Bridge Over Troubled Water – Turnitin Summit 19th October

As I arrived in Newcastle, I took a walk around its famous Quayside.

Stepping onto one of the iron bridges to take in the River Tyne, Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” started playing through my headphones.

This song couldn’t be more ironic or apt for attending the Turnitin Summit.
I planned ahead with a list of questions I wanted to ask about the problems experienced with Feedback Studio, I suspected other attendees came with a similar agenda of grilling Turnitin.

But this was billed as a conference about Academic Integrity and how Turnitin will be working more closely with UK institutions. Marc Daubach of Turnitin, introducing the agenda of the day, reiterated this at the opening.

The keynote speaker was Kerr Gardiner ( who is a consultant in Learning Technology. He talked about his past role as Head of Learning Technology at the University of Glasgow, of how they pulled out of using Turnitin within their Moodle integration.

The anecdote was building up to how in the past, he worked in partnership with Turnitin to try to help meet Glasgow’s demands. That now that partnership has strengthened in his work with HeLF ( Both HeLF and Turnitin are discussing customer service, future problems in learning & teaching, smoothing out workflows and improving partnerships with UK institutions.

A report developed by HeLF outlined that Turnitin need to work on improving:
• Trust – new features appearing late or not working
• Transparency – if updates and new features are coming, to know in advance
• Relations – better communication and more targeted for the UK

Themes that Turnitin need to be addressing were:
• Reliability of the system, as outage times have had a big impact for a number of institutions.
• Data access has been an issue for a number of years being locked down and not accessible to users.
• Marking – still no double/multiple marking or access for external staff
• Workflows and integration – better support for the variety of different VLE systems, accessibility plans and archiving assignments.

Kerr outlined that Turnitin are looking into the future requirements we might have such as detecting ghost writing, and dealing with other forms of assessment like video. He was strong in saying Turnitin need to deliver and that dialogue will continue with HeLF.

Ron Park of Turnitin then addressed the conference with how Turnitin would meet these problems.
• Turnitin have invested £5.2 million in hardware and software to improve customer relations and dealing with calls.
• Turnitin are improving their cloud server to deal with more assignments and to be more stable.
• The Turnitin website is currently in Beta, which allows users to create folders, and users can drag and drop files onto the website. Still unsure of how these files are used.
• Viewer is being upgraded within Feedback Studio so will be turning on features to improve the magnification of a paper and get around the blurred text issue.
• New API will be available in November 2017

Bill Loller of Turnitin did a talk about the Academic Integrity vision and discussed how it is important for UK institutions, and that there is a need to raise awareness and educate teaching staff.

The conference was then broken up into break out areas called Discovery Sessions, which we signed up in advance of attending. The first was ‘Feedback, marking and moderation’ with Ron Park, which tried to address the issues Kerr Gardiner outlined.

This descended into a Q&A session, issues raised were:
• How were Turnitin going to support the variety of VLE integrations?
• Promises made today (double marking) were promised a few years ago with Feedback Studio and we’re still waiting.
• Other assessment tools are getting better, which allow for double marking, group submissions, other file formats like videos.

Turnitin diverted answers to these issues, threatening that if we moved away from Turnitin to a competitor that we’d be going back 5 years. Customer relations and transparency were questionable here.

After lunch it was the remaining two discovery sessions. I attended Bill Loller’s ‘Ghost Writing’ which was an interesting discussion on how it works. Bill talked about how the service is advertised to students, which type of students it is targeted to, how institutions should deal with students caught and how to educate staff about the issue.

The final session was ran by Gill Powell, ‘Preparing to tackle all elements of academic integrity’. Was a discussion of how different intuitions are educating their staff and students, and the challenges they’ve met. A member of staff from the University of Huddersfield shared his academic integrity report.

The rest of the afternoon was a number of talks around the issue of academic integrity. Simon Bullock from the QAA talked about raising student awareness and using technology to help educate students.

Irene Glendinning from the University of Coventry discussed her Academic Integrity scoring model developed through the IPPHEAE project, which involved scoring a number of universities across the European Union.

Cath Ellis from the University of New South Wales did an interesting talk about the global Academic Integrity picture. She’s been investigating students buying essays from online websites, and looking at student behaviour and how they view cheating.

The final talk was a video presentation by Phil Newton from the University of Swansea, titled ‘Pouring ALE on Contract Cheating’. ALE stands for Assessment Design, Law and Education. He described how the websites work for students wanting to have their essay written by someone else and how institutions can tackle the problem.

As I left the summit and boarded the train home, I plugged myself into music and shuffled back to Simon & Garfunkel. There’s a line at the beginning of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” which says “I’m on your side, Oh when times get rough.”

