EdTool Tips #8: Turnitin Feedback – Providing fully online feedback to your students


Welcome back to another edition of EdTool Tips. In the last post we went through the seemingly labyrinth means of setting up your dropboxes by going through all the settings in depth. This post is a followup, showing you how you could use Turnitin’s ‘Feedback Studio’ online marking system. It has a range of options for providing feedback to your students, but it also has some limitations. As a reminder, it is a policy requirement that students submit all written assessments through Turnitin, but the use of this marking and feedback system is entirely optional (but encouraged!).

What can I do with Turnitin’s fully online marking?

The short answer is that you can use a range of tools to provide fully online feedback to your students for text based submissions. Unfortunately you cannot yet do all of the things you could do by hand or with track changes in Microsoft Word, and it is best used for essay-style submissions made as PDFs or document file types. But it’s not all bad news: Turnitin/Feedback Studio offers a few extra types of feedback creation tools not readily available through other means. It allows you to principally do six things:

Qualitative Feedback:

  • QuickMarks – create and use banks of frequently used comments
  • Click/Highlight/Strikethrough to make a text comment
  • Overall text comment (limited to 5000 characters)
  • Voice only comment (limited to 3 minutes)

Quantitative Feedback:

  • Provide an overall mark – which gets sent to the Blackboard/Canvas gradebook (whole marks only)
  • Turnitin’s form of marking rubrics and grading forms

Let’s go through each of these available modes of delivering feedback. But first, how do you get to the ‘Feedback Studio’ pop up window?

As shown in the video below, you navigate to your ‘Unit of Study Tools’ and into the ‘Turnitin Assignments’ area, select the assignment you wish to mark by clicking on its title to get to the assignment inbox. From the assignment inbox you’ll see a list of all students and if they have made a submission (Turnitin only keeps the most recent submission if students submitted more than once). Next you can click on either the student’s submission title, the similarity % match, or on the pencil/score in the row with the student’s name and the pop up window will appear.

Note: In the new Feedback Studio product from Turnitin, all changes should be saved automatically as you create comments, drop in QuickMarks, or enter in an overall score. The old Turnitin was less web 2.0 in its features and you had to click save after many actions.

QuickMarks for quick, standardised marking

This feature takes a bit of time to set up, but it allows you to make the same comment many times very quickly from a bank of drag and drop comments. Activate it by clicking on the blue checkbox symbol in the mid-right hand panel. If you have a planned idea of what comments you’re likely to make in a coordinated way with your tutors and/or have a large amount of marking to do, then you can start to build up comments as you go. I’ve made a quick video to show you how to use QuickMarks as these are dynamic features.

Note, your QuickMarks are your own and you’ll need to export each set of QuickMarks as a ‘.QMS’ file, share this file, and import it on another marker’s account if you wish to use a common bank of QuickMarks for multiple markers.

The video below shows:

  • How to drag and drop an existing comment
  • How to use the click anywhere (within the student’s submission) to get a QuickMark comment
  • How to convert a comment you keep writing over and over and over again into a QuickMark
  • How to create and share your own set of comments


Click and comment for freeform text comments

This is where the limitations compared to Microsoft Word’s track changes or even Google Doc’s editing abilities are more apparent. This feature allows you to do just what it says along with a couple of other options. I’ll show you in a quick video below how you can:

  • Click and comment to create a comment bubble
  • Create an in-line text comment which appears as direct text on the page
  • Highlight text in yellow with an associated comment bubble
  • Strike through text – no comment option


Overall text and voice comments for a personal touch

The overall text comment area provides you a space where you can give 5000 characters of feedback for each submission and/or record up to 3 minutes of audio feedback in a single take. Begin by clicking on the second blue icon on the right mid-panel which looks like a pencil on top of a rectangular shape (this is slightly obscure). Please take a look at my video below, it is fairly straightforward as these features are relatively simple.


Entering in an overall mark and using Turnitin’s rubrics

The overall mark is in the top right hand part of the screen in the Feedback Studio window. In it, you can enter in only whole numbers (oddly you can use half marks in Turnitin’s rubrics, but not in the overall grade); if you need to give a partial mark, then you can do so in the Blackboard/Canvas gradebook.

The rubrics can be accessed via the third and final blue button on the right hand mid-panel and it looks like a series of blue squares in a 3 x 3 formation with the top left one missing for a staircase like effect (a strange symbol choice for rubrics, which often appear as grids of boxes).

Rubrics in Turnitin are truly not for the faint of heart and you’ll need a bit of persistence and a willingness to test them out in order to get the hang of them. Is the investment in time and brain space worth it? Truly it depends on your context. They can be a bit difficult to set up, but are a better alternative than rubrics in Word docs that used to manually mark assignments or even hard copy rubrics. What’s important is finding a workflow which both supports your teaching and is sustainable. Turnitin offers one option which is fully online, but has a few drawbacks in terms of its flexibility to suit many rubric or marking structures.

A comprehensive review of how to use Turnitin rubrics would require its own EdTools post, so I’ve only summarised the basics to get you started. A few quick notes:

  • Only the creator of a rubric can edit it
  • A rubric is frozen and cannot be edited once it has started being used
  • Rubrics need to be copied in order to be used again
  • You will need to export, share the files with others, and then import rubrics in order to share them between staff, unless it is attached to the assignment, then all staff can use the same rubric to provide feedback.
  • You can only create rubrics with an equal number of columns for each criterion. So if you are assessing 5 items each for 5 points, then it works, but if one criterion is worth 7 and another 3, then you’ll have to use a weightings system to achieve the desired outcome. This bends the tool to your will, but can be a distractor to students trying to interpret their rubric based feedback – a bit of communication usually solves this though.
  • Turnitin will malfunction causing various errors if you use a rubric with a different number of points than the assignment’s point value and it will not communicate with the Blackboard/Canvas gradebook.
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