By speaker Radhika Iyer-O’Sullivan
The second Middle East Academic Integrity Seminar was held on February 26th at UAEU, Al Ain. This day-long seminar had speakers from the region and the UK, and more than 50 attendees mainly from Al Ain and Dubai. The event opened with a quick welcome from Rany Al Baghdadi, Vice-President of Sales and Training, TechKnowledge. Then, James Thorley, Director of International Sales, Turnitin (Newcastle, UK) presented the Turnitin Roadmap, which included a product update and some additional information on updates that are due to be released soon. He also shared some key statistics on turnitin usage.
Some of the vital changes that Turnitin has implemented recently are acceptance of any type of file uploads including audio and video files, and also increasing its support capability to 24/7 to cater for nations in the Middle East, which tend to have different weekends from western countries. One of the updates to look forward to is the facility of multiple graders on GradeMark, which will allow double blind marking for all submissions.
Rany Al Baghdadi then took centre stage to introduce Al Manhal, the database for Arabic publications and research. He reiterated that there is now a ‘change of culture’ in the region and that students are now increasingly moving away from a ‘cut and paste’ culture to reading, thinking, analyzing and writing. As the UAE and nearby countries continue to grow as education hubs, Al Manhal is now a much needed vital facility. Several western institutions are also using Al Manhal for their certain departments like Islamic Studies. Since its tie-up with Turnitin, about 70,000 Arabic publications have been submitted into Turnitin.
The next keynote speaker was Ian McNaught from Majan College. Muscat, Oman. Mr. McNaught gave some great tips on implementing online assignment management in higher education. He was responsible for implementing use of Turnitin in his previous workplace in Huddersfield, UK, and has now done the same at Majan College. His tips included having a proper ‘roadmap’, consistency across board, providing proper training for academics and staff, and training students on how to interpret reports. He also had particular praise for the Turnitin iPad App, which unlike other apps, has been effective and impressive in fulfilling all functions of Turnitin usage.
The final presenter was Radhika Iyer-O’Sullivan, who is a freelance and independent consultant and trainer. Her interactive session delved into the challenges that students face when they lack academic literacy skills and shared some resources and strategies that could help students learn to be ‘players’ in the highly competitive and unpredictable realm of academia. Ms. Iyer-O’Sullivan contended that academic literacy skills have to be explicitly taught and recommended innovative assessments to allow students to express creativity. She also argued that academic literacy skills should also be embedded within academic modules so that students are constantly practicing their skills within a relevant context. Finally, she shared some resources on Turnitin, plagiarismadvice.org and other universities that could help both staff and students in being ‘socialized’ into the culture of academic integrity.