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University of Kent
Canterbury, UK

Background

The University of Kent proudly refers to itself as ‘The UK’s European University’. Based in Canterbury, UK, with additional campuses in Medway, Kent and four postgraduate centres in Europe, the University was first granted a Royal Charter in 1965.

The University is now home to 20,125 students and 4,056 members of staff. The student community is diverse and international in character, with over a quarter of students from outside the UK.1

Sharing a Common Understanding of Academic Integrity

As with any institute of learning, the University of Kent looks to foster a culture of academic integrity by ensuring both staff and students understand what original writing means. For John Matthews, University Learning Technologist at the Unit for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (UELT), Turnitin has proved to be hugely supportive tool in demonstrating academic integrity.

John explains the role that technologies such as Turnitin play in helping students to understand the value of academic integrity:

“Most students don’t want to plagiarise and understand that simply copying and pasting something must be avoided. However, what they can struggle with are more nuanced writing practices like understanding how to correctly reference in their work.”

“Turnitin encourages instructors to leave detailed feedback to their students on issues such as referencing, so that they can clearly see where to improve in their writing skills.”

He adds:

“Of course, actual plagiarism can be a concern, as it is for any university, college or school. Fortunately, Turnitin helps us capture suspected incidents of plagiarism, so these can be investigated accordingly.”

For students and academic staff at the University, knowing that tools such as Turnitin are in place to support original writing have helped to establish a shared understanding of what academic integrity is and why it is vital to learning.

Making the Most of Turnitin Feedback Studio

With the University already focusing on the value of feedback in academic integrity, once Turnitin Feedback Studio became available in 2016, it was an easy decision for the University to make the switch from the older version of Turnitin - known as ‘Classic’ - to Turnitin Feedback Studio.:

“The switch to Feedback Studio was very easy,” says John. “It was all about familiarisation and making sure our staff and students knew that they could do everything that they’ve always been able to do with Turnitin - and more.”

Over the summer period, John and his team updated the University’s own Turnitin guidance to ensure it was up to date with the Feedback Studio interface. John notes that the summer of 2016 was chosen as the best time to implement the transition due to the low level of submissions outside of the academic year.

“For us in the UK, summer is often a good time to introduce changes in learning technology, simply because traditionally universities have few submissions during the holidays. This meant that we had the time and space to give our staff and students the information they needed to adopt Feedback Studio.”

It was a smooth process getting the University’s internal Turnitin guidance up to date, John reports:

“The guidance we provide for our staff and students, called Turnitin Essentials, only took an hour or two to update. This gave everyone simple instructions so they could be kept up to date with the new interface that Feedback Studio offers.”

To help reassure staff about marking in the new interface, the Unit for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching used pop-up notifications that appeared when an instructor logged in to Feedback Studio for the first time. These notifications advised them of the new interface and encouraged them to read the Unit’s blog post for more detail.

This proved to be a successful approach, with staff and students quickly adjusting to submitting and marking in Feedback Studio.

Enhancing the Student Experience

The switch to Feedback Studio has been warmly received by staff and students at the University of Kent. Instructors are particularly encouraged by updates in the interface that have enhanced their marking experience.

“Instructors love to use the different comment tools, such as bolding, italicising, and linking,” reports John. “The Feedback Studio interface is clean and easy to use, allowing instructors to put more detail into the comments they provide for students.”

This level of detail means that students now find their feedback easier to access and engage with, thereby supporting them to become better writers. As John says, “Feedback to students is now seamless.”

For John and his team, this impact on the student experience is vital. As a modern and growing university, the University of Kent is always looking to innovate when it comes to online submission and assessment. Put simply, learning technologies such as Feedback Studio help staff and students to save time.

“In the past, students would have to queue up to submit paper copies of their work, which was often time-consuming for both the students themselves, and the staff processing and marking the work. With online submission, the student experience is what it should be - quick, efficient and, of course, online, which is what the modern generation of students expect.”

As a result of this improved usability for both instructors and students, Feedback Studio is now widely adopted across the University with two thirds of submissions now being uploaded to the new interface.

“Staff also see online submission as a huge improvement, making papers easier to track down and cutting through the administrative workload,” adds John. “Once our staff make the move to online submission, they quickly forget that it was ever different!”

Sharing Success

“Implementing Feedback Studio at your institution is a positive, simple and straight-forward step,” says John. He encourages fellow learning technologists to make the switch, advising them to take advantage of the new interface to get staff and students using online submission and assessment with ease.

“Learning technology is taking on a bigger role in the classroom,” he concludes.

“By innovating and adapting to new technologies such as Feedback Studio, institutions can ensure they are head of the curve when it comes to providing the very best teaching and learning experience for their staff and students.”

Learn more about the University of Kent at https://www.kent.ac.uk

1‘Essential Kent 2017: Key Facts’, University of Kent, accessed 1 June 2017, https://www.kent.ac.uk/about/keyfacts2017.html