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Learning Enhancement and Development

Session 3G - Paper 2

Using online feedback technology to enhance academic literacy and support student success.

Session Slides

Dr Jonathan Mann FHEA - University of East London
Earle Abrahamson PFHEA - University of East London

Online systems like Turnitin have been identified as way to improve the quality of work that students submit[1]. Related to this, recent studies concerned with Turnitin have foregrounded its capacity as an educative tool that improves students’ understanding of academic misconduct[2]. Academic writing, and the ability of students to appreciate feedback as a significant component of learning is often hidden behind the technological platform of Turnitin. In many cases Turnitin is conceived as software used to detect dishonesty and frame students for inappropriate citation, or misuse of referencing. We seek to address this, by examining more the pedagogical value of online feedback systems in the context of widening participation and TEF.

Significantly expanding the discussion beyond plagiarism, taking a genre-based approach[3], and positioning both academic writing and Turnitin/feedback within the context of academic literacies[4], this paper  intervenes with current debates. The case study draws on qualitative and quantitative data recorded from students, tutors, and the Turnitin software system. By doing so, three-dimensional insights are generated into best practice that have profound implications for HEIs, most especially those with widening participation agendas. Based on these data, the case study puts forward a series of practical recommendations that tutors can implement to help raise standards amongst student writing.  Making use of key concepts arising from the interviews, the study aims to identify what software features would be most useful for enabling students to develop writing competences across a number of genres.

Indicative question include:

  • What are the student stories that manifest from the technology we use?
  • How do we engage with students and help them see the value of technology in aiding their academic and professional development?
  • Is Turnitin being used effectively, and what are the real stories and messages we need to consider in order to promote a culture and space for learning and writing to develop?
  • How easily can data be extracted from Turnitin?

[1]Coffey & Anyinam, 2012;  Buckley and Cowap, 2013

[2]Barratt and Malcolm, 2006; Buckley and Cowap, 2013; Ball et al., 2012; Ryan, Bonanno, Krass, Scouller& Smith, 2009

[3]Swales, 1990

[4] Lea and Street, 2006


Ball, S., Bew, C., Bloxham, S., Brown, S., Kleiman, P., May, H., McDowell, L., Morris, E., Orr, S., Payne, E., Price, M., Rust, C., Smith, B., Waterfield, J. (2012) A Marked Improvement. York: Higher Education Academy. Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/a_marked_improvement.pdf. Accessed 22 April 2016.

Barrett, R. and Malcolm, J. (2006), ‘Embedding plagiarism education in the assessment process’, International Journal for Educational Integrity, 2 (2), 38–45.

Buckley, E. and Cowap, L. (2013) ‘An evaluation of the use of Turnitin for electronic submission and marking and as a formative feedback tool from an educator's perspective’, British Journal of Educational Technology, 44, pp. 562–570.

Coffey S and Anyinam, C (2012) 'Trialing a contextual approach to academic honesty’, Nurse Education, 37(2), pp. 62-6.

Lea, M. and Street, B. (2009) 'The "Academic Literacies" Model: Theory and Applications', Theory into Practice, 45:4, 368-377.

Ryan, G., Bonanno, H., Krass, I., Scouller, K., & Smith, L. (2009). Undergraduate and postgraduate pharmacy students’ perceptions of plagiarism and academic honesty. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 73(6), 1-8.

Swales, J. (1990). Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.