Influences of form of GradeMark feedback on Student Engagement

“Speech Bubbles” by Jordan. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND
Speech Bubbles” by Jordan. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND


Use of Turnitin to provide digital feedback has grown rapidly in CCCU in recent years with 52% of 133,000 submissions to Turnitin receiving feedback during 2015/16 compared with 8% of 96,034 submissions in 2012/13. While we know this has helped to improve turnaround times, and our students value the flexibility of receiving feedback online, there has been little investigation of any deeper impact on our students’ learning – particularly use of feedback for development. Whereas the literature indicates associations between use of similar digital feedback tools with greater motivation and understanding of how to improve compared with to non-digital feedback, why this may be is often not clear. One possible factor is how the nature of digital feedback influences learners’ engagement with their feedback.

Understanding how students engage with Turnitin feedback

With the aim of informing markers’ action research into their use of digital feedback, Simon Starr interviewed CCCU students about their experience of the various ways Turnitin feedback can be presented for his MSc in Digital Education dissertation study. It was found that the choice presentation can make a substantive difference to the students’ use of their feedback. Specifically, it is concluded that on-script ‘Bubble Comments’ and off-script ‘Voice Comments’ may both positively influence how valued learners feel and encourage and support their use of feedback for development while on-script ‘QuickMark Comments’ and off-script ‘General Comments’ and ‘Rubrics’ may negatively influence same. These influences arise from how these different choices for presenting feedback in Turnitin affect personalisation, specificity and clarity of meaning of feedback, learners’ emotional connection with their marker and by simply grabbing their attention.

A summary of the research, including more detailed findings, is contained in the attached report: ‘An exploratory investigation into influences of form of GradeMark digital feedback on learners’ engagement with their feedback‘.

Why does this matter?

The NSS continues to highlight assessment and feedback as an area for ongoing enhancement, now incorporated as a metric for the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). Where the Digital Learning Thresholds (DLT) [internal CCCU link only] include an expectation for digital feedback as standard in future, it is important to ensure that such feedback is not only timely but engages encourages and supports our learners to improve.

What next?

It is recommended that, through their own action research, markers using GradeMark explore the use of Bubble Comments and Voice Comments as alternatives to General Comments, and ‘Grading Forms’ as an alternative to Rubrics. Specific considerations in doing so are suggested in the report. It is also recommended that CCCU considers strategies for helping learners apply GradeMark feedback to future work, including the possibility of re-writing generic assessment criteria in more ‘student friendly’ language and investigating improvements to accessing GradeMark via mobile devices.

To discuss ways of improving your students’ engagement with Turnitin feedback, contact your friendly learning technologist. See also our new section on technology-enhanced feedback [internal CCCU link only] for ways technology can support various aims for enhancing assessment, including improving feedback. Tools you can use are suggested along with links to examples, further reading and other resources and an ‘index’ of the tools we have available in the University.


Feedly – Journals in your pocket

"RSS Fountain" by Orin Zebest. Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA
RSS Fountain” by Orin Zebest. Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA

About Feedly

Feedly is a news aggregator, also known as a “feed reader”, application for various web browsers and mobile devices running iOS and Android, or the Kindle. The tool allows the user to aggregate content from various sources that support RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, such as news sites (e.g. BBC News, The Guardian), blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, and, more importantly, academic journals.

Getting Started

Users can create a free Feedly account using a Google Mail, Facebook, Twitter, Windows or Evernote accounts from either a PC or a mobile device.

Feedly allows the user to compile and collate these various news feeds into appropriate, user-defined, categories. Furthermore, the user is able to share content with others (via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) as well as saving them for reading at a later date.

The Benefits

  • Feedly is free.
  • The software is simple and easy to use.
  • It has a range of social and sharing features (via Twitter, Facebook, etc.).
  • Items can be “saved” for reading at a later date.
  • Items can be categorised into folders.
  • Customisable layout for easier selection and reading.
  • Automatically mark items “as read” when you scroll down the text.
  • Can add tags (or keywords).
  • Can use keyboard shortcuts to access items.

The Barriers

  • Not compatible with Internet Explorer web browser.
  • Requires browser add-on.
  • More visually cluttered.
  • Home page contains a long list of items.
  • Items are not alphabetically listed by source.

Getting Access

Users can download the Feedly app from Google Play, iTunes or Amazon (for the Kindle). Alternatively, they can log on to a mobile friendly website, or download the Feedly add-on that is available for the Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome web browsers.

Pedagogic Value

RSS feed readers have the capacity to allow users to control and filter the abundance of information (Weller, 2011) that is at their disposal. New channels of data exchange can be opened up between researchers and communities of learners. Furthermore, RSS feeds have the potential to create more robust connections between knowledge production and personal learning (EDUCAUSE, 2007).

Where Next?

There is a quick tutorial guide that is available from Feedly for users who are interested in giving this service a go. Alternatively, watch the video below that gives a brief overview of the Feedly tool.

If you would like to discuss how Feedly could be useful to you, please contact your Faculty Learning Technologist and arrange for a chat.


EDUCAUSE. (2007). 7 Things You Should Know About RSS. Louisville, CO: EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI). Available at: [Accessed 2.3.2015].

Weller, M. (2011). “A Pedagogy of Abundance”. Spanish Journal of Pedagogy, 249, pp. 223–236. Available at: [Accessed 2.3.2015].