Design Rationale


The author works as a Learning Technology Adviser (LTA) for the School of Human and Health Sciences. In 2009 the School Executive made the decision that the School should move to electronic submission for all appropriate student assessments in order to embed Turnitin originality checking application into its assessment and plagiarism surveillance practices. The Turnitin application provides a method of identifying the extent to which a submitted text is unique by comparing it with an extensive range of materials from the Turnitin database.
The Turnitin application is delivered through the University’s virtual learning environment which is now called “Unilearn”. Academic staff needed to know how to set-up Turnitin to receive student submissions, and how to locate, use and interpret the Turnitin Originality Report. This need was met by a series of hands-on workshops in which demonstrated the system, established staff competencies with setting up Turnitin and gave them the opportunity to discuss issues related to the implementation of Turnitin, particularly around the significance and interpretation of the Originality Report score. Staff were supported after the workshops with instructions sheets and elbow-to-elbow support as required. Workshops are repeated at the start of each term; training is also offered centrally through Staff Development.

The ability to use Turnitin is now effectively a core competency for staff. New staff need to know how to use the system and current staff typically need to remind themselves how to use it since they might only set up Turnitin boxes a few times during the academic year. Since it is not possible to service the training and support needs of all the teaching staff in the School in the time period between the start of term and the commencement of assessments, there is a clear demand for a training resource which can be accessed by staff as and when they require it, rather than waiting for the next scheduled staff training session.


The context for this project s the need for a staff training resource which can be accessed when needed; the solution for this need was to develop a web-based training resource: a web page combining text and video content. The rationale for a web-based resource is as follows. The resource can be accessed anytime and the number of people who can access the resource simultaneously is only limited by the capacity of the hosting web server, unlike, for example, a training session which is fixed to a particular schedule and limited to the amount of people who might attend. A web page is also easy to append, update and otherwise modify and re-distribute as the method by which web browsers only temporarily store web pages means that staff will always have access to the latest version of the resource; unlike, for example the versioning issues raised by paper-based instructions sheets or even electronic formats such as Portable Display Formats (PDF) – once these are distributed to the end-user’s computer it is no longer possible to update them.

Of course the flexibility of the resource platform in and of itself is not sufficient to justify using it in a learning context; this needs to be balanced by a pedagogic rationale. Laurillard et al (2000) state the importance of the ease of which a document structure can be identifiable and navigable contributes to its success in a learning and teaching context. The web resource was created using HTML, which is a document mark-up code that identifies the structure of the document; the document structure can then be made visually explicit with the use of a presentation coding system, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) which aids the user in visually navigating the page. Additionally HTML offers a set of tools for in-page navigation that means that users only need to click on clearly identified words and phrases to navigate round the document. In this case users can easily navigate between each section and between the explicit navigation at the top of the page. Equally important is the narrative structure in enhancing learning outcomes – “Narrative is fundamentally linked to cognition and so is particularly relevant to the design of multimedia for learning” (Laurillard et al, 2000, Page 2). The narrative structure of the learning resource is provided by the lifecycle of the Turnitin processfrom set-up to accessing Originality Reports.

The learning content is delivered by two different types of media; video is used to demonstrate how to use the Turnitin application and text is used to discuss the learning context, issues and good practice with Turnitin’s use. This design is based on Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (CTML) (Mayer et al 1998) which posits that the cognitive activity behind learning depends on a dual-channel perception system (one channel each for visual and auditory information) and a three stage model of memory. Successful learning occurs when information is retrieved from and processed by the middle stage, working memory for storage in the tertiary permanent memory store. Working memory processing is an active process but has limited capacity and can be disrupted by incongruent or distracting information or information overload; information which is not retrieved and processed from short term memory will be lost (Mayer et al 1998). Therefore Mayer et all (1998) propose a series of principles to leverage successful learning. The video component of the learning resource uses two of those principles – the Congruity Principle, which is that in multimedia artefacts images and text should be presented together rather than separately, and the Split Attention Principle , that verbal information should be presented aurally rather than as text (Mayer et al 1998) The video shows the appropriate actions required to use Turnitin, and also incorporates a congruent verbal commentary to reinforce the onscreen activity.

The text component of the resource is more conceptual in nature and not appropriate for video delivery; users need to be able to pause and reflect on the ideas and suggestions and static text is more congruent for reflection than a more interactive components (Moreno & Mayer, 2005).


Some limitations of this approach include the lack of options to evaluate staff competency in using the Turnitin application as a result of using this learning resource, although this might be addressed by creating some form of interactive test at a later date. The videos were created using free online screen capture software; the rationale for this is the speed with which screen captures can be created and made available, but the lack of polish the inevitably results from this kind of approach could be distracting for the user.


Laurillard, D. S. (2000, August 15). Affordances for Learning in a Non-Linear Narrative Medium. Retrieved 1 8, 2012, from Laurillard, D., Stratfold, M., Luckin, R., Plowman, L. & Taylor, J. Affordances for Learning in a Non-Linear Narrative Medium. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2000 (2) [Online] Available from: [accessed 31 December 2011]

Mayer, R. E. & Moreno, R. (1998). A Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning: Implications for Design Principles. [online] Available from: [accessed: December 30, 2011]

Moreno, R. M. & Mayer, R. E. (2005) Role of Guidance, Reflection, and Interactivity in an Agent-Based Multimedia Game. Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 97(1), Feb 2005, 117-128.


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