It seems Turnitin are willing to work more closely with UK institutions to improve support and trust in the system. I feel there are still issues in the current Feedback Studio that need to be addressed such as the app and user issues in Grademark. I felt encouraged there is more effort being made to listen to our concerns with the system and want to see action being taken, to be on our side and resolve them over the next academic year.

Ben McGrae

Travelogue – Reflections on ePortfolios in Professional Development event

Measuring the distance travelled is a phrase that is often associated with the use of portfolios in education. In many ways my attendance at the Pebblepad “ePortfolio in Professional Development event at Sheffield Hallam was a little like time travel. I have traveled some distance but I’m also travelling back, way back, back into time.  My first role at LJMU in 2006 was to support the wide scale implementation of the Blackboard ePortfolio tool to support student Personal Development Planning and assessment. ePortfolios haven’t enjoyed the same uptake as VLEs within Higher Education and tend to be described as ‘troublesome knowledge’.  Even the term ePortfolio isn’t widely agreed upon and PebblePad no longer use it to describe their product, preferring instead Personal Learning Space. That said,  many Higher Education Institutions now require, broadly speaking, some process or tool to evidence staff and student progression. So it is with many hats on I attended this event. Part of my current role is to look after the upgrade to Pebbleppad V5 this summer, so I was keen to hear more about how this area of learning developed. In particular, how Pebblepad could potentially be used to support HEA Fellowship application and Professional Development Review.

While the topic was familiar, the environment for the day certainly wasn’t. Andrew Middleton introduced us to their SCALE UP room and how this environment would shape the activities for the day, but also connected the space to Pebblepad’s online learning space. SCALE UP stands for Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Upside Down pedagogy. I was unfamiliar with the term but recognised the flipped classroom approach. SHU and neighbours NTU have invested in this approach as it supports the flipped classroom methodology, and student as partner approaches, encouraging more active group working in a technologically rich environment.  The aim is to remove passivity in the classroom and engage in higher domain learning accordance with the Bloom’s Taxonomy approach. Lectures are replaced by problem solving and enquiry based activities carried out in strategically-assigned groups.

The event was hosted in a large room and was divided into 7 round tables which could comfortably sit 9 staff or students. Each table has a laptop to capture work on that was connected to the LCD displays surround the room. Also in the middle of the table was range of power sockets and USB inputs for power-hungry working. Each table also had a 6 foot portable white board which Andrew stated was an integral part of the approach. He also suggested that the set up afforded structure and flexibility to the teaching experience, and the fluidity to remove the hierarchy of one central speaker but devolve it into the “spotlight” groups. This layout supported the structure of the day. Short presentations from experts, round table discussions, writing up ideas and feeding back to the group. I really enjoyed the social element of this approach, as well as white-boarding ideas and sharing. If I’m being a little critical (and selfish!) I would have liked to have the opportunity to do that with all the speakers for the day, as there were so many interesting topics.

ePortfolios in Professional Development

I was fortunate to spend the most time in a group with Dr Karen Ford at University of Sheffield. She detailed the work done at the institution over the past few years in using Pebblepad to support flexible pathways to HEA recognition. With the help of Pete Mella from the TEL team, they created self-contained workbooks for each of the different routes to recognition. The workbooks act like mini websites packed full of contextual information to help the applicant submit statements at the appropriate level. The workbook acted as a scaffold to allow individuals to provide evidence that allow them to meet the UKPSF criteria. Pebbelpad also doubles as an area where individuals can store evidence, reflections and artefacts privately, before electing to share or add them to the application. These methods were backed up by face-to- face explorer events, mentoring and successful writing clinics throughout the year. She commented that the new version of Pebblepad has made the process and usability much easier. The technology, support and tailored design process has been a success. Over the past two years there has been increase in applications across the board, including a significant rise in SFHEA applicants – from 6 to over 100.

Here is a link to Karen’s presentation. Pebblepad have collated  all the other presentations from the day on their website.


Delving Into the Archives

As part of a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) project creating online learning resources with the Centre for Archive Studies Paul Duvall and Phil Walker, from the eLearning Unit, captured a series of archive images in a specially arranged photo shoot.

Access was granted to the Special Collections & Archives section of the Sydney Jones Library at the University of Liverpool. The collections include manuscripts and archives, medieval to modern; early and finely printed books, and science fiction collections. The Archive of the University includes administrative records, personal papers of former staff and students, photographs and objects relating to the history and function of the University of Liverpool. Some of the oldest manuscripts even date back to the 12th Century! Here is a highlights gallery illustrating some of the more unusual and colourful items in the collection.

