Technology Supported Learning – Submission Possible with SafeAssign

Mission ImpossibleLast year the Professional Education Team started to explore current options for electronic submission at Edge Hill University.


Mark Sutcliffe (Senior Lecturer in Professional Education) Good Practice Awardshares his experience of SafeAssign, part of the Blackboard Assignment Submission offer, in support of the challenges faced by students with academic writing.

“Prior to using SafeAssign I had known about anti-plagiarism software for some time. However, neither myself nor my colleagues in the undergraduate team I work with had ever attempted to use it. I believe the main reason for this is that we had heard stories of the technology not being as effective as it originally was and sometimes working on an inconsistent basis. As somebody who has been eager to promote IT-related innovation within my area I have always been aware that technology can be as easily rejected as accepted, especially if the initial experience of using it is poor.

In September of 2015 the team convened to discuss ways of further enhancing the effectiveness of practice, especially in relation to supporting academic writing, which often proves the most significant challenge to students’ studies. The additional ways that technology could help us and them was considered and following on from this I liaised with learning services to discuss ideas. A suggestion made by Martin Baxter and David Callaghan was SafeAssign, a recently integrated feature within Edge Hill’s VLE, Blackboard.

Safe Assign User TypesWhat quickly became apparent during the initial demonstration of SafeAssign was how straightforward it was to set up. A few simple clicks embedded this feature as part of creating a new assignment in a course/module area. However, what makes SafeAssign so effective is the way instructors and users can use this tool to check submitted work. SafeAssign initially provides an overall percentage, representing how much of the content connects to its global database, which includes uploaded work and published material. This can potentially provide a quick indicator of how much material has been used from external sources. In addition, SafeAssign generates a report, allowing instructors (and potentially users) to see exactly where such material has been used. I left the demonstration impressed with what I had seen and eager to promote the use of SafeAssign.Safe Assign Student View

At the next team meeting SafeAssign was discussed and demonstrated to my colleagues. It was trialled with work connected to a module submission in December of 2015. It was agreed amongst the team that we encouraged students not to view this technology with negative connotations, rather it was introduced as a supportive tool for their work. This was achieved through making sure that they could utilise the technology during the drafting process and self-check for any potential issues themselves. To assist in this process (and alleviate multiple submissions for a particular module) I created an additional submission point purely for drafts of work.

SafeAssign Logo

The feedback from the implementation of SafeAssign has been very positive. Staff are enthusiastic about having a tool to hand that provides quick assistance in investigating issues with submissions, whilst students recognise SafeAssign as a tool to help scaffold the development and quality of work. Because of its success, other degree programmes are now looking to utilise SafeAssign technology. I would strongly recommend its use.”

You can see and hear Mark talking about SafeAssign and how students embraced the technology in support of their academic writing.

YouTube Video Player

If you feel inspired by Mark’s story and want to use this or another technology to help you enhance and support your own teaching, please get in touch with the Learning Technology Team in Learning Services. We would be very happy to work with you.

Mark David Sutcliffe



Mark David Sutcliffe
(Senior Lecturer in Professional Education).

Keep Calm and Submit this Christmas


Christmas comes around quick doesn’t it!? One minute you’re moving in to halls for the term, the next you’re back off for a fortnight!

It’s hard work being a student but before you pack your Christmas hat, Playstation and elf onesie don’t forget your end of term submissions!

During November our team of Student Advisors ran a series of 10 drop in sessions to answer all your queries about online submission. If you missed these, don’t worry! Our Student Advisors are based at the Ask Desk and are available 11-4pm during weekdays and we’ve also drawn together some good practice in this blog post to ensure that your submissions over the next week (or so) go as smoothly as you could possibly wish for. There are always chances of uncertainty, but with a little thought and preparation (like a good Christmas present) you’ll be riding as high as Father Christmas himself as opposed to slipping up on black ice.

