iParadigms Focus Group

Today I’m attending a focus group with some of he executive from iParadigms, many of whom are visiting the UK for the IPC conference. I’ll update this post during the day (including the user group being held in the afternoon) as I know people are keen to find out more about the fine detail of the future vision for this tool.

The day kicked off with some presentations from the executive, starting with Steve Golik: VP Product Management. He started by talking about the future of marking. He shared the growing vision for developing Turnitin to the point where Grademark becomes the centre of the tool rather than originality checking. As far as I am concerned, this is a very positive move. He offered some screenshots of the new designs that they’re working on some of which are derived from the iPad app. It certainly looks a lot cleaner and more intuitive. He used the term ‘directionality’ which had a few of us scratching our heads, but what it appears to mean is that you shouldn’t have to leave the context of the paper to do what you need to do to comment on and mark a paper.

There was also a vision of being able to use the tool formatively to support iterative development over several drafts of a paper. In practice this means being able to see how, where and to what extent a paper has changed from one draft to the next. With this becoming practicable, the idea of being able to offer meaningful iterative writing support might have an impact on assessment design as the option of marking multiple drafts of the same piece of work is certainly not commonplace in the UK. In any case, this would certainly be of use for postgraduate writing support.

He also made mention of the future vision for voice comments whereby comments made in the audio recording are linked to signposts within the paper. This effectively turns it into video feedback rather than simply audio feedback. This makes a big difference to the usefulness of voice comments with respect to feedback vs feedforward. The biggest news was probably the indication that they have taken our requests on board to make multiple marking possible and more flexible, The flexibility to share rubrics more broadly is a very welcome addition which effectively turns Grademark into a social tool and puts them in competition with iRubric.

He then turned to consider the future of analytics: a matter dear to this project’s heart. It’s interesting that keeping track of the amount of time marking takes is something they’re clearly considering: capturing this data has been notoriously difficult. Collecting data on vocabulary use was one I wasn’t expecting. It’s clear that they have a strong sense of how this data needs to feed into a wider data ecosystem to be of use to the Academic and Learning Analytics that institutions are trying to build. They are also proposing richer ways of tracking the extent to which students are engaging with their feedback which is something that many tutors report as desirable. They’re also proposing building an interventions tool in the form of automatic interventions. There was also mention of stylistic analysis and ‘stylometrics’ as a way of identifying ghost writing which is also something that many academic staff will find useful. The question of whether this might in itself constitute evidence or whether it might just be a trigger to further investigation is, I guess, a question for registry but it might be a trigger for a viva. This uncertainty as to the role this stylometrics might play was acknowledged by Christian Storm at the user group later in the day.

The final point is to make better use of crowdsourcing to ‘tune’ the originality ‘noise’ which is harnessing the professional judgement that is engaging with their resource. This would be of particular use for those disciplines (I’m thinking particularly of Law and Music) where particular turns of phrase are routinely used. This means that the more the tool is used the better it gets. So – some exciting and intriguing ideas emerging from that presentation and, I have to say, a compelling vision of their future development.

After lunch we heard more from the exec about the roadmap which is mainly stuff that is much closer to release. The most exciting developments from my point of view are the following:

  • Core Rubrics: this is designed to support State-level learning outcomes for the US secondary education sector but it might be useful for course and level learning outcomes in HE in the UK.
  • Receipt Retrieval: allowing students to access their proof of receipt in ways other than via email.
  • Flexible Grading: including letter grades and decimal points.
  • Simpler Rubric: which offers much more flexibility.

But by far the most groundbreaking advance is the new iPad app. We saw some glimpses of it today and it seems that it has triggered some good rethinking for the main online document viewer as well which seem like they will be positive. The planned launch date for it is January: just in the nick of time in terms of this project. It’s worth preparing academics for its use at the start of the academic year. The silence of typing on the iPad will be very attractive to my colleagues in music.

2 thoughts on “iParadigms Focus Group

  1. The shift in focus from plagiarism checking to a marking tool with added plagiarism checking is an interesting one and judging by the features they’re thinking about, one that it will be interesting to follow.

    1. I think you’re right and it will be interesting to see where it goes. The iPad app is certainly focused on making the process of engaging with student work cleaner, clearer and easier. It will also allow for offline marking which is something about which I know a lot of people are keen.

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