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Lightning review of Turnitin’s Feedback Studio for iOS

Posted on: September 12, 2017

Turnitin’s Feedback Studio needs some serious feedback.

Yesterday I shared how its web application, integrated into an institutional LMS, kept logging me out and had UI controls reminiscent of the 80s.

If its web application was unstable and finicky, then its iOS app was bare-bones and underwhelming.

Turnitin’s Feedback Studio

I was hoping that I could do on the iOS app much of what I could already do with the web application. I was disappointed early on.

As I accessed Turnitin from an institutional LMS (BlackBoard), I had to log in with an “activation code”.

According to the instructions (as of 10 September 2017), I had to first log in to the institutional LMS on my iPad, pick any assignment, and click on an information (i) icon to reveal a “Generate Code” button.

When I tapped on the button, nothing happened. I could not get a code with the iOS app.

Hoping that the code was not tied to a device, I decided to try this on my laptop. Clicking on the button using my laptop gave me the code I needed. I had to use this workaround because Turnitin’s instructions did not work.

The UI of the app is simple. At first I was disappointed that what I did not use was plain to see and what I really needed to use did not seem available.

UI of Turnitin’s Feedback Studio

What was clearly visible were tappable areas for a rubric, summary comment, voice comment, and similarity (matching scores to other artefacts in the database) at the top of the page. I did not rely on any of these.

I do not even use the scoring element because 1) I keep the marks elsewhere, and 2) the point of this assignment is for students to respond to feedback via a reflection and to incorporate changes in the next assignment. Provide a score and the learning stops (and the badgering for marks begins)!

The actual tools for providing specific formative feedback, i.e., highlighting, commenting, selecting canned responses, etc., were not obvious. There was no initial-use help on screen. Such a job aid is practically a standard feature from app creators who practice user-centric design.

Thankfully tapping on the screen a few times revealed the highlighting, commenting, and type-over functions. I managed to markup and comment on a student’s work. In the screen capture above, I pixellated the work (grey) as well as my comments, canned comments, and highlights (all in blue).

Highlighting was somewhat laborious as the app selected an entire line when I wanted to focus on one word. It was also not easy to select several sentences in a paragraph, but I suspect that this problem is common to apps that display PDFs.

As I was trying this at home where the wifi was fast and stable, the markups in the app synchronised with the web version almost immediately. A better test might be at a public hotspot or transport where the signal is less reliable. This would test Turnitin’s claim that any app edits would update the web versions when a reliable connection was established.

I am not sure I would recommend the app for processing class upon class of scripts. The typing of comments alone would be a pain. An external keyboard might alleviate this issue, but not everyone has one. There is also the option of audio feedback, but this does not highlight specific parts of an assignment.

I would not recommend this app to the paper and pencil generation. I would hesitate to do the same even to those who consider themselves mobile savvy. I would not want my recommendations to be soured by association with an app that feels like it is in perpetual beta.

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