1. On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me….

…advice on where to submit your work

Your first port of call for help with submission should always be your tutor.   They know where the submission dropbox is in Learning Edge and will be able to point you in the right direction.  Please ensure you follow any guidelines you have been provided with. If you need further help submitting your work online, you can also speak to a member of staff at the Ask Desk (9am-7pm weekdays) or you can Ask Us online.

Keep your tutor informed of any problems you may have, especially in the days leading up to a deadline – it helps them to keep track of your progress and ensures they can help you quickly if need arises.  If you can’t get hold of your tutor, give your departmental administrators a visit.


2. On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me….

…two places to get help (Twitter and Ask Us!)

Have you ever encountered a Learning Edge or Turnitin issue during submission? If you think this could be system related, we do have preferred Twitter feeds for you to follow that will highlight any known issues:

@EdgeHillVLE provides scheduled Learning Edge maintenance alerts and up to date system notices around different technologies used within the VLE such as Turnitin.

@Turnitinstatus is the official feed for Turnitin system status, you may find that Learning Edge is fine but Turnitin is unavailable.  Checking this feed will help you diagnose an issue with Turnitin submissions.

Let’s say everything is OK technically and you have an issue around the online submission process and Learning Edge? A good starting point would be to head over to the Ask Us service and see if your question can be answered here. If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for, you can simply type your question and we will discuss it with you in real time using our live chat facility.


3. On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me….

…three web browsers

Why is it you get a technical problem right at a critical moment?  If you have given yourself time, you should be able to try another PC if you run into problems. We know that anything could happen at any moment; internet dropping out, PC crashing, wireless not connecting the list goes on, so give yourself a break and some time to try out another computer – in university, in work or even your mate’s PC. If it’s just not happening for you, see the first point (keeping in touch with your tutor).

One quick solution could be to try a different browser.  The common ones are Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome (although you may wish to try Safari on a Mac).

Often, tutors will allow multiple submissions to an online drop-box, so you may be able to use this to your advantage. Check with your tutor and if this is the case, try submitting your work, even if not quite finished yet, to the drop-box a few days before the deadline just so you’re up to speed with the process before your final submission.
Waiting until 1 minute before the deadline isn’t the time to start figuring out how everything works!


4. On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me….

… (twenty) four hours

It may come to the time of doing your ‘final’ submission but if in Turnitin you have submitted an earlier version you will find that when you submit again everything looks the same…at least for 24 hours. You will have to wait until the next day to see your new originality report and the preview of your updated document – another good reason to be organised and get your work in handy! tiiRemember at the second stage of submitting to Turnitin you can check what you are about to submit just to be certain you’ve attached the right file.


5. On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me….

… 5 UniSkills Packages!

The Uniskills online submission page is something definitely worth bookmarking to your browser favorites. Here you can gain access to all online submission guides and the online Turnitin toolkit (see below).


In addition on ‘Your FoE Resources‘ or ‘Your FoHSC Resources‘ or ‘Your FAS Resources‘ tab from the Learning Edge Homepage you get access to ‘UniSkills Online Toolkits‘:

  • Referencing
  • Planning Your Assignment
  • Finding Academic Information
  • Dissertations


We know that when that deadline is approaching it’ll be stressful enough without unexpected niggles, so try not to leave your submission till the last minute. This echoes all points above but if done correctly will ensure the final moments before you click ‘Submit’ will be as stress-less as possible.

Once all done, sit back, put your feet up with a nice cuppa and enjoy your Christmas holiday. Remember, if you have any problems Keep Calm and Ask Us!



Carol Chatten & Mark Wilcock
Learning Technology Development Officers



eAssignments: Which is the right tool for me?

eAssessment is gaining more and more popularity in the HE sector.  Students are demanding the convenience that electronic submission gives them and so with a number of tools on offer within Learning Edge you have the opportunity to give your students what they are looking for.

Learning Edge currently has 3 tools to allow your students to submit electronically; Blackboard Assignment, Assignment Handler and Turnitin.  Don’t forget the potential of blogs and journals that can enable your students to submit work whilst also working in groups collaboratively which can also be assessed.


You may have heard of Turnitin, but what are the reasons for using it?

Turnitin is a very powerful plagiarism detection tool – but in the wrong hands can create real confusion!

Turnitin allows you to help your students formatively construct a well referenced piece of academic writing by helping them to see where they may not have referenced or acknowledged someone else’s work in the correct way.

There is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ percentage in Turnitin, because it depends on what you, the tutor, are looking for and what the nature of the assignment is that you have set.

Give your students the chance to check their work – try not to jump to any conclusions about their report if it looks bad from the percentage figure.  Have a closer look at the submission and then decide what is going on.  It may be that your student just needs a little extra advice or guidance on writing a referenced piece of work.

Before deciding to use Turnitin, think about what the contents of the assignment will be.  There is no need to set a Turnitin assignment for a poster presentation as there is no bibliography for instance and besides, Turnitin does not accept PowerPoint format!  Neither does it accept Excel spreadsheets, databases, multimedia, images or other more unusual file formats.  Basically, it accepts text, and the best kind of text it accepts is in essay form!

It is also worth noting that Turnitin only accepts one file for each submission drop box.  So if you want 2 pieces submitted for the same assignment, you will either have to set up 2 drop boxes or ask the students to combine them into one document.

When it comes to marking, Turnitin does make it very easy to add floating comments onto the script, so students can see exactly where you made the comments and can then read a larger summary – but be aware, Turnitin ‘general comments’ area is limited to 5000 characters… now this may sound a lot but by the time you have taken into account spaces and full stops, 5000 characters quickly disappears!

TIP!  If you are receiving an error message when trying to save the comments it may be you have entered too many characters!

Turnitin marking requires you to have an active internet connection as you are actually only marking ‘online’, so please take this into account when you are planning to start marking.


Blackboard Assignment Tool and Assignment Handler

On the other hand you have Blackboard Assignments (during the course of this year we will be introducing Assignment Handler – it’s the Blackboard Assignment tool, but with some enhanced features that you may find useful!)

The Blackboard Assignment tool accepts multiple files at a time and also can take any format of file – so if you need your students to submit a spreadsheet they can!

Marking using the Blackboard Assignment tool involves an extra step (to download the assignments), but this may be your preferred method of marking (e.g. Word and comments).

The Assignment Handler tool also allows you to bulk download the submissions so that you can mark them offline at a time that suits you – not only when you have an active internet connection!

All tools integrate into the Blackboard ‘Grade Centre’.  Please note that ‘Grade Centre’ is the overarching tool in Blackboard that ‘picks up’ grades that you have entered from the various tools (including Assignments, Turnitin, Blogs & Journals, etc.) and pulls them into one uniform area where they can be managed (or downloaded) whereas ‘GradeMark’ refers to the marking tool within Turnitin.

You should ensure that you have a method for giving feedback to students when using eAssessment.  You do not necessarily have to mark on screen, or even read the scripts on screen but there are different ways to manage your marking work load.  Some still prefer to print and read the submission in paper form.  Some prefer to download them all so they can then read at their leisure.  Your department may choose to fill in paper feedback forms to hand back to your students, or you may have an electronic feedback form that your faculty or department has supplied.  Or, as mentioned before you may simply wish to put comments onto a submission using Word or by using Turnitin’s GradeMark feature.

Discuss with your department about how to give feedback to your students.

On a final note, it is worth mentioning that using the Blackboard Assignment tool can add to the robustness of your course.  Blackboard have a service level agreement (SLA) with the University to deliver 99.9% ‘up time’, and also 24-7 support.  If the system goes down for any reason, Blackboard is alerted and the problem is dealt with quickly.

Turnitin is a third party piece of software and as such has a different agreement for guaranteed ‘up-time’ and policy of reliability.

Carol Chatten
Learning Technology Development Officer




Mark Wilcock
Learning Technology Development Officer