TurnItIn Accessibility Statement
TurnItIn is a similarity checking and assignment feedback system which allows students to submit assignments online, have them assessed by academic staff, and receive feedback. The Originality Report is used by most universities in Australia for similarity checking. It is also used to provide assignment feedback via an online annotation system called GradeMark. The University of Melbourne has a particularly high take-up of GradeMark, with 60% of assignments submitted containing some GradeMark feedback.
Expected Compliance Level
The University of Melbourne expects its web sites and systems to be WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliant.
Screen reader users have difficulty accessing assignment feedback via TurnItIn, particularly within GradeMark. Most comments within GradeMark (Quickmarks) reference highlighted pieces of text. This is very useful to students as it allows them to directly connect feedback to specific sections of text. But whilst screen readers are able to read out the Quickmarks, screen reader users cannot determine the section of text the Quickmark is referencing. This greatly reduces the effectiveness of the feedback that students receive.
The US Department of Justice is currently taking Miami University to court regarding an inaccessible instance of TurnItIn:
"17. Miami University has used the TurnItIn, www.turnitin.org, LMS in various courses for collecting course work, but, as implemented by Miami University, TurnItIn has unlabeled graphs and highlights that cannot be identified with a screen reader, limited keyboard functionality, controls that regularly are not available to assistive technology, incorrectly labeled website elements, and data tables without row and column headers. These barriers make it difficult or impossible for an individual who is blind to navigate and understand the web content."
The University of Melbourne has raised this issue with TurnItIn. They have confirmed that their product is not US section 508 compliant, i.e. inaccessible, and currently have no specific remediation plans in place, "It’s going to be within the next 12 to 18 months. But it will be coming out with the next releases that we've got lined up."
In the meantime, institutions are adopting alternative measures to ensure that students with assistive technologies still receive adequate feedback, such as submitting assignments directly to lecturers for feedback or by getting sighted assistance. This generally depends on the preference of the student.
Our long-term objective is to provide assessment feedback via a mechanism that doesn't have to be individually customised.
The GradeMark component of Turnitin is inaccessible to screen reader users.
Recommendations for students who use screen readers
- Students should speak to academic staff about receiving assignment feedback via a means other than TurnItIn.
- When submitting assignments, students may remind academics that they would prefer contextual comments and / or provide a link to this accessibility statement.
Recommendations for staff
- Academic Staff should provide assignment feedback, to screen reader users, via a means other than TurnItIn.
- Students who use screen readers will be able to advise which formats work best for them.
- Blackboard's assignment annotation system (Crocodoc) presents similar problems for screen reader users and so is not a suitable alternative feedback format.
- Email might be a suitable alternative assignment feedback formats.
- When providing assignment feedback to screen reader users, comments that relate to specific sections of text should be contextual.
- For assistance in providing assignment feedback in an accessible format, staff should contact Academic & Learning Systems Support.
Examples of Contextual Comments
- In the phrase "Dickens novel Great Expectations" (page 2, paragraph 3) the title of the book 'Great Expectations' should be underlined.
- The heading "More about justice" (page 1) is vague and needs work.
- The statistic "76% of people" (page 3, paragraph 1) is missing a citation.
- The phrase "The professor asked the students to quickly take the quiz.” (footnote 4) is grammatically incorrect.
This accessibility statement was issued 10 September 2015 by Andrew Normand, Web Accessibility Program Leader.
If you have any enquiries regarding this accessibility statement, or accessibility in general, please contact Andrew Normand, Web Accessibility Program Leader.
Phone: +61 3 9035 4867
For assistance or to report accessibility problems please contact:
Web Accessibility Lead
Phone: +61 3 9035 4867