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Turnitin UK User Group – Aston University 12th Feb 2014

The following are my notes and thoughts from the Turnitin UK User Group on 12th February 2014.  Please feel free to add comments if I missed anything or it’s not clear.

11:00 Welcome

Chris Caren, CEO

  • Opened session stating he was here to listen to what we have to say.
  • Stated more developers are now based in the UK as traditionally all developers were based in the USA.
  • Chris apologised for outages in last few months. “clearly let you down” “sincere apologies” “error on our part”
  • Chris also apologised for 3rd year of offline issues in the UK.
  • The cause of the issue this time was human NOT technology.
  • Stated they have a target of 99.9% uptime [I do not know why they do not strive for 100% uptime?]
  • Chris tried to justify/quantify issues by listing services, free and paid, where large outages have happened. [But for me the biggest difference is those listed, e.g. google, microsoft and blackboard, communicated their issues as they happened]
  • UK and rest of World are on different hardware.
  • USA service is running at 10x the load of the UK. 
  • Turnitin handled 100M papers in 2013
  • Human error resulted in deploying an underpowered master database for the UK service.
  • They had expected the high usage peak but didn’t know they had deployed underpowered hardware.
  • Other human errors caused further delays in diagnosing the root cause and fast recover.
  • Chris reported that they had”removed” the individual who made the sizing error, and had hired a more experienced DBA for UK.  Chris also said they had increased the team size to have more than one set of eyes on the solution.
  • Implementing stress testing in the UK
  • Applying new routine to spread large batch jobs over time
  • New queuing technology is to be used to allow for new submissions even if processing becomes backlogged at peak times.
  • Implemented system monitoring tools so system faults can be identified in minutes and outage duration can be minimised. 

Q&A with Chris Caren

  • I asked: will this information be made public so we can see the service status in near real time? Response from Chris was that they will let us know later in the day, but yes some of it will be.
  • Chris was asked why changes/developments were made to the system without prior notification to users? Chris replied, they do try and give a heads up and that they do try and do better than Google do with their products.
  • It was pointed out that only having one administrator that couldn’t even see the instructor views wasn’t good enough.  The response was that we will be updated on this later today as it is about to change.
  • A lot of discussion was held around changes and how these affect the users.  Most users seemed to feel that changes should be slowed down and consolidated into low usage times 3 or 4 times a year only.
  • A good point was made that issues are affecting the reputation of the universities.  The end users / customers are the staff and students using this not always the admin and technical staff present at this event.
  • User asked why had they skipped over the lack of communications during the outage. Response was that this is covered later in the day.
  • A question was asked about responsiveness of GradeMark. Response was that they hadn’t had many concerns.  User said that the DV [Document Viewer] was slow to load and to move around in submission and between submissions.  Another user reported that they had isolated their response time issues to IE [Internet Explorer]. A third user also reported issue and went further to ask what the plans were for offline solutions for devices other than iPad.  Response was that this is discussed later today.

Will Murray, Senior Vice President Product and International – Outage Communications

  • In future communications to be sent every 30 minutes during issues.
  • Email communication will now be opt out rather than opt in. Users reported that they had opt in but didn’t get the emails.
  • Mentioned new kit to monitor service status and some of this information will be published online.
  • Turnitin now publish a known issues log on their website and will email and tweet a link to this log during and issue so you can see live status of issue.
  • When you email Tii with an issue you will get a ticket response from the known issues log.

Will Murray, Forward Momentum

  • September – Published Roadmap & Program – 1.5 years ahead
  • This is available on their website in User Voice.
  • Every 1/4 they hold tech talk webinars where you can come and find out what is being developed and you’ll be able to ask questions.
  • User Input:
    • Tech Talks
    • User Voice
    • User group and focus groups
  • October – Product Release Notes Published in Turnitin – 4 weeks ahead
  • November – Emailed Product Release Notes – 4 weeks ahead
  • January – Tech Talk webinars added to release process – quarterly
  • February – Product blog to be added to website BlackBoard Beta Program – 4 weeks ahead
  • March – Roadmap (User Voice) in Document Viewer (for integrations) Product Status – add integrations update (email + twitter)
  • Summer – Parallel beta NextGen – 6 months before
  • Summer – Online help and user manual consolidation.

