I wrote a blog on this some time ago (Anonymous grading in Turnitin).

So yes, Turnitin has many useful pedagogical tools all built into the same system that cover different aspects of feedback and assessment, and no, it doesn’t have it all. Nonetheless, for me, this qualifies as a Swiss Army knife of digital pedagogy. Does it for you?