I’ve decided to document where we are with our Turnitin-Moodle Integration because I have come to the conclusion that the way we have integrated Turnitin with Moodle may not be as common as I had thought and I am sharing our experiences with the Moodle community here in the hope that we can make contact with others in the same position. I am also writing this to clarify my own understanding of how the integration works (which is not always how you would imagine it to work).
Our virtual environment
So, we are always running, more or less, the latest version of Moodle. At the time of writing we are running Moodle 3.1.
We use Moodle Assignments integrated with Turnitin with the Moodle Direct v2 plugin to provide the integration.
Let me stop there because a year ago I was talking to people who had Moodle and Turnitin integrated but didn’t realise that they were not in fact using Moodle Assignments so I need to clarify some terminology.
Two different types of integration
You can deploy two different types of Assignment on a Moodle course, both of which are integrated with Turnitin.
1. The Moodle Assignment activity.
This is the standard Moodle Assignment. The blurb in Moodle says, “The assignment activity module enables a teacher to communicate tasks, collect work and provide grades and feedback….”
2. The Turnitin Assignment 2 activity.
The blurb in Moodle says “Creates a Turnitin Moodle Direct assignment which links an activity in Moodle to an assignment / assignments on Turnitin. Once linked, the activity allows instructors to assess and provide feedback for student’s written work using the assessment tools available within Turnitin’s Document Viewer.”
We trialled both and opted for the Moodle Assignment Activity for the following reasons:
- Staff and students were familiar with the Moodle Assignment interface.
- We had already developed an automated way of creating Moodle Assignments. (An admin assistant in Quality Office receives an Assignment Brief (word document) from a Module Leader and inputs the deadline into an online form and saves the Word doc as a pdf in a network folder. The Assignment Brief is then automatically added to the Moodle course and the Moodle Assignment is automatically created by a script based on default settings) and placed under the Assignment Brief.
- We had already created a script that displayed the grades from the Moodle GradeBook on a custom interface for our Assessments team. (I’m not sure how easy this would be to do if we had used Turnitin Assignments).
- It allows us to manage individual extensions which the Turnitin Assignment does not.
- It allowed us to continue providing feedback in feedback files (i.e. the normal Moodle Assignment way). This was important because not all academics wanted to use GradeMark and some disciplines want to provide audio files of longer than permitted in Turnitin and they also wanted to provide multiple audio files.
- The Moodle Assignment allows academics to mark offline which the Turnitin Assignment does not (except with iPads).
In the interests of standardisation of the student experience we create all assignments centrally and have removed the permissions for tutors to add or edit assignments so Turnitin Assignments can never be added to Moodle courses and all Moodle Assignments are created from default settings which include our own default Turnitin settings.
The integration works in that when you place a Moodle Assignment on the Moodle and have Turnitin enabled in the Assignment settings a class is created in Turnitin and a link to an Originality Report is presented to the student within the Moodle Assignment activity.
A link to GradeMark (Feedback Studio) is provided within the Moodle Assignment activity and tutors can easily mark in GradeMark if they wish and students can get their GradeMark feedback from within the Moodle Assignment.
This is what we wanted: submission and feedback within the familiar Moodle Assignment environment and to be able to use the extra features available with Moodle Assignments (Groups, multiple files, feedback files, extensions etc).
When things go wrong, Turnitin Support are often unsure of how the integration works – or rather the implications of the integration. This is hardly surprising given that I now think very few institutions use it with Moodle Assignments as we do.
The two main things that have gone wrong are:
- Assignment sitting pending for a long time.
- Moodle Tutors not having permissions on Turnitin to grade.
Another aspect of the integration that we could not get to work properly is the email to the student confirming their submission. This showed a date stamp of when the submission was passed to Turnitin not when it was submitted to Moodle so we had to turn it off. However, the Moodle emails work fine so the problem was easily sorted.
The View in Turnitin
On the Turnitin side (turnitinuk.com), when logged on as admin, it is not easy to find information as not all columns can be sorted and there is no search facility but when you contact Turnitin Support they need the Class ID which does not appear in Moodle so you have to use it.
Turnitin Class IDs
You can find a Turnitin Class (the equivalent in Moodle is Course) by using the browser’s search feature.
Below is a screenshot from a Moodle course. (Names are offbeat because I wanted them to be unique on both systems)
On Turnitin you can search in the browser and find –
It’s annoying that you cannot see the column headings in Turnitin as you scroll down, but in the screenshot above these are, from L to R, Class / ClassID/Password/Status.
So it appears that Turnitin uses the Moodle course’s ‘Course Full Name’ to name the class.
While this is initially true, the class is associated not with the ‘Course Full Name’ but with Course ID (as found in the url). In this case id=1921 and pulls in the Course Full Name at the time of creation. (This is my assumption).
This means that if you change the ‘Course Full Name’ you will not find it in Turnitin.
We have a fresh instance of Moodle each academic year. This is a copy of the previous year’s Moodle on which we rename the modules (e.g. from PYU401-Sept 2015 to PYU401-Oct 2016 and we might also alter the module codes if these change), delete all student data, and delete all assignments and recreate them from new Assignment Briefs. So although our Moodle courses have different ‘Course Full Names’ each year, the course ID in the url remains the same and Turnitin is unaware of any change.
A consequence of this is that this year’s students submit in he same Turnitin class as last year’s students, which, having understood why, we might live with, though one way of fixing this is to use different Turnitin accounts for each year. (I have yet to decide about this).
