New “Atomic Search” Tool Arrives in Canvas

Course Search Image

In January 2023, UW System added a new Atomic Search tool to Canvas. This tool allows both instructors and students to more easily locate content within Canvas courses by searching for keywords. In a Digital Learning Environment student usability study conducted by UW System, students expressed having difficulties locating course content, especially when the layout of the Canvas course was not clear and consistent. Adding a search tool to Canvas was identified as a potential solution. 

Instructors do not have to take any action to enable the Atomic Search tool in their courses. The search tool appears both in the left global navigation bar as a “Search” icon and in course navigation menus as a “Search” link. Starting a search from the global navigation bar will search within all of a user’s enrollments; starting a search from the “Search” link of a course navigation menu will search only within that course. The search tool respects all of the access restrictions an instructor can apply to course content items, so search results shown to a student will only include content that the student could find through normal navigation of the course. 

The most important consideration for instructors is that the addition of a search tool in Canvas heightens the importance of making sure that outdated course content is unpublished or deleted. While preparing a Canvas course, removing an outdated Page from a course module but then forgetting to delete it entirely from the course is an easy mistake to make. With the arrival of a search tool in Canvas, students are now more likely to encounter an old page that you have removed from a module but never deleted or unpublished. Especially in those courses in which you’ve been reusing and iterating upon the same base of Canvas content over several terms, we recommend reviewing your course “index” pages—Announcements, Assignments, Discussions, and Pages—and deleting obsolete content and abandoned drafts. 

Course delete page

While cleaning up your course, remember that removing a page from a module does not also delete that page from the course. Likewise, deleting a module does not delete its contents. Items that module contained will still be found among the Pages, Assignments, and Discussions index pages of the course. Fully deleting a content item from your course can only be done while viewing that item or while viewing the index page for that item’s type—for example, the list of pages you can view by clicking the Pages link in the course navigation menu. Anytime you plan on removing an unneeded content item from a course module it is a good practice to first unpublish that item so that even if you forget to follow up and delete it, students cannot find it. 

After reviewing your course and deleting old content, we recommend running your course’s Link Validator to scan your course for any links which point at now-deleted content. Remove or update any broken links found by the validator tool. 

Please also keep in mind that new content and content changes will not immediately appear in search results. After a change is made to course content, the search tool needs to “reindex” the course before it can deliver updated search results. For an active course, this reindexing process happens automatically at least once every 10 hours. 

Additional Resources 

Making Impactful Use of Canvas Analytics in Your Course

Like many websites, Canvas collects data from users as they navigate their courses. Thankfully, unlike many websites, Canvas collects this data not for the purpose of selling it to advertisers but for the purpose of presenting it to instructors. Canvas presents collected student activity data in a course page titled “New Analytics,” which contains charts and tables designed to help instructors make use of this data. While New Analytics contains well-organized representations of course data, it does not prescribe specific actions or provide a formula for making use of the data. In this post, we summarize the data available in New Analytics and recommend ways you can interpret it to take actions in your course that can help improve student outcomes. 

Detecting Course Trends 

New Analytics Window

New Analytics can help reveal trends in student achievement from assignment to assignment and student engagement from week to week. After launching New Analytics from the course navigation menu or the button on the right side of the course Home page, you’ll see a series of tabs across the top of the page. The first two tabs, “Course Grade” and “Weekly Online Activity” have data views that can help you identify course trends. The Course Grade tab has a chart which shows the average grade for each assignment in your course. Each assignment in your course will be represented by a dot on this chart. The dot’s position on the y-axis represents the average grade for that assignment. A quick glance at this chart can help you identify the assignments where the class atypically excelled or struggled and help you confirm—or refute—suspicions you developed about performance trends while grading assignments. Thinking critically about why the class might have been more or less successful on a particular assignment can lead to ideas for course design improvements. A close look at a successful assignment may lead to insights on what works well in a course; a close look at a less successful assignment may reveal a need to incorporate scaffolding assignments and additional support. Clicking on an assignment’s dot on the chart will reveal additional statistics, including a grade distribution chart and the number of missing and late submissions. 

