An Interview with Jason Chu: Regarding Voice Feedback

May 23, 2012 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

Jason Chu is Senior Education Manager Turnitin. In this interview, he responds to questions about Turnitin and some additions to this platform.

  1. I understand that Turnitin has now added a voice component to “GradeMark.” First of all, can you tell us exactly what “GradeMark” is?

Sure, GradeMark is an online tool for grading and evaluating student writing within Turnitin. With GradeMark, instructors can grade and provide written and voice feedback on student papers. The GradeMark service has been designed to make the process of grading student written work easier, more efficient, and effective.

  1. Now, could you briefly describe TURNITIN….

Turnitin helps make students better writers by making it easy for instructors to provide richer feedback on students’ written work, while saving instructors time during the grading process. Turnitin is one of the most widely adopted technology tools in education, currently used by more than one million instructors and 20 million students in 10,000 institutions worldwide. The service consists of three core tools.

The first, OriginalityCheck, helps to identify similarity between a student paper and a vast database of digital content. The second, GradeMark, brings marking and grading into the 21st century by providing a rich feedback platform for written work. PeerMark, the third tool, allows students to provide feedback on each other’s work in a constructive and efficient manner.

  1. How does Turnitin assist with (gasp!) the problem of plagiarism?

Turnitin’s OriginalityCheck compares submitted papers to three content databases: an archive of more than 20 billion internet pages, 220+ million student papers, and more than 90,000 journals, periodicals, and books. Based on a proprietary pattern-matching algorithm, the Turnitin service identifies instances of textual similarity to other sources. It’s not plagiarism that we’re identifying, it’s textual similarity. From the comparison, an Originality Report is generated. Instructors use that report as a guide for reviewing student work. Whether the appearance of similarity to other sources is a case of plagiarism or either appropriate or inappropriate citation is left to the instructor’s discretion. We empower instructors with information so they can help students improve their writing.

  1. Just between you and me and the rest of the world, it seems that plagiarism is RAMPANT. I put RAMPANT in capital letters because it seems that from middle school to high school to college and even graduate school, students first of all, do not understand what plagiarism is. Can you comment?

That’s right, students don’t seem to know what plagiarism is and that there might be a problem with borrowing someone else’s ideas or words without attribution. There is a cultural component at play here, whether we choose to see the rise of plagiarism as part and parcel of the “culture of sharing” that our always “on—and connected”—students are creating, or as a sign of how our students’ values have waned because of the focus on outcomes. Our response to this has been to guide and inform. We encourage instructors to use tools like ours to help students better understand the ways in which plagiarism might take form and to show students what they can do to better incorporate research and other sources into their writing.

  1. That being said, I am going to make a global comment and I know plenty of people who will back me up, and that comment is that “writing, in general, (note I say in general) is atrocious. Am I off on this?

I think that classification is a bit extreme. We see large diversity in writing styles across our customer base. That said, there is definitely acknowledgement that educators need to do better to ensure students can communicate effectively with written words.

  1. There are voices crying in the wilderness like Will Fitzhugh of the Concord Review who bemoan the fact that students graduate from high school never having written more than a 5 paragraph essay- do we alert Arne Duncan, or the next President or am I way off base on this?

Once again, I think there is cause for concern, but I do not think it is fair to say that no high school student has written more than a five-paragraph essay.

  1. Does TURNITIN help with writing?

Yes. We provide instructors with tools to help facilitate better teaching of writing. In addition to GradeMark and OriginalityCheck, we also offer a PeerMark feature that enables teachers to bring the process of student peer review online. This takes the tried-and-true practice of running student workshops and brings it into a web-based venue, making it easier for instructors to assign—and students to review—papers. Within the GradeMark feature itself, we offer QuickMarks—which are editing-related marks that instructors can drop into a student’s paper. Common marks, like “awk” (for awkward) and “c/s” (comma splice) are provided. Teachers can also create their own QuickMarks. When students view their paper feedback through Turnitin, they can click on these marks to see full explanations of what “awk” or “c/s” means and what they can do to improve that aspect of their writing. These features, along with the fact that the feedback is provided online, create a better opportunity for students to receive, review, and internalize feedback on their paper. The recent addition of Voice Comments to GradeMark gives instructors another proven approach to providing students with feedback.

  1. Is there any evidence that shows that verbal feedback is going to help with student writing and prevent plagiarism?

There’s a large corpus of research that shows the benefits of audio commenting on student written work. What these studies show is that students are more receptive to audio feedback (they feel that the instructors care more about them) and that students are more inclined to receive and internalize audio-based comments.

Instructors have told us time and again that the primary challenge that they face is having students read and internalize feedback on their written work. We believe that adding the ability to leave Voice Comments in Turnitin is really going to benefit student writing. When coupled with OriginalityCheck and PeerMark, instructors will have a robust set of resources in Turnitin to help them improve student writing and in that way help students avoid the pitfalls of plagiarism.

  1. Often students will make a FEEBLE attempt at referencing and citing- but forget the year, or the page number or something along those lines. Any suggestions?

We definitely encourage instructors to be proactive in informing students how plagiarism can take form. As part of this discussion, we also suggest that instructors talk to students about how to do appropriate research and how to incorporate that research into original work. Providing students with explicit guidelines on how to do citations and involving librarians in the process can help to ensure success. Some instructors will go so far as to tell their students that they will return papers unread if the citations are not done correctly. We don’t necessarily advocate such a hard tack, but that may help some instructors underscore the message that appropriate citation—and doing the underlying research—is important.

  1. Do teachers have to purchase the entire TURNITIN program or GradeMark or can they just get the Voice Feedback?

The Voice Comment feature is embedded in GradeMark., which is a component of Turnitin, along withOriginalityCheck and PeerMark. Teachers typically get access to Turnitin through a school subscription.

  1. Now where can individuals get more information?

For more information, please visit us online at In addition to information about our services, teachers can also find white papers (and accompanying infographics) for recent studies that we’ve done investigating the different types of plagiarism, and their prevalence, as well as the primary internet sources for plagiarized content.

  1. What have I neglected to ask ?

What is the impact of technology on education? I think we are entering a period of innovation in education that is powered by the Internet. There is a tremendous amount of people, capital and ideas that are dedicated to improving student outcomes which makes us very optimistic about the future.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Posts


Share This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.