One reason you need to know the Turnitin Class ID is if you raise a ticket with Turnitin Support.
You can get the Paper ID from Moodle but not the class ID. See below.
So if you do not know the Class ID and you have no paper ID (e.g. if it is sitting pending for days and has not generated an ID) how can you find it? We cannot use the student’s name if you have anonymous/blind marking switched on (as we do) but you might try searching for the academic’s name (Instructor’s name). Again, you do this with the browser’s search facility.
Looking for info within Turnitin
We’ve had a couple of cases where the tutor on the Moodle course does not have permissions to mark the assignment on Turnitin so we have wanted to find them on the Turnitin system.
On our example Moodle course, above, the course enrolment is as follows:
- Tutor – Bob Ridge-Stearn
- Tutor – Steve Blast
- Student – Brian Bear
- Student – Walter White
There are also some Moodle users with system-wide roles higher than tutor (e.g. Manager) who have Moodle permissions to mark and there are some users who are enrolled as tutors system-wide on all Moodle courses.
However when we search for the class in Turnitin the only instructors visible are two system-wide admin roles…
Tutors will only appear on Turnitin when they have accessed Turnitin through the Moodle Assignment.
So as soon as Steve Blast marks an assignment he too appears, but the other tutor does not. And the tutor must, of course, engage with Turnitin, not just with the Moodle Assignment. So a tutor who has an integrated Moodle assignment on his/her Moodle page but uses the Moodle way of marking (i.e. not GradeMark) will not appear in Turnitin.
It’s my experience that Turnitin Support are generally unfamiliar with Moodle Assignments (and why should they be since so few of us seem to use them) and they assume the admin and the tutor can see the class and papers in Turnitin. However, with integration there is no need for a tutor to log on to turnitinuk.com and no need to join a class etc. These are performed by the integration and is why we choose integration.
So our tutors are never going to log in to turnitinuk.com and it is left to the Moodle admin to work with Turnitin Support.
But just say the tutor did log in. This is what Steve Blast (the tutor) sees:
And if you click the Student tab you see:
What he does not see are pending files or students who have not submitted. So when Turnitin Support asks for the User ID of the student or the paper ID, these do not exist (as far as I am aware).
One frustration in looking at the Turnitin screen as admin is that you cannot search for a student because an admin on Turnitin cannot see into classes. You have to log in as a tutor on the course. I had thought the solution was to enrol a user called ‘Turnitin-Tutor’ on all Moodle courses and then log on with this ID on Turnitin. However, this does not work perfectly because that user has not engaged with the Turnitin Assignment, so you have to laborious log onto the Moodle course as Turnitin-Tutor and open an assignment and click through to the Originality Report (if it has been generated of course).
Also, in most cases where Turnitin Support has wanted to look at a student it is because we have reported a problem with the submission. However, if the submission has not gone through to Turnitin properly, the student’s Turnitin account will not have been created. You may see him/her if they have submitted previously but you won’t find the class with his/her problematic submission.
Looking for info within Moodle
When logged on as admin on Moodle we can look for problematic submissions in the plugin. (Site admin > Plugins > Plagiarism > Turnitin Plagiarism Plugin – Errors tab).
This is very helpful in identifying submitted files that have not been processed by Turnitin. Here are some typical errors from our log.
- This file has not been submitted to Turnitin because there is a problem creating the temp file. The most likely cause is an invalid file name. Please rename the file and re-upload using Edit Submission.
- This file has not been submitted to Turnitin because the user has not accepted the Turnitin End User Licence Agreement.
- This file has not been submitted to Turnitin because there is a problem creating the module in Turnitin which is preventing submissions, please consult your API logs for further information
- You must upload a supported file type for this assignment. Accepted file types are; .doc, .docx, .ppt, .pptx, .pps, .ppsx, .pdf, .txt, .htm, .html, .hwp, .odt, .wpd, .ps and .rtf
- Turnitin has returned an error with your submission: Assignment LineItem not found.
- Turnitin has returned an error with your submission: User not found for this account and API product.
- This file will not be submitted to Turnitin as it exceeds the maximum size of 40MB allowed
From this error screen you can delete submissions and resubmit papers. Resubmitting resubmits them to Turnitin not to Moodle so the student’s submission time is not compromised. You can also quickly click through to the Moodle Assignment and you can directly open the submission. However, what you cannot do is hide messages. This is frustrating because you do not need to be reminded constantly that every submission to a particular assignment has failed because it is not a supported file type. It would be nice to hide messages that do not require action.
Institutions using this Integration
So how many institutions use this type of integration? In October I asked the question on two JiscMail forums – MoodleUK and Turnitin and from the responses it seems as though very few institutions use Moodle Assignments integrated with Turnitin in a systematic way. Some people use both but do not have them integrated, some people use Turnitin Assignments on Moodle pages, some people have pockets of integration (e.g. a faculty might be trying it out) but have not deployed the integration across the institution but few seem to be using Moodle Assignments.
Mira Vogel at UCL has produced a comprehensive comparison of the integrated Turnitin Assignment with the integrated Moodle Assignment: Comparing Moodle Assignment and Turnitin.
Turnitin has produced a guide to Moodle integration with Moodle Direct V2: Moodle Direct V2. This does not make clear that you can opt to deploy both a Moodle Assignment or a Turnitin Assignment but you can.
The JiscMail forum I referred to is TURNITIN@JISCMAIL.AC.UK and the thread was titled How many Moodle people are on here? (October 2016).
I’d value any comments, corrections or suggestions.