I recently took up a new post in the USA and was looking forward to using TurnItIn.com’s handy online grading system (as I had in the UK). For those who don’t know, it’s a tool that allows you to go totally paperless in your grading and integrates with your preferred online Learning Management System (Blackboard, Moodle, etc.). Thus far, it’s a system my students seem to appreciate, since it saves them a lot of money and hassle with printing, and it has a fairly reassuring interface (you can actually see that your paper has been uploaded to the site – no worries about emails not being sent/arriving, etc.). For those unfamiliar, there’s a promo/instructional video here. (I can’t resist the standard BBC disclaimer: other online grading sites are available!)
The problem is that while TurnItIn UK allows anonymous grading, TurnItIn USA does not. I’m guessing this is due to a lack of demand for it in the USA, although that’s mere speculation on my part. This means I’m only able to preserve anonymity for my students (and combat the effects of implicit bias) using strategically placed sticky notes on my computer screen, which is sort of absurd and definitely not 100% effective. I’ve tried lobbying the company via email to no avail. This morning I got an email soliciting feedback on the service. I used the online survey form to send a plea for anonymous grading, and I realized it might be good to post the link here so that others who use or are interested in using the service can do the same.
So if you have a spare 5 minutes, please consider following this link to their online survey, and specifically request anonymous grading (you’ll need to check ‘Other’ and fill in the box). I also entered a comment under ‘Challenges using GradeMark’ explaining why anonymization is important for preventing implicit bias from shaping our assessment of student work, particularly that of our female and minority students. I figure if we can mobilize enough FP readers to request the service that might prompt some positive action and raise awareness about the problem. I hope so anyway.