The purpose of the photo shoot was to capture any relevant and appropriate images that could be used throughout the online CPD content. Showing the realistic conditions and environment of a current archive will hopefully provide a more stimulating educational experience for the CPD participants. Still images were taken in the Reading Room, which allows up to 18 readers to view materials on request, and the archive which is only accessible for certain staff.

The eLearning Unit capture high quality still images (and video) as part of CPD projects or as a stand alone request. If you would like to know more about eLearning Unit activities in this area or have any other enquiries related to producing online CPD please contact us at

If you have any questions about the Special Collections and Archives please get in touch with the relevant member of staff from the library.

A selection of the photos taken on the day are presented below. Click on the thumbnail images to view a larger version in a new window/tab.

Paul Duvall.

E-learning: The Future of Education in Pakistan

On a recent trip to Pakistan, contributing to the INSPIRE project, I delivered a series of e-learning workshops and talks across a section of the Punjab (a province with a population of over 80 million people!). The participants at these workshops were primarily young doctors and medical educators from throughout the region. The workshops considered the past, present and possible future of education and technology. The sessions were designed to show the current situation in the UK, and particularly in Liverpool, related to education and technology. We then moved into group discussions considering how Pakistan could develop in this area. The day’s activities ended with a practical hands on session where software, introduced earlier in the day, could be experimented with. This section of the workshop included products such as Google Docs, Prezi, Dropbox, Polleverywhere, Ning and many more.

Despite issues such as regular power cuts and a limited technical infrastructure, in some regions, the doctors were very enthusiastic about the use of technology in their teaching and were very keen to learn and explore new opportunities.

Following on from the visit, participants were asked to produce some evidence highlighting effective use of technology in their own teaching. Once demonstrated they will gain a certificate of attendance for the workshop. An online environment has been created for this purpose and several blog posts have already been posted indicating a strong belief that technology plays an essential and integral part of medical education in Pakistan.

It was an excellent visit from my point of view, fascinating to experience a different culture and hugely rewarding to work in a new environment. I would also like to think the visit was well received with colleagues in Pakistan. Our activities attracted some local and national attention, culminating in newspaper articles and an invitation to speak with the Punjab chief minister. The welcome we received, everywhere we went, was incredible and the hospitality of the Pakistani people, during our visit, second to none.

Further developments currently underway, as a result of the visit, are a project to create a VLE for the University of Health Sciences (UHS), Lahore, using a Google Apps for Education domain and the potential creation of PhDs and further significant training opportunities between Pakistan and the University of Liverpool. Exciting times!

Paul Duvall.

Visit by José Chamizo – Universidad Internacional de Andalucia

25th October 2011

The eLU was pleased to welcome José over lunchtime for an informal chat and exchange of ideas. José wanted to understand the work of our team and how learning technology is facilitated and utilised across the University of Liverpool. In turn we were extremely interested to learn about José’s role in maintaining Moodle as the basis of the Universidad  Internacional de Andalucia (UNIA) VLE across their multiple sites and over a wide geographical area in Andalucia and internationally.

L-r: Dan Roberts, Debbie Prescott, Jose Chamizo, Nick Bunyan

José was over in the UK on a staff Erasmus Scheme visit, primarily based in the University of Salford. Thanks to our contacts with Salford José was keen to visit the eLearning Unit to get another perspective on UK HE learning technology. (José was also delighted to be in the home of Liverpool FC, until recently the home of a phalanx of Spanish footballing talent!) UNIA is an interesting body in that it offers graduate and postgraduate-level programmes, and CPD and professional qualification programmes in variety of contexts. They have a very strong international set-up, encompassing Morocco and South America, and they develop and run programmes within a network of Latin American universities.

Sede Málaga

José works at the Malaga Technology Campus of UNIA (above) and it was useful to hear that whilst the decision to use a free, open-source VLE (Moodle) was a financial one, the system has run relatively hassle-free for them out of the box, and has been very easy to configure and adapt for the range of needs they have at UNIA. We look forward to further exchanges with José in the future. José kindly extended an invitation to the eLearning Unit to go and visit him in Malaga, which we are somewhat eager to take up…

Dan Roberts

Visit to the “Media Zoo” and Prof. Gilly Salmon at Leicester Uni

On 3rd November, Alan Southern, Lisa Anderson, Craig Marsh and Debbie Prescott visited Leicester University to meet with Prof. Gilly Salmon and her Beyond Distance Research Alliance team. The meeting was motivated by the “Benchmarking Project” that Alan is working on with Gilly, but it was also a good opportunity to find out what the team there is doing.