Clicking the Weekly Online Activity tab will show a chart of the average page views and course participation actions during each week of the course. Viewing this chart can help you identify whether engagement with your Canvas course is waning, holding steady, or growing. Beneath the chart is a table of course resources which shows how many students have viewed each item, how many overall views it’s received, and how many times a student has participated (a list of the actions Canvas counts as a “participation” can be found in this Canvas guide). You can sort this table by any of its columns to identify which elements of your course get the most and least engagement. If an important resource in your course isn’t garnering as many views as you’d like it to, ask yourself “why?” and consider ways to either guide your students to that resource or phase it out and incorporate its key content into the resources your students are reliably viewing (Clum, 2021). Look at the resources that have gotten the most views and participation and check for commonalities to gain insight on what captures your students’ attention. You can click on any data point in the Weekly Online Activity chart to open a panel that shows activity data filtered for that specific week. The data in this panel can give you an idea of whether students are keeping up with the pace of your course or whether they are still working through older resources. 

Checking on Individual Students 

New Analytics can also help you identify students who may benefit from an intervention from a professional adviser because they have disengaged with your course or never engaged at all. The Students tab of the New Analytics page shows a table with the following statistics for each student: 

  • Current grade 
  • Percentage of assignment submissions made on time 
  • Last date of a participation action 
  • Last date the student viewed any page in your course 
  • Count of total page views 
  • Count of total participation actions 

You can click any column header on this table to sort the table by that column. Looking at this table during the first few weeks of a term and sorting it by “Page Views” can help you quickly identify students who have not engaged with the Canvas course. Students with no or very low page view counts have not engaged with your course. You can issue an ad-hoc alert in EAB Navigate to request that UW-Green Bay’s professional advising team reach out and help set a student on a path to academic success. 

Clicking on a student’s name in this table will open a student-specific data view that shows that particular student’s assignment grades and weekly activity over time. If you’ve noticed a downturn in a student’s performance or engagement, this view can help back up your observations with data. Comparing a student’s assignment grades or activity with the class average can help you contextualize any trends you see. You can view an individual student’s data alongside the class average on the same chart by adding that student to the filter field above the chart on the Course Grade or Weekly Online Activity tabs.

Sending Smart Messages 

Sending Smart Messages in Canvas

New Analytics also makes it easy to send messages to students who fit certain performance or activity criteria. As you explore the Analytics tool in your course, keep an eye out for the message icon that can be found on most of the tabs and panels. Clicking this icon will begin composing a Canvas Inbox message which you can send to students that meet a customizable criterion related to an assignment grade, weekly activity, or engagement with a specific resource. Here are a few examples of the types of messages you can target through New Analytics: 

  • Check-in with students who haven’t yet viewed the course this week 
  • Send congratulations to the students who did well on an assignment 
  • Encourage a growth mindset for students who struggled with an assignment and point them to helpful resources 
  • Remind students who have missing assignments to make a submission 

These quick instructor encouragements and interventions can help your students stay engaged with the course and on-target to reach their goals (Bostwick & Becker-Blease, 2018). Especially in online asynchronous courses, sending these targeted check-in messages can help establish your presence and ensure that students know you care about their success. 

Try It Out!

Coupling the data in Canvas New Analytics with the observations you make while teaching can help you make accurate judgments about what works well and not so well in your course. It can also help you identify when a student needs some additional support, and the incorporated messaging tool makes it easy to follow-up. We encourage you to open the New Analytics page in your Canvas courses, explore the data within, and ask yourself whether what you see aligns with your assumptions of how students experience your course. Try sending a congratulatory message to the students that excelled on an assignment and a friendly reminder message to the students who owe you work. We’d love to hear about your experience exploring and interpreting the data! Please feel free to reach out to us at CATL@uwgb.edu to tell us your story, ask a question, or request a consultation!

References 

  • Bostwick, K. C. P., & Becker-Blease, K. A. (2018). Quick, Easy Mindset Intervention Can Boost Academic Achievement in Large Introductory Psychology Classes. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 17(2), 177–193. https://doi.org/10.1177/1475725718766426 
  • Clum, K. (2021, May 14). Using canvas analytics to support student success. KatieClum.org. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://katieclum.org/2021/05/14/using-canvas-analytics-to-support-student-success/ 

PlayPosit: Time-Saving Tips

What is PlayPosit? And what can PlayPosit do for you?

