Making Choices: Moodle-Turnitin integration

Over the last couple of months, my colleagues and I in the e-Learning team at the University of Bath have been considering the merits of integrating Moodle with Turnitin, the plagiarism detection service.

We’re currently supporting a variant of Moodle 1.9, though any decisions made would need to also consider Moodle 2.0 (or 2.1, 2.2…) which we’ll most likely be moving to in summer 2012.

Our Moodle-Turnitin integration was first mooted for investigation within the Moodle Development Plan 2010 that I developed in January of that year, but due to to technical difficulties at the time, we temporarily abandoned the idea.

One year on, online submission of work using the Moodle Assignment activity continues to rise. Additionally, and in light of a review tothe QA Statement for Examination and Assessment Offences, it was timely to review the integration, with a view to having something in place by the beginning of the 2011/12 academic year.

I’m currently in the throws of testing our chosen integration, but whilst waiting for things to happen in the background, I thought that I would take a few moments to reflect on our evaluation process and the decisions taken.

After some initial investigation, it was clear that two competing integrations, both with the respective pros and cons, would need to be considered before a decision was made as to which one to go for.

First up was the Catalyst integration aka “Dan Marsden’s code”. Further information on this particular integration can be found at: http://drgn.in/k5fYrQ

This integration has the key advantage of being integrated with the existing Moodle Assignment activity in Moodle 1.9.  Importantly, this integration works  with Moodle 2.0 core code and takes advantage of the new Plagiarism API.

Whilst this integration does not currently include an interface for GradeMark, Turnitin’s e-feedback software, hooks into this functionality are planned for the Moodle 2.0 version.

If enabled (see options below), any supported file (the two popular file types, .doc and .pdf, are supported) submitted to the Assignment activity is automatically submitted to Turnitin whenever a side-wide cron job is called or is run.

The Turnitin related options within the Assignment activity.

The similarity score is returned when the cron job runs again, but this can be delayed depending on how busy the Turnitin server is. The similarity score and report can then be made available to the student, who can then review their performance but clicking on the relevant Similarity link.

Teachers can access the Turnitin originality report by clicking on the 'Similiarity' link, as illustrated above. The student view is similar.

One of the real advantage of this integration type was that it existing within a Moodle activity that academics at the University of Bath  are already very familiar with. Deployment would not require a massive support overhead, with a few FAQs and possibly a How To Guide being written to guide colleagues through the process of creation of a Turnitin enabled assignment activity. (Of course, the wider issue about how to get staff and students to interpret similarity scores in an appropriate way needs to be addressed elsewhere.)

The other integration that we considered was the iParadigms / Moodle Direct Integration aka “the one by nLearning Ltd.” (official Turnitin integration). According to the Turnitin website, this integration “allows access to Turnitin OriginalityCheck and GradeMark (not PeerMark) without having to leave the Moodle environment or log into Turnitin directly”. Further information can be found at: http://drgn.in/k63qKR.

The main difference between this integration, and the one discussed above, is that this is a new and distinct Moodle Assignment type with a different submission handling process to the usual Moodle Assignment activity one.

It is clear that the workflows employed by the iParadigms integration is markedly different from other Moodle activities – one of the hallmarks of some third party integrations, unfortunately. It was clear that this approach would require far more support than the Catalyst integration discussed above.

Given these two options, it was important that we conducted a side-by-side comparison of the two integration – available on request. The key emergent themes were as follows:

  • The Catalyst integration was considered to be more usable and ‘Moodle like’ in this embryonic stage of Turnitin uptake. It would provide a low level entry point and would in turn encourage uptake.
  • As such, the inability to integrate with GradeMark at this stage would not be a “deal breaker” as internal assessment processes would need to be amended to reflect this alternative method of marking.
  • It was felt that use of the iParadigms integration type and its associated new/complicated workflow processes, might in fact inhibit uptake of Moodle to support online submission of work.

(Reference: Moodle/Turnitin Integration report by Lisa McIver, Moodle Operations Manager)

Whilst the Catalyst integration fast became the preferred option of the e-Learning team, we were keen to get some feedback from our academic colleagues in departments. Whilst some new items came to light during this meeting, their thoughts broadly supported our own internal evaluation.

So, that just about tells the story of where we are now! Should you have any thoughts or questions, do get in touch through the contact details provided elsewhere. Onward with testing…

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About Nitin Parmar
I am a Learning Technologist within the e-Learning team in the Learning & Teaching Enhancement Office, University of Bath, UK.

2 Responses to Making Choices: Moodle-Turnitin integration

  1. Nitin Parmar says:

    I should also say that one of the other things that I liked about the Catalyst integration was the fact that submitted files reside on the institutional server – so fits in well with our retentions policy.

    The iParadigms integration indicates that all submissions are stored on the Turnitin server, with only a link pointing to relevant file within Moodle.

  2. Pingback: Writing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) « Colligo: Reflections of a Learning Technologist

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