Important: Turnitin, My Dundee and Notifications
What’s the issue?
Students and Staff are receiving false or misleading notifications about Turnitin assignments. These notifications are being generated from two different scenarios:
- Old, long past the post date, assignments from old modules.
- Resit assignments that were only intended for a select few students, yet are issuing notifications to all enrolled students.
This has been causing confusion and, in some cases, distress, especially for people receiving reminders about overdue assignments that they either thought they’d completed or didn’t know about at all.
Why is this happening?
This is a complex issue combining both flaws in the way two systems work together i.e. Turnitin and Blackboard, and problems with the way some Turnitin assignments are setup. We’ve also discovered that these aren’t new issues, it’s just that we didn’t notice them before as notifications from My Dundee went largely unnoticed until the upgrade to the new interface.
Issue #1: Notifications from old assignments
This issues appears to be related to instructors looking back over old submissions, triggering a notification to go out.
Issue #2: Resit assignments notifying all students
This is the bigger and more complex of the two issues. There is often a need to setup an assignment that is displayed in a module, but only intended for a particular group e.g. resit assignments. Historically this is dealt with by simply creating the assignment, labelling it clearly and emailing those students who need to know about it. The problem with this is that when you setup an assignment in a module, all enrolled students get a notification. This wasn’t an issue in the past because nobody paid much attention to the old notification, as mentioned above. Now students are getting emails and seeing the notifications in the new Activity Stream page.
To avoid confusion, some staff have been creating a group for the intended students, and used adaptive release, so only they could see it. This does succeed in hiding the assignment from other students, but unfortunately does not stop Turnitin issuing a notification, which can cause even more confusion as students follow a notification to an assignment that they can’t see.
Whatever the method, the result remains confusion around notifications.
What can we do?
Notifications from old assignments
This is clearly a bug and we have reported it to the the vendors i.e. Turnitin and Blackboard. We have also made a small change to the notification settings that should reduce the occurrence of this issue, even if it doesn’t eliminate it.
We will communicate if and when this is resolved.
Resit assignments notifying all students
At this point, due to the way that Blackboard and Turnitin interact, it is not possible to set Turnitin up so that only those students that need to submit get notifications.
We recommend the following when setting up a new assignment for a limited set of students:
- Set up the assessment so that only those students who need to see an assessment can see it using Groups and Adaptive Release.
- Name the assignment clearly e.g. “Resit assignment for AB10001 (18/19)”
- Notify all students on the module that you are posting the resit assignment and that only those specifically contacted need to pay attention. Inform them to ignore any notifications unless they have been specifically told that they need to do the assignment. This can be done as an an announcement or email.
- Notify the specific group of student who do need to submit an assignment. Note that you can send an announcement or email through blackboard to the specific group you setup in the previous step.
- It may be that some schools decide to email all students the “Ignore unless you’ve been told otherwise” message, to save them getting it for all modules – though note that some students may be taking your modules, but be attached to other schools.
We are very aware that this workaround is far from ideal, but the bottom line is that you should try to inform your students as much as possible until we can find a permanent solution through our vendors.
Obviously, this issue is far from resolved and the best advice we have at the moment if to communicate with your students. We will continue to push Blackboard and Turnitin to come up with a resolution to the two bugs:
- Old assignments producing notifications.
- Assignments ignoring adaptive release rules.
We’ll update you as soon as we make any progress on this and apologise for the disruption this issue has been causing.