They have developed the concept of the Media Zoo. The idea behind this is to much like that of an animal zoo. It is a “safe” (i.e. the animals are in cages) place where staff can go to find information about, gain experience of, and get support with e-learning tools and concepts without fear of the “scary animals” (or e-learning) biting back! Without meaning to be rude, this concept seemed a little uurm, “basic” at first so we asked about how the concept is perceived by staff at Leicester. It seems that it is very well received and very successful. This is backed up by the discussions I have heard at different network meetings and relevant journal papers and the simplicity of the concept is definitely one of the Media Zoo’s strengths! Keeping an idea and concept simple clearly has advantages and something we should recognise at Liverpool.

Like all good simple ideas though there is usually a significant substance lurking in the background and this is certainly the case for the Media Zoo. Each “part” (pets corner, breeding area, safari park and exotics house) of the zoo is backed up by either research projects or case studies which make the zoo an excellent resource. Access to these resources and support from the team really seems to help to give staff the confidence to try different e-learning approaches.

Another of the initiatives from the team at Leicester is the Carpe Diem process. Here a programme team takes part in a series of learner-centred e-learning design and assessment activities (a pre-workshop meeting, a two-day workshop and a follow up meeting). It seems that the Carpe Diem approach is also well received and successful and we are currently investigating how we can adopt aspects of this approach at Liverpool.

The team at Leicester have more staff than we have in the eLearning Unit at Liverpool but this is because they have built up the team by successful research bids and clever “marketing” of their activities. Plus, the appointment of someone like Prof. Gilly Salmon to lead the developments has had an enormous impact. Where they are now in terms of the projects they are involved with and their strategy for e-learning is where we are aiming to be soon – I suspect they are a number of years ahead of us in terms of the development of these e-learning activities.

All in all it was a very useful day and good to make contacts over in Leicester. There is a lot that we can learn from the Beyond Distance Research Alliance and I look forward to further discussions they might have.


Visit by Christina Costa – ALT Learning Technologist of the Year 2010

The eLearning Unit were delighted to welcome Christina Costa to their office today. Christina is the Association for Learning Technology’s 2010 Learning Technologist of the year. The burning question on our lips was “How do we get to be next year’s winner?” (!) but we were more polite in the end and quizzed Christina on the kind of work she did, how she was supported in the University and whether and how we might collaborate in the future.

Christina Costa - ALT learning technologist of the year 2010

Christina is based at the University of Salford (in the Research and Graduate College) and won her award for her work developing staff and student use of social media (blogs, wikis, Twitter, Facebook, etc) for teaching, learning and research. Christina is particularly interested in utilising new media for the promotion of collaborative research and for dissemination of research activity, and we spent a very useful hour in discussion with Christina.

You can read Christina’s Postgraduate Research Team blog here and find her web presence here.

Read about the other winners and runners-up in this year’s awards here. (The eLearning Unit hope to meet up with the Oxford TALL team this year to learn from this award-winning unit).

Read more about the Association for Learning Technology here.

Oxford visit – Sakai factfinder

Paul and Dan recently visited the University of Oxford Computing Services Department to have a look at their installation of the Sakai system, an open-source “Collaboration and Learning Environment” (similar to a VLE)  which is deployed in some major UK institutions, including Oxford and Cambridge.

They were the guests of Adam Marshall, a one-time employee of the University of Liverpool. Adam very generously gave his time to talk through the experience at Oxford of running an open-source VLE, of the transition from one VLE system to another, broader issues of staff support, and he gave a guided ‘tour’ of the University of Oxford Sakai installation WebLearn. We were also treated to a very fine lunch!

Some key findings and resources from the day included:

  • Sakai allows you to create structures that suit your programme, rather than being tied in to an annual ‘modular’ system.
  • University of Hull’s resources on institutional VLE  migration from Blackboard to Sakai (includes very useful information on testing and migration of BB tests to Sakai)
  • Only the medical faculty are currently allowed to assess students formally online at the University of Oxford, this being done in specially built facilities.
  • Also seen was the open-source Mobile Ox developed by Oxford, a student information service for mobile platforms.

Paul and Dan also brought back a wealth of information and contacts which will prove an extremely resource to draw on should there be a general review of the systems offered at UoL in the future. Do leave a comment or email the elearning unit to find out more about Sakai,  elearning systems and support structures at Oxford, or even about the Oxford Sausage!

Further to this, Nick will be visiting the Oxford team on December 9th 2010 for an open day workshop on the latest version of Sakai currently under development, the Sakai Open Academic Environment: