Yesterday, our Moodle course management system unenrolled me from my own class. The class site disappeared into cloudspace, as as 50+ students were trying to submit their work. “No self enrol” it said.
For those of you who live on another planet, or haven’t visited a high school or college classroom recently, Moodle is where growing numbers of students submit their work. Gone are the days of crumpled papers piled on desks, if not eaten by the dog. And now, even the local college server is an endangered species.
Now, Moodle mainlines direct to Turnitin. The ultimate big brother, Turnitin collects every paper submitted in the known universe and checks everything against everything else. Gone are pens and markers–here are Quickmarks, on a paper located actually at the Turnitin server, wherever that is. Each Quickmark comment that clicks onto a paper gets transmitted 36,000 klicks out in space, thence another 36,000 klicks back to Moodle; then back to space, thence to Turnitin, where it gets checked in an eyeblink against every known word since the Monolith landed; thence back to space, back to Moodle, and back to Kenyon. Speed of light is the only limit; each mark costs maybe a second to ping. And if a student is accessing their paper at the time, they can watch the marks appearing, like something out of Harry Potter.
For what it’s worth, most of Canada appears to have banned Turnitin on grounds of copyright enfringement. After all, once your paper is sucked into the all-seeing server, it can pop up any time some other hapless student appears to have typed something similar; and no one gets a royalty when it does. But the US courts have ruled otherwise.
Where does this end?