Turnitin on Campus: Cultivating Academic Excellence – 20th June 2019


Posted on: 23 July 2019 by Laura Blundell in Conference & Event Reports


Turnitin on Campus - Cultivating Academic Excellence
Turnitin on Campus

On the 20th June, the University of Liverpool hosted the first of a series of Turnitin on Campus events. These events held on campuses across Europe bring together academics, researchers and learning technologists to discuss topics that touch on cultivating academic excellence.

What is the event?

Turnitin on Campus is a new event series where Turnitin representatives visit institutions to discuss using technology to achieve academic excellence.  The events focus on prevalent issues from across its customer base globally and is also a chance for participants to share good practice around assessment and feedback.

An overview of the event:

The event was opened by Cees Poortman (Turnitin Regional Director, EMEA) who highlighted the issues institutions are facing with the growing problem of contract cheating and students using the services of essay mills.  It was shocking to hear about the practices of these organisations, in particular cases of graduates being blackmailed by these companies once they had been awarded their degrees and began their careers.  Turnitin have brought a product to market called Authorship Investigate which is designed to help institutions with this increasing concern.  However this was more than a sales pitch, Cees entire keynote was underpinned by the fact that we need to teach academic integrity, it should not be something that we are just checking whether it has been breached before we award qualifications.  Academic integrity is really about the moral fibre of our students and it should be in line with our values as an institution.  This holistic approach was refreshing to see from a supplier.

We were then invited to partake in round table discussions that were hosted by Stephen Gow from the University of York’s Department of Education, Joe Stevens a Senior Lecturer in Law from the Bloomsbury Institute and Jamie Whitehead Senior Field Account Manager from Turnitin.  This was a great opportunity to talk more informally in a small group setting about academic integrity and contract cheating with colleagues from other institutions.  It was really valuable to see how others were tackling these issues and what advice was being given to staff and students.  At the breakout sessions we were also introduced to gradescope which is a tool recently acquired by Turnitin that is designed to streamline marking assignments by grouping similar answers.  What I discovered by writing this blog is that it’s actually very difficult to explain, so here’s a video which explains it much better than I can – What is Gradescope?

What did you get out of the conference?

For me personally, although I was aware of essay mills and contract cheating, I don’t think I had any real grasp on what a huge issue this is for institutions and the real damaging consequences for those using these services.  It was equally fascinating and terrifying to hear of cases of contract cheating from attendees at the conference, and it made me reflect on why students might turn to such a service.  I also thought about the way in which we design our assessments, and how we might be able to tackle this issue with the inclusion of more authentic assessments that move away from essays for all.

Final thoughts:

It was a great opportunity to be the first hosts in the North West of the Turnitin on Campus event.  I really enjoyed networking with colleagues from other institutions and being able to gauge what challenges we are all facing and what solutions are being developed to aid in the process.  Looking forward to future events!