What is PlayPosit? PlayPosit is a video resource tool integrated with Canvas that allows instructors to create interactive videos. Using PlayPosit terminology, these videos are referred to as bulbs. Instructors can embed questions or other engagement check-points, called interactions, into recorded lecture videos, YouTube videos, or other Kaltura video recordings. For a more detailed summary of PlayPosit, please see this previous blog created by CATL.

What can PlayPosit do for you? PlayPosit can be used to create alternative learning materials for your course and offers more options besides traditional text-based resources for students to engage with.  Using bulb interactions, you can check student knowledge during a recorded lecture video, provide extra materials via external URL links to highlight a key learning point, provide space for students to anonymously ask clarifying questions, or even allow students to record time-stamped comments and notes for later review. A more detailed breakdown of the different types of interactions offered within PlayPosit bulbs as well as a few use cases like creating quizzes, breaking up long lectures, and much more can be found here.

Increasing Dialogue: How can PlayPosit help you collect student feedback?

Another powerful feature of this tool is that you can also use PlayPosit within your Canvas course to get live, synchronous feedback from your students. In the past, clickers or Kahoot! may have been used as live polling tools, or even Zoom Polls or Microsoft Teams. Now, you can use a similar feature included with UWGB’s PlayPosit license called PlayPosit Broadcast

If you do not wish to use PlayPosit Broadcast as a live polling feature, you can still increase course dialogue by utilizing the Discussion interaction within your bulbs. This type of interaction allows students to leave timestamped comments and questions within a video, creating a discussion forum within the PlayPosit activity itself. Instructors can modify the discussion forum interaction settings to prevent students from seeing their classmates’ comments until they have posted a comment themselves. You can also moderate discussion forum interactions as the instructor within the PlayPosit interface. Creating PlayPosit discussion forums for points may also offer students an alternative to traditional Canvas Discussions.  

Assignments and Beyond: How can PlayPosit be used for low-stakes or ungraded activities?

A common misconception about PlayPosit is that you can only create PlayPosit bulbs as graded Canvas Assignments. This is not the case. If you would like students to take a PlayPosit assessment or engage with an interactive video activity for points that are reflected within your Canvas gradebook, you can indeed build the PlayPosit bulb as an assignment within Canvas, however you can also build ungraded PlayPosit activities for your students. 

Student self-assessment activities and interactive, supplemental video resources can encourage active learning within the classroom, especially for asynchronous learning environments. Both types of student engagement activities can be created using PlayPosit, and may work best as low-stakes assignments or as ungraded items in Canvas. To create an ungraded PlayPosit bulb, add your PlayPosit bulb as an embedded item in a page or as an external tool within a Module. If you still want students to see some sort of grade for self-assessment purposes, you can assign each bulb interaction a point within the PlayPosit interface. While these interactions will display point values within PlayPosit, the points earned by completing interactions will not push back to Canvas and the PlayPosit activity will not be reflected in the Canvas Gradebook. More information on how to create PlayPosit activities that are graded or ungraded in Canvas can be found in the UWGB IT Knowledgebase, UKnowIt.

How can PlayPosit help save instructors time?

PlayPosit isn’t just a resource that will benefit your students and their learning experience within the classroom. It also has many benefits for instructors. There are several features of this tool that can be time savers for you as an instructor! Not only is building a PlayPosit bulb a quick way to enhance your existing course videos, but PlayPosit automatically saves interactions you make for your bulbs within a personal interaction library. PlayPosit also allows you to create templates for individual interactions or sets of interactions. You can then access these individual interactions, located under My Interactions within the PlayPosit interface, or your saved templates for use in future bulbs to make the bulb creation process even faster! For more information on how to access and use these timesaving PlayPosit features, see this PlayPosit resource. Remember, since UWGB possesses a license for this tool, you as an instructor have access to all of these features.  

Beyond saving the interactions and templates you personally create, PlayPosit also allows you to co-edit bulbs with colleagues using the collaborations feature, or to share out PlayPosit bulbs to fellow instructors by using the folders feature. These sharing features can be used together or separately depending on if you wish to include your colleagues as editors, or to simply provide them with a copy of one of your bulbs. For directions on how to share and copy bulbs, please review this PlayPosit resource. Not only can you share individual bulbs within PlayPosit, but you can also collaborate and share interaction templates with your colleagues! For more information on how to collaborate with other instructors, please see this resource provided by PlayPosit.

