Downloading student papers from Turnitin

This post looks at the way Turnitin handles papers being downloaded from an assignment, in particular the differences you will see when anonymity is enabled on an assignment.

Turnitin introduced changes in this area just before Christmas but, in response to widespread criticism from HE institutions, made further modifications in mid-January. The way the process works now is definitely an improvement on earlier functionality, and hopefully the information provided below will continue to be accurate for the foreseeable future.

How to download papers from a Turnitin assignment: see our guide Downloading files from Turnitin.

Assignments where anonymity is not enabled

When you download the original files submitted by students, these will be saved in a zip file labelled

Open the zip file and you will see that the filenames of the downloaded papers have been prefixed with Firstname_Lastname.

Papers downloaded from Turnitin

Papers downloaded from Turnitin

This enables you easily to match submitted work with the individual student.

Assignments where anonymity is enabled

When you download the original files submitted by students, these will be saved in a zip file labelled

Open the zip file and you will see that the filenames of the downloaded papers have been prefixed with an 8-digit number – this corresponds to the Paper ID visible in the Turnitin Inbox.

Papers downloaded from Turnitin - anonymity turned on

Papers downloaded from Turnitin – anonymity turned on

Prior to December 2015, it was not possible to download papers from an anonymous assignment. Now you can download student papers, but anonymity is preserved.

Once the Post Date has passed – meaning that anonymity is removed – downloaded files will show the authors’ names.

Papers downloaded from Turnitin - Anonymous assignment after the Post Date

Papers downloaded from Turnitin – Anonymous assignment after the Post Date

How to customise your Blackboard menu (screencast)

Is the menu on your Blackboard module easy to navigate? Do you make use of features like emboldened sub-headers and dividers to present a clear menu to your students? Do you know how to customise your menu to best suit your purposes? This short screen cast video shows you how to do all these things to help you present a clear, easy-to-use menu for your students.


Latest Turnitin connector installed

A recent post highlighted issues with feedback files attached to Turnitin submissions via the Grade Centre.

Once this problem was identified, Turnitin quickly issued an updated version of the “building block” which integrates Turnitin assignments into Blackboard. This was updated on our system as part of last night’s Blackboard upgrade. As a result, staff should no longer experience any issues when viewing feedback files via the Grade Centre, and should be able to remove any files uploaded in error.

Having said that, our previous advice still stands, that it is generally good practice to avoid using spaces in the names of files which are to be uploaded to Blackboard or other websites.

Potential display issue: long questions in Blackboard Tests

An issue has been identified with some Blackboard Tests, for example Multiple Choice tests. This problem only arises when

  • The Test is set to display one question at a time.
  • The first line of the question text is long enough that it fills the width of the Blackboard screen.

If these two conditions are met, students taking the test will find that the ‘Save Answer’ box obscures part of the question text. And this will persist, however you resize the browser window.

Blackboard question text obscured

One way round this would be to edit the Test Options, and under ‘Test Presentation’ choose ‘All at once’. But the option to display questions one at a time will presumably have been chosen quite deliberately e.g. where the text of one question might assist students with answering an earlier question.

In this situation the workaround is simply to edit the test questions, and to enter two or three blank lines before the question text.

Please note:

  • Shorter questions, which only take up part of the screen, will not be affected by this problem.
  • Staff previewing the Test will be able to replicate the problem – so you will also be able to check that adding extra lines has resolved it.

We have been provided with a workaround for this issue by Blackboard, which will be introduced as part of the planned system upgrade on 18th February.

Blackboard upgrade 17th – 18th February

The Blackboard VLE will be unavailable from 20:00 GMT on Wednesday 17th until around 08:00 GMT on Thursday 18th February while an upgrade takes place.

Turnitin will also be unavailable while this upgrade takes place.

Following the upgrade we will be running the 2015 Q4 release of Blackboard.

This is a fairly minor upgrade, but it does bring some welcome usability enhancements:

  • When creating an announcement, “Not Date Restricted” is now selected by default.
    This brings announcements in line with other Blackboard content, where date restrictions are only applied if you specifically select them.
  • Emails sent from Blackboard, including emailed Announcements, show the instructor’s name as the sender.
    This change removes a source of confusion for students.
  • Support for the Microsoft Edge internet browser.
  • The Content Editor now supports HTML5 Audio and Video playback in Chrome and Edge browsers.
    This means that when you upload audio and video files to your course, you can embed them as HTML5 Audio or HTML5 Video, thus avoiding the issues currently encountered  in the Chrome and Edge browsers.
  • Discussion Board enhancements: users can navigate from thread to thread without having to return to the main Discussions page.

Moreover the release fixes a number of bugs, in particular some which have been causing issues for us, relating to Blackboard Tests and Assignments.

For further details of what this release brings, please see the Release Notes.


Please note that our ability to introduce these improvements in a timely fashion is a direct result of our move to Blackboard Managed Hosting. We have scheduled the upgrade to take place as an overnight process in Enhancement Week so as to minimise disruption.   However, apologies for any inconvenience this may still cause.

FIXED Attaching feedback files on Turnitin assignments – avoid spaces in filenames

This issue has now been resolved: see Latest Turnitin connector installed 18th Feb 2016


The issue in a nutshell

  • If you are using the Blackboard Grade Centre to attach feedback files to Turnitin Assignments, you are advised to avoid spaces in the filenames of the documents that you upload.
  • Files with spaces in the name are currently inaccessible to staff via the Grade Centre.
  • Files with spaces in the name cannot be deleted if it needs to be replaced using the ‘Remove’ button.
  • This issue does not appear to affect student access to the feedback files.

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