New features from Turnitin make grading all-electronic

Besides checking plagiarism, new system allows profs to collect papers online, grade them, and record grades in Excel.

In response a rash of plagiarism of school essays, online companies such as Turnitin, have come on the scene to help teachers detect illegal copying. Turnitin is now offering more services to its university clients, reports Campus Technology.

Turnitin receives some 120,000 papers for review everyday. Turnitin compares every paper to a set of databases made up of the contents of the Internet, as well as previous papers submitted in the past to Turnitin. The result is an "originality report" which highlights questionable areas in each paper.

In order to make make paper grading and management easier, Turnitin has added features that collect student papers electronically, edit them online by inserting electronic comments into the document, then return them electronically to students, all without ever printing a page.

"It's just a wonderful way to collect papers," according to Ray Hall, a physics professor at California State University at Fresno, who also teaches courses in critical thinking that have several writing assignments. "I can't lose student work; staples don't come off." Just the fact that Turnitin date-stamps and alphabetizes the collected papers is a huge time-saver, Hall said.

In addition, Hall, who has been using Turnitin for several years, pays extra for a feature called GradeMark, which collects papers electronically and helps manage them. Since using GradeMark, Hall has an entirely paperless grading process.

"I was going to the site, downloading the papers, and printing them out myself [to edit]. But that kills trees and so forth."

Now Hall grades and returns them to students as electronic documents. After grading the paper, he then transfers the resulting information into an Excel spreadsheet he uses for keeping track of grades.

These new feature are a big time saver, says Hall. It also allows him more time to focus on the quality of the student's work.

"Because I have this fluidity, I spend more time per paper," Hall said. "I might have gone through it faster if I were using a pen because I know I have this stack of papers [to grade].... Now I can put more effort into creating content. I can go to a deeper level."

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