Questions?

These are only a few of the features PlayPosit offers instructors and students. If you have any questions about PlayPosit, please feel free to reach out to the UWGB Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning through email (catl@uwgb.edu) or for troubleshooting you can contact PlayPosit customer support through their website (PlayPosit Knowledge) by clicking on “Contact” in the upper right corner. For a more detailed discussion of PlayPosit use cases and how you can harness the tool in your own Canvas course, you can schedule a consultation with CATL here

Helpful Terms and Hints

Bulb – The term used to refer to a PlayPosit interactive video.

Interaction – The term for the different questions, images, audio, or other media resources which can be embedded into a PlayPosit bulb. There is no limit to how many can be included within a bulb.

PlayPosit Designer – This is the interface used to create PlayPosit bulbs, insert your video source, embed interactions, and select bulb settings.

PlayPosit 3.0 Designer – This refers to the current version of PlayPosit software being used.

Learner Made Content – This refers to PlayPosit bulbs and interactions created by learners and submitted for assessment to instructors.

If you do not wish to work in the PlayPosit interface within Canvas and prefer a larger screen to build and edit your videos, you can open your PlayPosit account in any browser. In order to do so however, you must have already opened PlayPosit within your UWGB Canvas account. If you have not yet accessed PlayPosit at UWGB, follow the instructions below. 

How to log into PlayPosit through your UWGB Canvas Account: 

  • First, log into your UWGB Canvas account in one tab of a browser of your choice. 
  • Navigate to the Assignments section if you wish to build a graded PlayPosit activity or to the Pages section for an ungraded PlayPosit activity. 
  • For a Page, create a New Page by clicking on + Page and then click the down arrow to the left of the plug-in icon in the Rich Content Toolbar. The plug-in icon looks like a two-prong plug with a cord. Then click on View All and select PlayPosit. This will open a window with the words Set Link in the top right corner. Click on the words Enter PlayPosit in the middle of the window or Set Link in green on the right side of the window. You should now be in PlayPosit, skip to the last step in these instructions to open PlayPosit in a browser. 
  • For an Assignment, create a New Assignment by clicking on + Assignment, then under Submission Type, select External Tool. Next, click on Find under "Find an External Tool URL" and scroll down then select PlayPosit. A window with the words Link Resource form External Tool will open, click on either Enter PlayPosit or Set Link in green. You should now be in PlayPosit, skip to the last step in these instructions to open PlayPosit in a browser. 
  • Now, in a separate tab in the same browser where you logged into Canvas, open PlayPosit Knowledge. Click on the PlayPosit logo in the upper right portion of the screen. The PlayPosit logo is the image of the dog. This will open your PlayPosit account provided by UWGB. Here you can build, share, and collaborate on bulbs using the larger screen view provided by the browser. To set the link to your desired bulb for a graded Assignment in Canvas or in a Canvas Page however, you should follow the instructions above to open PlayPosit in Canvas then select your bulb. 

Yes, in PlayPosit you can include several video segments into a single bulb. Do this in the Video Segments screen when creating a new bulb. If you would like to change the order of the video segments within your bulb, you can toggle on the Enable drag and drop recording option at the top of the Video Segments screen. Move videos into the order in which you would like them to be seen. Once you are finished, toggle off the Enable drag and drop recording.

Note: For new PlayPosit playlists, you should reorder your video segments before you add interactions. Interactions in a playlist will not move with the video when it is reordered. 

Yes, with the UWGB institutional license PlayPosit will automatically pull in caption files that are already associated with your videos (such as YouTube videos with captions or Kaltura videos. You can also upload caption files directly to PlayPosit such as .vtt and .srt files. 

To check your video for captions, navigate to the My Bulbs page in PlayPosit and follow the steps below. 

  • In the far right of the screen under Actions, click on the three vertical dots to the right of the video you wish to check and then from the dropdown menu select Edit. 

  • Click on the Video Segments tab in the PlayPosit Designer and click on the edit icon (it looks like a gray pencil) for the video you wish to caption. The edit icon is in the upper right corner of the video segment.  