Q&A with Will

  • Asked about Tech talks, could we have a EU / UK tech talk so that they are more relevant?  Response was that the development team is now both in the USA and UK but they would look at having a more UK focused tech talk.

      12:00 Turnitin Roadmap with Will

      Sorry I’ve been told I can’t blog this section 🙁 but turnitin tweeted the following:

      And we’re back

      • Now talking about Grading with evidence.  When you add a QM [Quick Mark] you can associate it with an element in the rubric.  This allows you to better see where issues are that are dragging down a grade.
      • If you want access to the beta program email
      • Submit / Grade Anything will over time allow student to upload and for you to grade any file type, including images and video.
        • In development at present.
      • Like the ability to add a grading form. Simple way to structure feedback and marking for students.
      • There will be an admin setting for allowing any file type.
      • You will soon be able to import rubrics from Excel!!!! [This will save me so much time!]
      • UserVoice seems like it will be renamed to RoadMap – at least the link in the DM will be.


      Interesting comment I’ve just fact checked – University of London Computer Centre seem to have dropped Turnitin and are partnering with Ephorus – Press Release:

      14:00 Integrations Roadmap with Will

      User Group Asks:
      7-10 months

      • Second Markers, Moderation and Double Blind Marking
      • Email of Non-Submissions
      • Granting of Extensions
      • Search Facility – already in V2s
      Under Investigation
      • Student ID Field
      • Accurate Word Count
      • Ability to exclude footnotes
      • Tutor mark/feedback release, Flagging moderation samples
      • Downloading of Audio Feedback
      • Downloading of Grades before Post Date
      • Notification of Late Submissions
      • File Size Limitations
      Next Gen Aspirations
      • Touchable, Responsive & Themable
      • Common DV and CMS
      • Folders, Offline, Drafts
      • Multiple instructors
      • Administrative Controls
      • Integrations Share Code & Common Wiki Docs
      • Removes a chunk of technical debt
      • V1 will be beta and will be essential Turnitin
      At present using LTI 1.1, looking to move to LTI 2 when it’s out and would like to be on it by Summer 2015.
      • New DV will have a collapsible right side menu.
      • The ability to show the OR on top of the GM view is being sold as something new – yet we already have it.  What will be new is the ability to hide / show feedback from individual instructors.
      • Originality score can be locked on or off – so that when you’re marking you can hide it until you want to see it.
      • Will be adding a thumbnail page view to allow for quicker document navigation.
      • Grading spaces will allow you to keep grading to yourself or share with other instructors and when to release marks
      I asked about the ability to see who hadn’t submitted as there is on the iPad. It would seem that that ability on the iPad is a bug! I’ve begged for them not to fix it but other argued that this circumvents the anonymous marking.  Will suggested the possibility of an option to show or now show.
      It was asked if there could be SITS (Tribal) integration to allow for grades to flow across.  Tii said they and Tribal aren’t agreeing on the need for it at present.

      Time frames

      Some time over the summer there will be an opt in for the beta programme. Everyone will see the beta programme but the administrator will have a password so as to define who can and can not access it.  This will run until the end of the year then it will become an opt out option. The opt out will go in summer 2015.
      Legacy integrations to be replaced and cut off. This date is summer 2016.  They want to remove people long before that though.

      In development is support for IE10 and IE11 and markup for Video.  You’ll also be able to exclude matched (rather than just sources).

      The following slide shows the differences between the Direct integration v1 and 2

      Will was re-asked about the ability to have more than 1 administrator.  He said it is coming but in the short term the administrator will be given better access to go straight into classes.

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