I love tracking the changes in companies that are paying attention to the needs of their users while also trying to move those users forward in their practice.
When I’m using a new version of a product and I can say both “that’s just what I needed or wanted” and “that’s something that I didn’t know I wanted, but it pushes me to think differently,” I know I’ve hitched my wagon — and resources — to a good company.
Accordingly, I’m really happy with the new version of Turnitin.
My renewed affection begins with the rebranding implied by the title of the service. As I understand it, Turnitin is now called “Feedback Studio.” The melding of the words feedback and studio forms a nice impression. Offering feedback is what teachers do. For actual learning, which is our actual business, it’s much more important than grading. Thinking of offering feedback in a studio adds a creative dimension to the activity. When you’re in a studio, you’re focused on process, you’re building or making, you’re trying to be as creative as possible, you’re hoping to ship good work to the outside world, you’re involved in an intense relationship with your materials. I love the idea of giving feedback in a studio — of approaching feedback as if it were a craft. (I may be reading way too much into this, but hey, I’m an English teacher by training, so you can give me a pass.)
Here are some other UX type improvements that I also like, in no particular order:
When I’m adding feedback to student papers, at the top right corner there’s a big, easy-to-use navigation bar that allows me to click between student papers.
As I’m offering feedback, this keeps me, literally, in the game. I’m not tempted to look anywhere else on my laptop screen or beyond my screen. This keeps my attention where it’s supposed to be when I’m focused on student work.
I also love how I can quickly interact with student text, just by clicking on it.
With one click, I can either access comments I have saved for repeated use (that’s the check box on the left), add a callout (that’s the thought bubble in the middle), or type right onto the page (that’s the big T on the right). Of these, the callout option is my favorite so far:
It’s my favorite because of the way it invites me to extend my feedback practice. The option to add a link to my comments already has me thinking about adding short articles or videos to my feedback. It also reminds me of how I’ve been using Explain Everything to articulate the magic of great sentences and paragraphs. I could easily build more videos in Explain Everything and then link them to my Feedback Studio comments on student papers.
If I had to sum up what I like about the changes found in Feedback Studio, there’s a single phrase that comes to mind: Feedback Studio is flow enabled. Great work often happens as a result of entering what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi called a “flow state.” In a flow state, time slips away and your engagement with the task at hand completely captures your attention. As a result, the work you produce is often heightened. I applaud Feedback Studio, formerly known as Turnitin, for attempting to heighten the part of the educator’s job that is more important than most things we do in schools: offering students effective and timely feedback.