  • Select Edit Video Segment from the options presented. Then click on the Captions tab in the Edit Video Segment screen. 

  • In this screen, you can now have PlayPosit search for available captions, or you can upload your caption file.  
  • To search for captions, click on the View Available YouTube Captions, then select from the available options PlayPosit was able to fetch by checking the box to the right of the desired language choice. Once your choices are finalized, select Download in the bottom right corner to save your choices. 

“Required” Reading: Guiding Students Through Your Course with Canvas Module Requirements

When provided with a task, almost invariably, some students will overlook or ignore provided instructions, skip past foundational lessons, and end up taking their own “creative” approach to completing it. While some students can find success going their own way, when a student misses instructions, they often end up making life harder for themselves and their instructor. When teaching with Canvas, you have access to tools that can help add order to how students progress through your lessons, instructions, and assignments. When you organize and present your content in modules, you gain the ability to add requirements that require each student to view and/or interact with specified course items before they can progress and access items positioned further down in the course module order. You can ensure that your students’ route to an assignment goes through the important scaffolding pages. While they are not a panacea and should be applied with careful thought so that they act as a guide and not an unnecessary obstacle for students, implementing module requirements can help prevent students from starting a task before they have engaged with preparatory lessons and activities.

Forcing top-to-bottom progression within a module

Within a single module you can use requirements to force students to progress through that module in top-to-bottom order. These requirements can help enforce that students, for example, view a page with important instructions before they can access and submit to an assignment. To set up a module with requirements that students must complete in order, click the module header’s Options icon, then click Edit to open the Edit Module Settings menu. In this menu, select + Add Requirement to begin adding your first requirement to the module and reveal additional options. Enabling the Students must move through requirements in sequential order checkbox will lock each module item until all the requirements above that item in that module have been completed. This forces students to work through the module requirements in top-to-bottom order. You then need to add requirements to the module. You will need to add one requirement for each module item students need to complete in order.

You add a requirement by selecting + Add Requirement, and then you configure a requirement by making selections in two drop-down menus. In the left drop-down menu, select the module item to which you want to add the requirement. In the right drop-down menu, select how the students must complete that requirement. Depending on the type of the module item, this second drop-down menu will show several options (click each option below to expand it and reveal suggested uses):

Only requires students to open and view the module item. This is a simple requirement well-suited for course Pages.

Requires students to open the item and then click a Mark as done button at the bottom of the page. If you use this type of requirement, make sure to provide students with instructions for marking items as done. Students can overlook the button and feel stuck if they’ve never encountered this requirement before.

Only used for Discussions and Pages that are set to allow students to make edits. Students will satisfy this requirement once they have posted a reply in the Discussion or saved an edit to the Page. Avoid picking this requirement for pages which can only be edited by Teachers, as students will not be able to complete the requirement.

Requires the student to make an Assignment submission, make a reply in a graded Discussion, or complete a Quiz attempt.

Requires students to earn at least the minimum score on the graded item, which you designate when setting up the requirement. This type of requirement works well with Quizzes that allow multiple or unlimited attempts.

Adding a requirement for each module item that contains important information or a required task will ensure students engage with the content in your intended order.

Locking a module until the previous module has been completed

Requirements can also be leveraged to lock an entire module until the student completes the requirements of one or more modules above it. Controlling module-to-module progression is done with the additional step of adding module prerequisites. You can add one or more prerequisites to a module through the same Edit Module Settings menu where you add requirements. When adding a module prerequisite, you select an entire module that appears above the module you are currently editing. Adding one or more prerequisites to a module will prevent a student from accessing all content in that module until they have completed the requirements of each module that is set as a prerequisite. Any module that is selected as a prerequisite must contain at least one requirement—Canvas needs to know the criteria for completing that module and satisfying the prerequisite. A module that is selected as a prerequisite but has no requirements will have no effect on course progression.

