Turnitin vs Managebac (vs paper)

As is traditional at this time of year, when one cohort’s IA work gets submitted, I make a resolution to be more efficient with the process next time.

The bottlenecks in the current system would seem to me to be:

  • The 4PSOW is a pain to complete
  • There is always some chasing of missing student work
  • There isn’t always clear improvement in student work over the course
  • Students take to long to complete the tasks and as a result they end up only doing the minimum

There should be some roles for improved systems here and technology might be able to help. To look at this I tried using a couple of systems that the students already have some familiarity with to evaluate a piece of work. When they had completed an assignment I asked them to submit it to both turnitin and managebac.

The only additional load this gives for the students is that everything has to be in one file. Sometimes diagrams get hand drawn and different applications are used for graphing, tabulating and writing. For this exercise there were no tables or charts, but a diagram was often necessary. Some of theses were photos of drawings and this seemed to work fine. This works because all the students already have accounts and experience with each system. Teacher accounts are also established.

Once the work was in it was time to review the work.

Managebac offers annotation tools to add comments and highlights to the text. It also has a gradebook with all of the IB criteria added and you simply have to tick the box to assign the scores. You also get to comment in general and on each aspect of the assigned criteria. Unfortunately it seems that the paper viewing and annotation are separate from the gradebook part, so you need to record your observations and then remember them and reproduce them in the gradebook. The great thing is that the gradebook understands the IA system so it collates the results into a sensible format to highlight performance towards the overall IA goal. It may also be a good system to encourage students to look back at feedback from earlier assignments to avoid repeating mistakes. In theory we can also generate a 4PSOW here, which would be great, but that does require the input of all of the investigations, even ones that are not assessed.

Turnitin offers a lot more customizable features for annotating and recording. I was able to make a rubric based on the IA levels pretty quickly and assign this to a paper, which made for a reasonable record. It was also possible to make a custom library of ‘quickmarks’ to annotate the papers so that it was quick to associate parts of the work with specific criteria. I felt that this was an efficient way of giving specific feedback. Since the libraries of rubrics and quickmarks can be exported, they should be easy to share with other people (in school? on OCC?). Since the feedback with quickmarks could be easily located on the paper and comments directly associated with the criteria statement, this worked quickly. Quickmarks can easily be created and added to the system. It may be possible to take existing checklists and put them in the system.

Turnitin also offered an interesting option – peermark. This means you can ask the system to assign papers to students so that they can provide comments and see  each others work. They were generally able to complete this task, though I did stuff up the dates (in fairness I would say that this part of the application is pretty complicated). My view of the quality of the feedback was that it was not good, but I think that is partly because I chose the questions poorly – I simply copied the criteria and asked them to score and comment on these. An improved checklist and some questions may help. It seemed like this was not a significant extra load on the students, though this should be checked.

I guess one way to go would be to use turnitin to assess and managebac to record, but this seems cumbersome. I will try and get some feedback from the students and see how the final product works with printing and filing.

Another option is to keep the work on paper. We are more active with paper so that is great.


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