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As a psychology instructor teaching entirely virtual high school courses, I have had to find new and innovative ways to instruct, provide feedback, and connect with my students in a fully digital world. 

My district, Corona-Norco Unified School District, in California, serves a very diverse student body of around 53,000 students in grades TK-12. With roughly one-third of the district opting for 100% virtual instruction for the 2020-2021 school year, the district adopted Edgenuity, an online curriculum platform, to serve students and instructors--like me--working in the virtual environment.  

Having taught both stateside and abroad, I am familiar with a variety of tools that enhance student/teacher interaction. However, it became clear that with such wide usage of Edgenuity across districts and states, it could become challenging to ensure that submitted student work was authentic and original. Because all of my instruction and all of my curriculum is on Edgenuity, one of the massive problems with it is it's so widely used that it's very easy for students to plagiarize.

At the start of the school year, I was introduced to Turnitin Draft Coach™. Draft Coach is a Google plug-in that provides instant feedback on student writing within Google Docs™. Students can see how their work matches with Turnitin's database of internet, student paper, and academic journal content by requesting an in-document Similarity Report that provides a similarity percentage and highlights areas of concern. Draft Coach also helps students identify missing citations and references. Students can revise their own writing based on that feedback and run the Similarity Report up to three times before a deadline. Not only that, but instructors can communicate with students directly by highlighting sentences and leaving comments, functions of Google Docs with which students are already very familiar. 

Although my curriculum is in Edgenuity, I was also using Google Classroom with my students for more housekeeping-type functions, so it was seamless to convert some of the longer Edgenuity assignments into Google Docs and use them within Google Classroom. My students could instantly access Draft Coach functionality within the Google Doc that I pushed out to them, instead of needing to utilize yet another platform with yet another username and password. How beautiful that it could be integrated into what we were already using--I didn't need to give my students another login! The mechanics of how to use Draft Coach are so simple that with just a quick video tutorial I made and sent to my students, not a single person had issues. Where I spent more time was teaching students how to appropriately and meaningfully utilize Draft Coach to improve their writing by running the Similarity Report, editing their work, and then running it again. On their Google Doc assignment, I gave them a specific box where they put what percent similarity they got before turning in their assignment. 

Across the semester, I receive these longer assignments through Google Classroom and I rerun a Similarity Report in order to double-check that the score the student posted on their own assignment matches. That is another one of my favorite parts about Draft Coach: I’m not ‘catching’ students plagiarizing from my end; they are running the report on their own and so they are aware of the integrity in their own writing.

If there are discrepancies between scores or an unusually high score, I seize the opportunity to make it a teachable moment. Early on, one student had a 67% match for her assignment. I set up a time to chat and we discussed why that wasn’t appropriate, where her matches came from, how to avoid it, and how to use Draft Coach to help. She has done great on every assignment since then. With remote assignments, I know the students are using their textbooks and other online resources to help them learn. But then they need to process that information and show me in their own words that they understand it, so with Draft Coach, they know that's the expectation. 

And while I wish I could have in-person, one-on-one conversations with my students, I’m making the best of the situation in every way I can. I’m grateful for the chance to ensure original student work and engage in thoughtful feedback using Draft Coach remotely. 

So, if you want to give Draft Coach a try, here are a few tips for you as you get started:

  1. If you are already a Turnitin user, connect with your district or administration to bring Draft Coach to your school. It is a direct plug-in for Turnitin Originality and Feedback Studio customers. 
  2. Work with colleagues to integrate Draft Coach into your Google Doc workflow using Turnitin’s helpful documentation and instructor-focused How-To video
  3. Share this student-oriented How-To video with your class. Model how to receive and review a Similarity Report within their Google Doc, then how to revise and run a Similarity Report up to three times before a deadline. 
  4. Nourish a feedback loop within your writing process using Google tools, such as comments or Gchat, to encourage student engagement in the writing and revision process. Talk explicitly to your students about integrity and the value of authentic work. 
  5. Take advantage of Turnitin resources that support formative writing growth and academic integrity best practices.

For everyone working remotely or in a hybrid setting this year, I send you positive thoughts as you strive to create the best learning experience possible, with all the tools needed to succeed. 

Want to provide students instant feedback, wherever they write?