Screenshot of the Edit Module Settings menu: “Module 1” is selected as a prerequisite for “Module 2”
Edit Module Settings menu: “Module 1” is selected as a prerequisite for “Module 2”

Here is an example of how you can set this up in a course. Let’s say that the content in Module 1 is so fundamental to the content in Module 2 that you want to prevent students from viewing anything in Module 2 until they’ve fully engaged with the content in Module 1. Imagine that both Module 1 and Module 2 contain a Page, a Discussion, and an Assignment. Your first step in forcing students to complete Module 1 before accessing Module 2 is to edit Module 1 and add three requirements:

  1. Module 1 Page – view the item
  2. Module 1 Discussion – contribute to the page
  3. Module 1 Assignment – submit the assignment
Screenshot of the the Edit Module Settings menu with the example requirements for Module 1 set up
Edit Module Settings menu with the example requirements for Module 1 set up

Adding these requirements tells Canvas how to determine whether a student has completed Module 1: a student has completed Module 1 once they have viewed the Page, made a reply in the Discussion, and submitted to the Assignment. The next step is to edit Module 2 and add a prerequisite, selecting Module 1 as the prerequisite module. That is all that is needed to force students to complete Module 1 before accessing Module 2; it is not necessary to add any requirements to Module 2 unless you plan to use Module 2 as a prerequisite in a subsequent module. You may still want to add requirements to Module 2 just for the additional visual guidance and feedback they provide to students.

Screenshot of two example modules with requirements and prerequisites set up
Two example modules with requirements and prerequisites set up

Use Cases

There are many creative ways you can leverage module requirements and prerequisites to exercise control over the flow of your course. Here are a few illustrative use cases (click each to expand it):

You can require students to acknowledge the policies and essential information contained in your syllabus before they can access the rest of your course by creating a syllabus quiz and setting up module requirements and prerequisites. First, add a quiz to the “Introduction” module at or near the top of your Canvas course and add any number of objective questions to test your student’s knowledge of important syllabus content. Set up the quiz to allow for unlimited attempts and to keep the highest score. Next, edit your “Introduction” module to add a requirement that students score at least X points on the Syllabus Quiz. “X” can be whichever minimum score you deem good enough to allow progress through the course. Finally, edit each subsequent module of the course to add the “Introduction” module as a prerequisite. This setup requires students to take (and retake) the Syllabus Quiz until they score at least X points before they can access any of the content after the “Introduction” module.

You can set up requirements within a single module to have students complete a pretest quiz before going through the module content and then take a post-test quiz after completing the module content. This process could help you evaluate the effectiveness of your instruction and/or apply a metacognitive approach to help students gain awareness of their learning and gaps in their knowledge. To create this setup, add a pretest quiz at or near the top of a module and a post-test quiz at or near the bottom of the module and put lesson content and additional formative assessment activities in between the two quizzes. Edit the module to add a requirement to each module item (including requirements to “submit” to each of the two quizzes) and enable the Students must move through requirements in sequential order checkbox. Students will need to progress through the module in top-to-bottom order, first taking the pretest at the top of the module, then engaging with the content, and finally taking the post-test at the bottom of the module. You can set your pretest quiz to be a “Practice Quiz” so that scores are not added to the gradebook.

Even if you don’t need to force a linear progression through your course modules, adding requirements to your modules automatically adds visual feedback that helps to communicate expectations to students and helps students track their own progress through the course. Any module item that is used in a module requirement will display its requirement underneath its title within the module. This is a simple automatic piece of visual feedback that can help students keep track of their tasks. Students also see additional indicators of their progress. After a student completes a requirement, the module item is marked with a green checkmark to signal completion. If a student has started a module but has not yet completed all its requirements, that module’s header is marked with a red circle; once the student completes all of a module’s requirements, this indicator changes to a green checkmark. Instructors can monitor student progress through module requirements by clicking the View Progress button located above the first module of the course.

The visual feedback provided by module requirements adds a light element of gamification to your course, turning each module into a list of sub-missions to be completed. Requirements can be further leveraged to add game-based learning elements to your courses. Use requirements to set minimum scores on low-stakes quizzes that allow multiple attempts and unlock harder “levels” of your course once a student achieves the target score. You can further add the Canvas Badges (Badgr) integration to your course to award “achievements” for the completion of modules and (optionally) enable an anonymous leaderboard to foster competitive motivation among students.

