Common Sense Review
Updated November 2013

Turnitin

Encourage original work and give feedback with this valuable tool
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • The Originality Check feature checks student work against a massive database, including other students' papers.
  • If utilizing the feedback tools, teachers can use pre-made rubrics, or create their own.
  • Teachers can create custom comment notes to fit within their curriculum, or to focus on specific skills.
Pros
Between the accountability and valuable feedback, it offers students and teachers a positive way to get real about improving writing skills.
Cons
Only schoolwide accounts are available, so individual teachers can't subscribe on their own; overall design could be improved a bit.
Bottom Line
Beyond the convenience factor, it's almost a necessity for the teaching of writing in today's digital world.
Amanda Bindel
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

Paper-free submission, grading, and feedback are great. While design is clean and user-friendly, the site could use more pizzazz to help students stick around, and perhaps extend learning, after they finish required work.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Teachers can give more in-depth feedback with all the time save not shuffling papers. Students are empowered to improve writing through peer-feedback and teacher comments. Classes interact socially through discussion boards.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

Extensive help and training is available through the site. Rubrics, aligned to the CCSS, are included -- teachers can also create and add their own rubrics.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

While ELA and Social Studies teachers may get the most out of the service, teachers in any content area will find it a helpful tool for assigning and evaluating students' writing. Have students submit papers, then assign a peer evaluation project -- students can then revise using peer feedback before submitting a final draft. Teachers can use the interface to communicate with students via email or through the discussion forums.  

The Discussions feature is a powerful tool for generating student interest in topics of depth and complexity. While engaging and empowering some of your more introverted students -- or those who may just be reluctant to share out loud in class -- the forums can also be a great way to encourage positive digital citizenship.

Tip: Make sure your students register using an email address and password that they're sure to remember. 

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What's It Like?

Available through schoolwide subscription, Turnitin is an online plagiarism detector, as well as an electronic grading and feedback system for students' writing assignments. As teachers create assignments, students submit files from a computer or a cloud-based service like DropBox or Google Drive. Turnitin checks each assignment for plagiarism (or improper citation) using its OriginalityCheck system; assignments can also be peer- or teacher-evaluated using the PeerMark and GradeMark features. There's also a forums section for hosting class discussions, with customizable moderation levels.

The OriginalityCheck feature checks student papers against a massive database of content, with detailed similarity reports for teachers. The GradeMark feature lets teachers use their own rubrics or select from a vast library of pre-loaded ones. Feedback can be given using pre-made or customizable markings; teachers can also attach comments to specific parts of students' papers.

Standout Features:

  • Turnitin claims its OriginalityCheck database checks student work against more than 300 million student papers and more than 130 million academic texts, as well as a better part of the Web.
  • A companion iPad app allows teachers to grade on the go; using the app, teachers also have the option to leave voice comments. 
  • The Discussions feature has options to allow flexibility for a variety of engaging uses.
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Is It Good For Learning?

Without taking the teacher's place, Turnitin provides all the right support as teachers help students in the writing process. The plagiarism scanner works amazingly well -- it's an invaluable resource in the digital age. Originality reports are easy-to-read, (usually) appear within minutes of a submission, and offer links to original sources. Perhaps more important, the system catches work that hasn't been properly paraphrased or quoted, offering opportunities to re-teach and reinforce these valuable skills.

While some may still prefer the human touch of pen-and-paper marking, Turnitin offers a great way to give students detailed, constructive feedback -- without having to lug around stacks of papers. The PeerMark feature engages students in ongoing self-assessment as they pick up important online-collaboration skills. The Discussions tool can allow for anonymity, while also ensuring that students are held accountable. Within that tool, however, it would be great if Turnitin could tweak the design, as it can sometimes be tricky to delineate the flow of certain conversations between students. In terms of support, Turnitin offers thorough FAQs, videos, and even in-person trainings to help you make the most of this powerful tool.

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