Turnitin for Time-Limited Exams

How to use this tool in the current context

A Turnitin Assignmenis an assessment tool that can be accessed within Blackboard. Turnitin Assignments in Blackboard allow students to submit a piece of work online within a defined timeframe and allow instructors to access their submitted work. Turnitin provides a text-matching/plagiarism detection service. If this is not essential in your assessment process, please do not use Turnitin, use  Blackboard Assignments instead. 

Over the summer 2020 exam period, instructors can choose to use Turnitin to allow students to either submit within their scheduled module exam slots or to submit alternative assessments such as essays over an extended period as would be the case in coursework.

This guide focuses on exams that are typed and edited in a word-processing tool such as Word. Do not use Turnitin for a handwritten exam.

In all cases, we would strongly recommend that clear and explicit instructions are provided to students in advance of the exam, that these instructions are clearly signposted on the Blackboard module homepage, and that students are given the opportunity to try out a dummy version of the exam.

Adding a Turnitin Assignment

Log in to Blackboard at https://nuigalway.blackboard.com

Choose the particular module from the My Courses list and ensure the Edit Mode is on. Within the course, we recommend that you consider adding a Content Area to your navigation menu called “Exams” to make finding the exam easy for students.

To do this, click on the +option, choose Content  Area, and name it Exams. Click the ‘Available to Users’ option if you are ready to make the content area available. You can change the setting later if you wish to keep it hidden.

You can now add the exam assignment and other materials to this content area in the normal way. Enter the Exams area, choose Build Content on the Action Bar at the top and select the Item option.

In this area, you can type in some instructions for your students, and attach your exam materials for easy download. You can also choose when to make the materials available to students.

  • Name: Clearly name your exam materials
  • Text: Provide any necessary instructions for students here, including a point of contact for help, the timeframe, and instructions for completion. You should point students to submit the exam at the Turnitin link that you will be producing below.
  • Attachments: Attach your exam paper, or papers, for the students to download here.
  • Permit Users to View this Content: You can choose to hide this content from student and then release it when ready.
  • Select Date and Time Restrictions: This allows you to make the materials available only in a fixed time window.

Now you can build your Turnitin Assignment. Choose Build Content on the Action Bar at the top and select the Turnitin Assignment option.

 Pay careful attention to the following settings:

  • Title: Be clear about what students are to do, i.e. “Submit your completed exam paper here.”
  • Instructions: Note that this area can only contain 1000 characters. Be brief and unambiguous.
  • Max Grade: It is recommended that this be set to 100 points for simplicity and any weightings or adjustments can be made later when you are processing final grades in the Grade Centre.
  • Start Date: Set the assignment to open at the start of the scheduled exam.
  • End Date: This is when the students will no longer be able to access/submit their answers. For all students in these exams there is an extra 30 minute period for the upload of their exams. For students who have particular needs (as identified in LENS reports, for example), there should be further time allowed for them to complete their exam. You could either create a separate Turnitin Assignment for those students with an extended time, or perhaps more simply, just have an extended time window for all students (e.g. the maximum allowed by the LENS reports), but tell students without LENS reports that they must complete their answers within the two hours of the exam start and upload straight after that. You can remind them that the submission times are recorded, and indeed this is how you will be able to check whether or not students met the requirement.
  • Feedback Release Date: This must be set, so it is suggested to set it around the time students might receive results, i.e. well into the future. Even if students are not to get feedback, this date still needs to be entered into the system.

After those settings are completed, expand the Optional Settings section, as some of these need to be amended for the purpose of such an exam arrangement.

Submission Settings

  • Submit papers to: Standard paper repository
  • Allow submission of any file type: No
  • Allow late submissions: No
  • Enable anonymous marking: If you wish to use anonymous marking, ask students not to include their name or ID number in their submission, and enable this setting. This will require careful consideration if multiple people are involved in grading and if you are planning on downloading and marking outside Turnitin/Blackboard.
  • Attach a rubric: Not necessary, but useful. Note that, annoyingly, Turnitin’s rubrics are separate to those you may have produced for standard Blackboard Assignments.

Compare Against

  • Student paper repository: Yes
  • Current and archived web site content: Yes
  • Periodicals, journals and publications: This will depend on the nature of your exam and is your choice.

Similarity Report

  • Generate Similarity Reports for student submission: Generate reports immediately(students can resubmit until due date)
  • Allow students to view Similarity Reports: No
  • Exclude bibliographic materials: This depends on your requirements for an exam answer.
  • Exclude quoted materials: This will depend on your assessment
  • Exclude small sources: Probably not applicable, but is your choice.

Additional settings

  • Save these settings for future use: Not necessary

Hiding Marks in the Blackboard Grade Centre

When a new assignment is created in Turnitin, a new column will automatically appear in the Blackboard Grade Centre, and by default, is visible to students (in My Grades). You will need to manually hide this column. Go to the Blackboard Grade Centre and locate the column. Click on the chevron beside the title to choose ‘Hide from Students On/Off’. When it’s hidden, a pink strike will appear beside the title.


Additional Suggestions and Observations

Important: Do not view the Turnitin assignment in Blackboard’s Student Preview mode. This does not work with Turnitin and can cause complications. If you wish to check the assignment, run a mock/pilot assignment with students in advance of the exam to ensure that all is working correctly. You can view the Exams content area and other materials in the preview mode, but not the Turnitin assignment itself.

One easy way to manage the process if students are submitting a Word document or similar, is to write your exam paper (containing the questions) as a Word file and get students to download and edit this, to include their answers. They can then upload this as their submission. advise students to download and use the actual Exam paper file (that you have uploaded) as their submission. It can already have the appropriate layout and contain all the exam questions. Leave space after exam questions where students can fill in answers or complete essays, if that helps. At the end of the exam, the student can save this document and submit it. Of course, this means that Turnitin will identify this first component as being ‘text matched’ in the originality report. Remind the students in the instructions section to ‘enable editing’ on the document after downloading it.


Read our guides on how to return student results to the Exams office

Other Considerations

Using this approach to setting exams carries a number of potential risks, and there are issues that you should consider, including the following:

  • Are any of your international students now in a different timezone, and being asked to sit exams at unsocial hours. This might well be something that is best addressed at School/College level.
  • Do any of your students require additional time to complete the exam? Unlike other assessment types such as Blackboard tests, Turnitin assignments do not allow you to easily provide additional time exceptions to individual students. You will, therefore need to consider ensuring that the Assignment is open for a longer period than the scheduled exam + standard upload time. You can use the timestamp of the submitted documents to check whether a student uploaded within the timeframe appropriate to their circumstances. For particular accommodations you may need to have an alternative assessment or submission by email, or some agreed appropriate arrangement. Further information and advice on these issues may be obtained from the Disability Support Service.
  • How do you plan to manage any technical issues or queries from, and communication to, students on the exam day? There should be a consistent process for this, perhaps at School/College/University levels. Please make sure that you are aware of such or make your own arrangements if necessary.
  • As with all online assessments you must have a ‘Plan B’for any issues students might have with regards connectivity, browser freezing, connection timing out, etc. You might be able to reduce some of the risk, or at least be made aware of the possible issues for particular students, by running a test/trial of your assessment type with the class prior to the exam.

Watch a video overview