Conclusion (Prerequisite: Read All Above Sections)

We hope this blog post has given you a sense of how and when you can use module requirements in your Canvas courses. When used thoughtfully, module requirements are an effective tool for encouraging students to move through your course in the sequence you intended. Recall from your past teaching that assignment or a module in a course where students got off-track because they somehow managed to miss vital information that was right there for them. Next time you teach that course, try employing requirements to funnel students through that important supporting content before they can start work on the assignment. If you have an idea for employing module requirements in your Canvas course and would like to discuss how to best put it together, please reach out to catl@uwgb.edu or request a CATL consultation to meet with a member of the CATL team!

Turnitin: Beyond Plagiarism Review

A feature highlight for Canvas this week is Turnitin. Although most instructors may be familiar with this tool as a plagiarism checker, it has additional impactful uses within the classroom. While checking for plagiarism is important to ensure academic integrity in student work, Turnitin can also function as a powerful feedback tool and as a self-assessment tool.  

According to several studies, feedback helps to further develop a learner’s cognitive abilities. Wisniewski, Zierer, and Hattie (2020) discuss how various forms of feedback have become a focus in teaching and the practice of teaching in recent years. The most impactful forms of feedback are task- and process-oriented feedback or formative feedback. Both provide students with information not only on how well they’ve met specific goals of an assignment or assessment, but also on how to improve their strategies for achieving those goals in the future.  

While feedback may not have a large impact on behavioral outcomes for learners, self-assessment and reflection activities do. Combining both feedback and self-assessment activities within an ongoing assignment opens up communication pathways within the classroom and may also help increase motivation in the learning environment. Feedback and self-assessment can also turn mistakes and errors into teaching moments for synchronous and asynchronous classes. As Terada (2020) points out both within and outside of the classroom, making and learning from errors is an integral part of the learning process. And Turnitin is one tool which can help provide those teaching moments. While we are familiar with the similarity reports produced by Turnitin, and often have used these reports for plagiarism review, studies show that Turnitin similarity reports can also be used for self-assessment. Chew, Ding, and Rowell (2013) in particular focus on how the similarity reports generated by Turnitin can be used by students to review and assess drafts of their own work or their peers’ work. With its integration in Canvas, Turnitin can be used both synchronously and asynchronously for all course modalities.  

Within the UWGB Canvas instance, Turnitin is paired with the Assignment feature and can be used in conjunction with peer review so that students can receive both a similarity report for self-assessment as well as receive formative feedback from both their peers and instructors. The Canvas SpeedGrader works with Turnitin to allow for suggestions, edits, and general comments to be provided in written, audio, or video format. For best results, a Turnitin Assignments can be paired with a Rubric, allowing students to both see the criteria for the assignment and review their drafts and feedback based on how well they met those criteria. Best practice would be to incorporate course outcomes within the rubric. This will provide transparency between instructor and students in setting and achieving overall course goals as well as expectations of the student.

To build out a Turnitin Assignment in Canvas, follow these directions.

  1. First, in your course site, navigate to the Assignments tab in the course navigation menu on the left side of the screen and click on Assignments.
  2. Next, click the + Assignment button in the upper right corner to create a new Assignment and then give the assignment a name.
  3. In the assignment Editing window, scroll down under settings and select the Online submission type, and then check the File Uploads option. This will cause a new setting option to appear called Plagiarism Review.
  4. The Plagiarism Review setting is default set to “None.” Change it to Turnitin. Turnitin is now enabled on the Assignment.
  5. To ensure draft submissions are not stored in a repository, change the setting under "Store submissions in" to Do not store the submitted papers. 
    • This setting is important for assignments that allow for multiple draft submissions. Not storing drafts into a repository means that subsequent drafts of the same assignment will not be flagged in the similarity report.
  6. Next, you can toggle on and off the different content types you want draft submissions to be compared to (student repository, website content, or periodicals, journals, and publications). 
  7. Below that, you can select what to exclude from the similarity reports generated by Turnitin. 
  8. You can also set the number of submissions to be "unlimited.”
    • This setting will allow students to resubmit drafts several times to the same assignment. For self-assessment it may be good to allow students to submit multiple drafts to review their similarity reports. Just remember to select “Do Not store the submitted papers” under the repository settings so students do not get flagged for work done on a previous draft of the same assignment.
  9. Lastly, click the button in the bottom right corner to Save and Publish your Turnitin Assignment.

Here is a general guide from Canvas discussing how to add or edit details in an assignment.